The freight industry is thriving throughout the United States. We all depend on commercial trucks to deliver the goods and services we rely on for everyday life. But with roadways crowded with immense, unwieldy commercial trucks weighing up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded, it pays to protect yourself against potential danger. By knowing how to safely navigate the roads we share with commercial trucks we can minimize the chances of a collision with a truck that has extended blind spots, a lower level of maneuverability, lengthy stopping times, and heavy—sometimes unbalanced loads. As much as we need trucks to supply goods to our communities, commercial trucks pose a significant safety risk to the much smaller, lighter, family vehicles on the roads.
Trucks Have Larger Blind Spots
Compared to standard passenger vehicles, commercial trucks have significantly larger blind spots. Most commercial truck cabs lack rearview mirrors because the large trailer behind the cab blocks the view. Semi-tractor-trailer trucks do have large side mirrors but visibility through these mirrors is inhibited by the long, high sides of the trailer and the height of the truck cab. If you’re sharing the road in close proximity to a large truck, the following tips can help you avoid lingering in a truck’s blind spots:
- When driving behind a truck in the same lane, leave a distance of about 20 car lengths or about a 4-second driving difference
- Keep a truck’s side mirrors visible to you when driving behind a truck. If you can’t see the mirrors, the driver cannot see you
- Avoid lingering below a truck’s cab when driving or passing on the left or right side of a truck
Avoiding a truck’s blind spots helps to protect against a sideswipe collision during lane changes on major 4-lane roadways.
Avoid Tailgating Trucks
Lingering too closely behind large commercial trucks not only puts you in the driver’s blind spot but also increases your chances of causing a rear-end collision if the truck driver suddenly brakes. Rear-ending a tractor-trailer truck is especially dangerous for those in a passenger car. A rear-end collision with a truck’s trailer sometimes results in the trailer doors opening and cargo spilling out, increasing the damage. When driving in weather conditions with slippery roads and poor visibility it’s even more important to keep a safe following distance behind commercial trucks.
Give the Truck Its Space
Trucks make much wider turns than passenger vehicles, typically requiring two or more lanes. It’s important to allow a turning truck plenty of space and time to make a turn. The width of a truck also causes them to occupy more space in a lane. Be sure to keep as much space between your vehicle and the truck when driving or passing on either side. It only takes a slight drift into another lane during a moment of distraction for a large commercial truck to cause a major accident.
Pass a Truck on the Left Side Only
It’s always best to avoid passing a truck on the right side whenever possible. Because the driver sits on the left side of the cab they have a better view along the left side of their cab and trailer. Attempting to pass on the right leaves a car driver traveling in the truck driver’s blind spot for a longer period of time compared to driving or passing a truck on the left.
Always Assume a Truck is Driving Faster Than it Appears
The large, bulky size and shape of a truck can cause an optical illusion making it appear slower speed than its actual speed. For this reason, truck accidents sometimes occur at intersections due to drivers pulling out in front of a truck when they don’t have enough time to clear the intersection safely. Trucks have longer stopping times and may not be able to brake in time if a car attempts to cross an intersection during its approach. If you have any doubts at all about having adequate time to cross, it’s far better to wait until after the truck passes.
We can’t prevent every accident, but using safe driving practices around large commercial trucks can minimize the risks and help keep you and your family safe on the road.