ANTIGO – So far, drivers seem to like the new roundabout in Rhinelander, which opened on Tuesday.
It’s one of just a few in the area, including one in Merrill and a couple in Wausau.
As drivers of cars get used to it, so do drivers of vehicles with even less room for error: semi-trucks.
CDL Instructor Tim Kordula teaches future semi drivers at Karl’s Transport in Antigo.
Every class of learners gets two days of roundabout training, and every driver gets a copy of Act 139 for their cab.
“We carry a copy of that rule with us in the trucks,” Kordula said.
The three-year-old state law tells drivers that semis “own” the roundabout once they enter it, even if they’re taking up more than one lane.
“When you see a semi in a roundabout, they have the right-of-way through that entire roundabout until they’re done,” Kordula said.
Hopefully, that won’t be much of a problem in Rhinelander’s roundabout, which is just one lane all the way around.
DOT Project Leader Forrest Van Asten explained that, like all roundabouts, contractors built the intersection with special red concrete called a truck apron.
“They are colored red specifically so that truck drivers know that that concrete is meant for them to drive over,” Van Asten said. “A load as long as 205 feet can make it through the roundabout.”
Roundabout training is becoming even more important for Kordula’s students.
“We never thought we’d have one in Rhinelander, and we do. We never thought we’d have one in Merrill and we do,” he said.
They’re a learning challenge, but overall, Kordula said, the switch to roundabouts is a win for truck drivers.
“As an industry, it gets us to our destination a little bit quicker,” Kordula said. “There’s a learning curve. There’s a learning process that we all have to go through, not just as commercial drivers, but the general public.”
Kordula takes his driving students to Green Bay and the Fox Valley to practice on the roundabouts there. They also do work on navigating roundabouts at night.