by Pride Transport | Apr 29, 2019
The men and women who sit in cabs high above the highways and byways of this nation, captaining the 40-ton big rigs that keep the country fed, clothed and running have seen some things. They’ve seen people on their phones, putting on makeup and even reading books while driving. They’ve seen people in flagrante delicto and worse, or better depending on how you look at it. They know things because they’ve seen things and because they drive professionally, they know what is safe and what is just flat out crazy. Here are some things that professional drivers wish the people they share the roads with knew.
That space in front of the truck on the highway is not for you, do not go there. Cutting in front of a truck when approaching a red light or cutting across the lanes in front of a truck to make your exit are not just rude maneuvers, they are dangerous.
A truck uses air brakes, which are different from the brakes on a passenger car. Truck brakes have a lag time. Depending on speed, weight, and surface conditions it can take the length of a football field for a semi to come to a complete stop.
A fully loaded truck can weigh twenty times as much as your passenger car. If you underrun a truck’s stop buffer and get rear ended your car would be obliterated. Do not cut a truck off is the bottom line here.
Blind Spots are Aptly Named
Most professional truck drivers strategically place their mirrors to minimize blind spots. This does a lot toward making them safe on the road, however, they still have blind spots they wish other drivers understood and avoided.
There’s a good rule of thumb when thinking about trucks: if you can’t see their mirrors, the driver can’t see you. This is good to keep in mind. But it’s not enough. Driver blind spots are directly behind the truck, directly in front of the truck, off to the left and tight to the truck, and off to the right and tight to the truck. These are places that passenger car drivers must avoid when sharing the road with a truck.
Don't spend time hanging out beside a truck while driving, Not only is it impossible for the driver to see you, there is also a very real risk of damage to your car. Truck tires are generally taller than your car. If you’re right beside a truck and they experience a tire blow out, that could shred your vehicle.
Be kind, stay a safe distance, three car lengths, behind a truck or a safe distance, 5 car lengths in front of a truck and everyone on the road will be safe.
Trucks need room to make turns, especially right-hand turns. If you’re coming to a stop light and you see a truck pull to the left, that’s not an invitation for you to scoot in on the right and beat him to the intersection. You know those thick white lines that are painted on the street at intersections? Pay attention to them and stop before them, not on top of them. A driver needs to position himself at least 4 feet from the curb to turn safely.
Most trucks are pulling 53-foot trailers with Kingpin-to-rear-axle dimensions of 39 to 47 feet. It takes time to account for that distance while making turns. Each lane of a highway is about 12 feet wide, so a driver usually needs three and a half lanes of total width to make a turn. If you sneak up on their right side there is a huge risk of the truck crushing your car. This is one of the things that makes turning in city traffic a full-on nightmare for drivers.
Here’s something to keep in mind when driving: you do not have the right of way when getting onto the expressway or interstate. You have to be aware and adjust to traffic that is already on the road.
Because they are professional drivers they are watching you as soon as you hit the on-ramp. They are clocking your position, your speed, are you speeding up enough, are you even paying attention to the cars that are on the highway. A truck driver knows they have to pay attention to all this because most car drivers don’t. They take you into consideration and, if they can, they will move over.
Truck drivers are moving at a governed speed there’s only so much they can do to get out of the way. Most often there is no time or room to avoid an accident if the on-ramping car isn’t paying attention. Do not cut a truck off when you’re entering the highway or interstate.
We’ve all seen this before, a car is way over on the left-hand lane and the driver suddenly realizes he’s about to miss his exit ramp. What does he do? He cuts across three full lanes of traffic. This is never a good idea but it’s an absolutely insane idea to do this in front of a truck.
If you’re doing a three-lane dive in front of another car, it’s merely stupid. However, if you try this moronic stunt in front of a moving truck, you’re a dangerous loon and should be smited by the driving Gods. Smited? Smote? Smitten? Anyway, you get the point.
While pulling this particularly heinous maneuver around a car makes sense, you can see around a car, you know what’s on the other side, the car can, if the driver is alert, nimbly avoid you and brake if needed. However, if you’re deploying this kind of bad craziness in front of a truck you’re a certifiable menace. You cannot see what’s on the other side of the truck. Someone may be illegally passing them on the right. Also, a truck cannot just hit the brakes or make a smooth swerve to avoid killing you and the kids while you’re trying to get them to clogging class.
Interesting to note that over two-thirds of accidents involving a semi are later to be found not the truck driver’s fault.
Do Not Draft a Truck
Drafting is a technique whereby you reduce drag and thus improve mpg by driving closely behind another car. The Mythbusters did an episode on this phenomena and tested the theory with big rigs. They discovered that drafting increases your miles per gallon up to 39% at a ten-foot distance behind a semi.
Although an interesting experiment, the guys at Mythbusters shouldn't have done this, it feels like an invitation to draft. If you do draft a truck you’re sitting squarely in one of his blind spots. You cannot see what’s coming down the road and your response time is greatly diminished. It’s dangerous for you, the truck driver and anyone else on the road with you. This technique was mainly used by race car drivers on a track. That’s where it belongs - not on the highways with trucks.
Never Pass on the Right
This one is pretty straight forward. A truck moves slower on the highway because of regulations so, often times they gravitate toward the right lane, the slow lane to be courteous to other drivers. So, if you’re passing a truck and you use the right-hand lane, they may be moving to that lane. A truck driver also has less visibility on the right side of their rig and they may not see you if you suddenly decide to drive up on their right. Fact is, passing on the right is illegal in most states so, in general, don’t pass a truck or anyone for that matter, on the right.
Show Some Patience
Trucks lose speed going up hills - that is a fact of physics. If you're behind a truck that is ascending a hill there’s nothing wrong with going around them, not to the right, and moving along with your life. However, a lot of non-truck drivers don’t understand the physics of a 40-ton vehicle and a steep incline, they assume the truck driver is playing some game or being a jerk. This is simply not true. With that in mind, there’s no need to curse a driver, or shake a fist at them, flash a finger at them as you pass them on a hill. Show them some grace and check your frustration. Be kind and understand what the truck driver is dealing with.
Please Put Your Phone Down
Truck drivers are very aware of the size of their rigs and how they move along a highway. They know the weight of the rig and what the machine can and cannot do. Truck drivers work hard to maintain good safety habits for themselves and for the people they share the road with. That said, a truck driver cannot be in your head and know what you’re going to do, they cannot make you pay attention. To help drivers of all kinds please, put your phone down when you’re driving. You are distracted when you’re talking on the phone whether you want to believe that or not, it is the truth. Stay off the phone when you’re driving and everyone will be a lot safer.
In The End
It’s really just a matter of paying attention and caring about the other people on the road. Just common sense and knowing a few things about the mechanics of a semi can make you that much safer. Truck drivers know what works when driving because they are professionals, help them help you to stay safe. Be aware, stay alert and think beyond yourself when you’re driving and everyone will get home in one piece.