We aren’t all truck drivers. But you probably drive next to them every day.
Let’s look at what it’s like to be in the driver’s seat of a vehicle 5x the length of your personal. Here are three simple tips on how we can drive safely together.
Tip #1: Give them space.
Have you ever carried – or attempted to carry – a sheet of plywood or a piece of cardboard on a windy day? It’s possible, but you’re more than likely going to be doing some kite-surfing across the grass.
The same principle is true for trucks and trailers on a windy day. Except they are fighting a crosswind with a 53-foot long piece of “plywood” disguised as a trailer.
We encourage our truck drivers to shut down when wind speeds get too strong. But if it’s just a breezy day and they have a light load, give them some space (and grace) while they maneuver their rigs.
Tip #2: Give them time.
A reining horse runs as fast as it can down the length of an arena. At top speed, the rider asks the horse for a sudden, complete stop that results in a “sliding stop.” The horse’s hind legs duck underneath him, his weight shifts back, and a wake of sand is thrown out before him as he glides to a stop.
Big things don’t stop on a dime.
It takes a little longer to get their momentum down – a truck is also going to do a “sliding stop” (not nearly as contained) if you ask it to go from 62 miles per hour to 0 in an instant. It takes longer to slow down and eventually stop an 80,000-pound rig than it does a car.
According to the Utah Department of Transportation, “A passenger vehicle weighing 4,000 pounds, traveling under ideal conditions at a speed of 65 miles per hour would take 316 feet to stop (nearly the length of a football field). In comparison, a fully loaded tractor-trailer weighing 80,000 pounds traveling under ideal conditions at a speed of 65 miles per hour will take 525 feet to stop (almost the length of two football fields).” Give them time to slow down safely.
Tip #3: Give them sight.
Can you watch scary movies? Talk about heart-throbbing anxiety. The victim is silently slipping around the house, eyes scanning every corner, down each hallway. She’s reaching for the door handle to esca-WHAM – someone grabs her from behind.
Drivers are scanning the road ahead, their mirrors, and the vehicles around them constantly. Try not to creep in the shadows and surprise them by sitting in their blind spots.
Follow these tips to make sure you are in sight as much as possible:
- “If you can’t see me, I can’t see you.” If you can’t see the driver’s eyeballs in the mirrors – they can’t see you behind them, skirting around them, or cruising right next to the trailer.
- Pass on the left. The left-side blind spot is smaller than the right-side. When roads merge, have ten extra seconds of patience. Give the driver a moment to get over in the right lane so you can safely pass on the left.
- Pass quickly. The left-side blind spot is smaller than the right, but it’s still just that – a blind spot. Go in ready to pass, and keep yourself and the driver both safe.
- Don’t pass when they’re signaling. 99 times out of 100, the blinker is on for a reason. Let them come over – don’t get caught in the blind spot where an accident can happen.
It’s super simple to keep truck drivers, and yourself, safe on the road: give them space, give them time, and give them sight.
Drive on, and drive safely.