Whether you’re new to the road or have been driving for years, sharing the road with big trucks takes real street smarts. Motorists often feel that truckers drive too quickly, hog the road and even tailgate. Unfortunately, there are some poorly trained and overconfident truckers who don’t abide by the rules of the road or seem to do little to make surrounding motorists feel safe.
With some trucks weighing in at over 80,000 pounds, it’s essential that both truckers and motorists understand the potentially fatal consequences of failing to drive with caution around large trucks. At CHET, we teach our drivers the skills that they need to navigate the roads safely and responsibly.
While sharing the road with large trucks can be uncomfortable or nerve-racking at times, motorists can use an array of strategies to stay safe. John Tessier, Manager of Safety for the Alberta Motor Transport Association, stresses the importance of the golden road rule that “drivers should never impede another road user’s safety.” This may sound straightforward, but all too often both truckers and motorists fail to live up to this standard.
So, what precautions can motorists take to create a safer driving environment around semi-trucks?
Keep Your Distance
Trucks take up a lot of space and truckers require a lot of room to safely maneuver their vehicles. It’s important to allow yourself the proper distance between your vehicle and trucks (and indeed all other motorists!). Remember to give yourself sufficient space and use your blinkers when passing a truck. Minimize sudden movements and try to get around the truck as quickly and safely as possible.
If you’re behind a trucker, be sure not to tailgate them. Rather, give yourself lots of time and space to brake in the event that the trucker needs to make a sudden stop. For cars, this distance corresponds to about a 3-second interval.
Driving ahead of a trucker? Do your utmost not to stop suddenly or make any sudden moves. A fully loaded tractor-trailer travelling at 60 mph (97 km/h) can require about 455 feet (138.7m) or seven times the length of an average tractor-trailer to come to a stop. Remember that stopping distance increases significantly with higher speeds. To avoid getting rear-ended, don’t slam on your brakes. It’s also important to indicate your intention to turn or change lanes early, giving trucks the additional time they need to slow down or come to a full stop.
Steer Clear of Blind Spots
Remember learning about the dangers of blind spots during your driver’s ed classes? For truckers, blind spots are significantly larger and therefore far more potentially dangerous. To share the road more safely, it’s important to keep truckers’ low visibility in mind. Remember that when you’re directly behind or in front of a large truck, you’re likely not visible to the driver. If you plan to pass a truck, the driver can’t see you until you’re roughly parallel with the cab.
Commit to Passing
When passing a truck, ensure that you have allowed more time and space than you would when passing a car. Be sure to signal your intention to pass and when the way is clear, make your move without hesitation. You can safely move back into the right-hand lane when you can see the whole truck in your rear-view mirror. To improve visibility when it’s raining, turn your windshield wipers to the maximum speed before passing a truck.
Because your vehicle is far smaller than the trucks you share the road with, it is all the more important for you to drive defensively. Be aware that truckers are operating heavy vehicles and therefore face constraints, such as the time it takes to slow down and stop. Be alert and pay attention to your blind spots, weather conditions and all the vehicles you’re sharing the road with. Always be sure to have your proper lights on so that you can see other vehicles and vice versa.
By keeping these pointers in mind, you’re better equipped to safely share the road with large trucks. At CHET, we take our responsibility to provide drivers with exceptional comprehensive training seriously.
An MTCU-registered training school, CHET’s 200-hour curriculum is designed for men and women seeking quality professional truck driving training. Our grads are sought after by top carriers in the industry. Offering in-truck training, classroom instruction and a 1:1 driving instructor/student ratio, the premium CHET training program produces drivers with the skills necessary to uphold the highest standards of road safety.
Are you looking for the right certified training school? Get the skills you need to be hired by a reputable carrier. CHET is proud to offer positions to many of its graduates at The Musket Transport Ltd., Ontario’s largest intermodal carrier.