Being a truck driver is not an easy job. It takes a lot of skill to navigate an 80,000 lbs rig through different climates, weather conditions, road conditions and terrains. Also, trucks have large blinds spots making it difficult to tell where other vehicles are at times. Then throw in a bunch of tiny cars zipping around and weaving in and out of lanes in an, at times, unpredictable manner and you’ve got a recipe for a disaster.
As a small vehicle driver, it can be scary to share the road with big commercial vehicles. Often as you are driving along, you find yourself wondering if they can see you at all. And as you are looking down the road you see that one rig swerve a little. To you the trucks seem every bit as unpredictable as your movements seem to them.
Despite all that, it is still possible to travel the highways in a safely. There are a few basic things that every driver can do to contribute to sharing the road with large trucks.
It’s all about awareness.
Before you jumped in the car for you trip, it is very likely that you also checked the weather to see what the conditions were going to be like for your drive and your destination. These days the information is so accessible through our smartphones that we don’t always even realize we’re checking. But we still do.
So when your thinking about how that rain or high wind gusts might effect your vehicle’s handling, stop to think about how much more it means for those large trucks you’ll be on the road with. If a sudden gust of wind will push your car a few inches, it is likely to push a large truck a couple of feet. A lot of work has gone into making trucks more aerodynamic when thinking of wind from head on. But when you’re talking sidewinds those trucks may as well have giant sails out.
Another thing to be aware of is stopping distance. Trucks are much larger and heavier making them harder to stop. They need way more room to slow down that you. So if there is a truck behind you and you need to slow down or stop up ahead, start decelerating sooner and more slowly to give the truck more room and time to respond. This has the added benefit of being a little easier on the gas mileage too.
Avoid the blind spots.
Trucks have large blind spots behind and around the trailer and up close to the cab. It is never a good idea to pull up right next to a truck and settle in. If he can’t see you and needs to change lanes to avoid something he can see, then your drive is probably gonna end badly. Here are a few best practice tips for staying out of the blind spots:
- Keep a longer following distance
- Always pass on the left hand side (the blind spot is larger on the right)
- Pass quickly when you must pass
To pass you have to go through a blind spot so you’ll want to spend as little time there as possible. If you find you are only going about 1mph faster than the truck and are spending a lot of time in the danger zone, you should speed up a little to finish passing and then settle back in once safely around.
- Do not pass the truck when they are signaling to turn.
Trucks will often have to take very wide turns. This means they may head over to the left lane to make a right turn and vise versa. Pay close attention to their turn signals and don’t try to pass, especially on the side with the active signal.
Take a look at this graphic to see what the blind spots for a large truck are like.
Keeping these few tips in mind as you travel are a great way to keep yourself and those you share the road with safe. In short plan ahead, drive respectfully, and stay safe.