Tips for Sharing the Road with Trucks

Posted On March 6, 2011

Many people express concern about driving near a truck simply because it is larger than their own vehicle. They ask if there are some special rules to follow when sharing the road with a truck. We offer these suggestions.

Always pay close attention to truck turn signals. Never pass on the right at an intersection. Do not assume that a truck which is moving left at an intersection is going to turn left or go straight.  Many car drivers do not realize that a truck approaching an intersection to make a right turn may move slightly to the left to avoid running the trailer onto the curb. As the truck moves left, a narrow, temporary lane is created to its right. At this point, the impatient car driver may move up on the right side of the truck; leaving himself vulnerable to a “squeeze play” when the truck swings into its right turn.

Many motorists are somewhat concerned about passing trucks because of their size. For the most part, the same rules apply whether passing another passenger car or a truck.  The first step in a safe pass is to check the traffic front and rear. Don’t pull out if you’re being overtaken by traffic from behind you or if there is other traffic approaching. When you move into the passing lane, give a short horn blast to let the driver ahead know you’re passing.  As you pass, keep as far to the left as possible to avoid a sideswipe accident and to reduce the wind turbulence between the two vehicles. Remember the turbulence pushes the vehicles apart. It does not suck them together.  Truck drivers work hard to get up to normal highway speeds, sometimes shifting through as many as 15 gears. For this reason, they appreciate it if after you pass, you maintain your speed.  Responsible truck drivers are constantly alert to other traffic. If you indicate that you are going to pass, he will keep to the right to make it easier. If, after you’ve passed, the truck driver blinks his lights, he’s simply telling you that it’s safe to pull back in front of him.

Backing Accidents
Most large trucks do not have rear windows. Therefore, a truck driver must rely on side mirrors to get a look at what’s happening behind him. As a result, a “blind spot” is created extending 12-15 feet behind the truck in which the driver cannot see what is going on.  Often, when a truck is preparing to back from a roadway into a loading area, he has no choice but to temporarily block the roadway. It is here that some drivers attempt to pass behind the truck rather than waiting the few seconds required for the truck to complete its maneuver. In passing close behind the truck, the driver enters the truck’s blind spot and an accident may occur.  To avoid a backing accident, never try to cross behind a truck which is preparing to back up unless the driver waves you through.

Rollback Accidents
When coming to a stop behind a truck, always leave at least one car length between your vehicle and the truck. Also, move your vehicle to the left of your lane so that the driver can see you in his side mirror.  Being in the truck driver’s blind spot can contribute to a rollback accident. This type of accident generally occurs when a truck driver is forced to stop on an upgrade. As the driver takes his foot off the brake and engages the clutch, the truck may roll backwards a few feet. If a car has pulled up too closely behind the truck, a collision may occur as the truck rolls back.

CB Radios
Most truck drivers have citizen band radios. Particularly in highway driving, they are in constant communication with fellow drivers traveling in the opposite direction and learn about road conditions, accidents and other potential hazards.  Motorists may purchase CB receivers quite inexpensively and receive the same information available to truck drivers who are so equipped. A more expensive transmitter-receiver is valuable to car drivers who want to ask questions about the road ahead or need such information as proper travel directions.

Tailgating and Stopping
In general, trucks take slightly longer than cars to stop because of their size and weight. However, this is not always the case. At high speeds or on wet roads, trucks may have better traction and stability, allowing them to stop more quickly. Tailgating a truck creates a special problem. Because of the truck’s size, if you follow too closely, your view of the road ahead will be almost totally blocked. You will be forced to depend on the truck’s brake lights for a signal that something is going on ahead. This will cut your reaction time even further.  The basic principal of maintaining a safe following distance, not tailgating, applies regardless of what type of vehicle is ahead. A following distance of one vehicle length for each 10mph you are traveling should be observed.  The foregoing guidelines apply to ideal driving conditions. At all times, your speed and following distance should be governed by road, other traffic and weather conditions. A spot of thin ice or wet pavement may cause your vehicle to spin out of control in seconds and thus a menace to both yourself and other drivers.

Some other hints…
If you need directions and do not have a CB radio, stop at a truck stop and you’re sure to find a truck driver who has come from the area in which you are interested. He’ll be glad to advise you.  If your car breaks down along the road, pull as far off the road as possible and display a white cloth from the radio antenna or trap it in the window as a signal of distress. Then, for safety, remain in your car with the doors locked. Some truck drivers will be able to radio ahead in their CB units for help. Usually, they won’t stop unless there has been an accident. This is because truck drivers run on tight schedules and are also concerned about security.  Keeping these points in mind should make sharing the road with a truck easier, safer and more enjoyable.

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