Tips for driving near commercial trucks
Obtaining a driver’s license is an involved process. Hours of training with an instructor, a written test, a learner’s permit, and an actual driving test are just some of the steps you need to get your license. Now, imagine if you had to go through seven weeks of full-time classes. For some people, that is reality. Seven weeks is the average program length for obtaining a commercial driver’s license. Truckers have to take weeks of classes because commercial vehicles are dangerous. In fact, despite making up only 7% of road traffic, commercial vehicles cause 12.6% of all traffic fatalities. This means trucks are some of the deadliest machines on the freeway.
For this reason, it is critical that you take your safety seriously while sharing the road. Below, we outline four of the most important things that you can do to stay safe while driving near commercial vehicles.
1. Stay Alert
At some point in your driving career, getting behind the wheel becomes second nature. Putting on your turn signal, controlling your speed, even braking to avoid collisions is mentally trivial after hours upon hours of driving. Although open freeways can lull you into focusing on everything but the road, you should turn off your brain’s auto-pilot capabilities when pulling up next to a big rig. Truck accidents can occur anywhere and anytime, but alert motorists may be able to avoid crashing if they prepare for the worst.
2. Know Truck “No Zones”
Commercial vehicles, just like cars, have blind spots; however, these blind spots, called “no zones” are much more dangerous than those of passenger vehicles. Although outfitted with big rearview mirrors, trucks no zones are named as such because truckers cannot fix the blindness of these zones. Typical motorists can use the “over-the-shoulder” technique to eliminate their blind spots—truck drivers are stuck with them.
Truck drivers have blind spots on each of the four sides of their vehicle:
- Within 20 feet in front of the truck
- Within 30 feet behind the truck
- Two lanes to the right of the truck, slanting diagonally
- One lane to the left of the truck, near the cab
If you find yourself in one of these zones, it is advised that you leave quickly. Truckers do pass other drivers, and if you are sitting in a no zone on one of their sides, they could change lanes into your car.
3. Only Pass on the Left
Based on the mentioned no zones, passing on the left side of a truck is much safer than on the right side. If possible, drivers should refrain from passing a commercial vehicle on its right side. Typically, motorists call the right-most lane the “slow lane” or the “truck lane.” Therefore, truckers have expectations concerning right lane use. When cars pass commercial vehicles in the rightmost lane, this can catch truckers off guard.
4. Give Truckers Space
Controlling tens of thousands of pounds at 55mph is not an easy feat. Truckers have to finesse a lot of their stops, turns, and emergency maneuvers. However, even with the best truck drivers in the world, finesse can only go so far. In addition to finesse, a critical aspect of a trucker successfully pulling off an emergency maneuver is freeway real estate. Truckers need space to stop, turn, or perform an emergency operation effectively. For this reason, motorists should give trucks as much space as possible.
Driving parallel with trucks can be a dangerous endeavor—even when you are two lanes over. Additionally, driving directly in front of a truck should be avoided if at all possible. Many 18-wheeler accidents are caused by brake issues, which makes rear-end crashes one of the most common types of commercial vehicle accidents.