…The AI will! This is one of the lessons of American Truck Simulator that I have learnt over the past month.

Many roads in American Truck Simulator are dual carriageway Freeways or Interstates. Nice easy drives on which you can make good speed once you’ve gained an understanding of handling your truck. However there are other roads, that if you are disrespectful, will destroy you – or at least leave you needing the recovery boys! I learnt this while trying out the game initially before settling in to play seriously and build a company. I think that lesson was on a small road out of Carlsbad. I was being cocky and driving fast up a gentle slope when I hit a corner that my truck couldn’t turn quickly enough to follow – Big washout across the opposite side of the road and over the concrete barrier into the Cacti beyond! That’s what happens when you play a simulation as a game 😉 Play it as a sim and you understand that you have to treat the road with the respect it deserves.

One of the highways in the game map is California Highway 152. I’m a Londoner and that road meant nothing to me until I started driving the trucks. I’ve been over it once from the Watsonville end. That is one very twisty road and as I was driving at night I had to take it very careful. The result was a late delivery but the alternative would probably have been a wreck. The road fascinated me enough to go and do some research. I’ve just watched a motorcyclist’s video of descending the same climb and even he’s having to slow to 30mph on some of the switchback corners – so it isn’t a good road to drive in a truck. The road apparently has a bit of a reputation – see this fascinating article on Skeptic Report from a trucker who was driving the section past the San Luis Reservoir. That’s a relatively easy bit of the road but it illustrates the point. So, we now know the roads need to be driven in a sensible manner.

The AI is altogether a different issue. Rest assured that traffic violations will be punished! Run a stop light and you will be fined whether there is a police presence or not. Speeding offences have to be seen by the Cops for a fine to be issued. I understand that they have been toned down a bit following complaints and a minor speeding violation won’t trigger an instant fine now (as long as you slow down promptly).

He's Behind You!
He’s Behind You!

At this point, you might think that actually being seen speeding by the cops is a remote possibility – let me tell you, never were C W McCall’s words more true than in this game – “Them Smokie’s as thick as bugs on a bumper” is definitely the truth of the situation. I’ve seen squad cars hiding behind bushes, driving close behind your trailer so they’re not visible in your mirrors or tail-gating a car so that you don’t realise they’re there!

You will usually get punished for damage to AI vehicles, unless the game decides it wasn’t your fault. Normally, the game rules against you – I clipped mirrors with a truck going the other way in Bakersfield and that cost me $480. As much his fault as mine I suspect but I don’t know if he got a bill too. The commonest accident in game is the one where an AI vehicle doesn’t follow normal road practice or sense and allow for the extra space that a truck needs when making a turn – never mind the fact that you may have right of way at a set of lights, they just drive into you and you get the bill.

One incident that got me shaking my head was on a turn out from a company where I’d collected a load. It was a left turn onto a fast highway with the traffic coming from the right descending a slope. I looked both ways three times and with nothing coming began executing my manoeuvre. There is a point when you can’t look right anymore in a truck – you need to be watching where your fender is in relation to the opposite road side. So I’m already straightening out the truck onto the road and watching the trailer in the mirror to make sure it doesn’t foul the gateway when Bang! A VW van drives into my truck from behind at speed 😦 That one was definitely not my fault (and the game concurred!) but I still had to pay the repair bill on my truck.

Sometimes you get a really odd collision – I was sitting at a set of lights and a coach made a right turn and hit me. These happen because the AI takes a really wide swing into junctions even when it’s only a motorcycle doing the turn. Cars and trailer-towing trucks are ok but a long rigid wheelbase vehicle can get it wrong – no fault to me for that one either.

I thought I’d learned all about the tricksy-ness of the AI but then… I’m driving on an interstate in Nevada at around 65mph in an 80mph zone and I can see another truck in my mirrors approaching in the fast lane. He’s alongside as we hit a bend in the road. At that point his speed is too great for the turn and he washes out into me, forcing me off the road! Guess what… The game says that’s my fault and I get the bill 😦 The air was blue for a few minutes after that, I can tell you! Ahh!… The joys of American Truck Simulator 😉 But when you can enjoy the scenery and the glorious sunsets… It’s all worthwhile 🙂

I’ll be skinning next time… I’ll leave you to work that one out 😉