Tips For the Road: How To Drive Safely Around Big Trucks

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Daily Commute Woes: Nine Big Truck Safety Tips

Every day, thousands of people across the Pacific Northwest drive to and from work in their sedans or pickups. Commuters share the road with long-haulers and other big trucks on the job. Driving around commercial trucks is dangerous if not done correctly. Big trucks have big blind spots, and they take longer to stop than most passenger vehicles, especially on the highway. Big trucks also cannot maneuver as easily as a four-door sedan. Keep in mind these safety tips on that next daily commute.

1. Watch Out for Blind Spots

Commercial trucks have large blind spots, much larger than passenger vehicles. When on the road with a big rig, make sure to avoid the vehicle’s blind spots:

  • One lane wide on the driver’s side, extending from the driver’s side window to half the length of the trailer.
  • Twenty feet in front of the rig.
  • Two lanes wide on the right side, the entire length of the trailer, and a bit behind the trailer.
  • Thirty feet behind the truck.

Tip: If the driver of a passenger vehicle cannot see the truck’s mirrors, the truck driver cannot see the passenger vehicle. Speed up or slow down so that the truck driver can see the car.

2. Pass Safely

Correctly passing a truck is critical to road safety. Knowing how to pass any vehicle successfully is essential. Large trucks with heavy loads cannot stop in the same amount of time as a passenger vehicle. Truck drivers need enough time to react and adjust their speed, so it’s critical to avoid cutting in front of a truck quickly.

  • Always pass a truck from the left side. As mentioned earlier, the right side of a truck is dangerous due to the driver’s compromised ability to see vehicles on the right side of the truck.
  • Don’t vary speed too much when passing. It’s best to keep a consistent pace.
  • Signal clearly and in advance.
  • Before merging back in front of a truck, ensure that it’s visible in the rearview mirror. This way, the truck is at a safe distance.
  • When a truck passes in front of a passenger vehicle, the driver of the passenger vehicle should slow down to allow plenty of room for the truck to merge safely.

3. Plan Ahead

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Make sure to pay attention to big trucks on the road, especially in inclement weather conditions.

Whether on the highway or surface streets, make sure to indicate lane changes and turns early enough for the truck driver to adjust his or her speed. If it looks like upcoming traffic is slow or stopped, don’t merge in front of a truck because it may not give the driver enough time to stop. No one wants to be rear-ended by a semi. Make sure to communicate with turn signals.

4. Increase Following Distance

Don’t follow a truck too closely. Make sure to allow a distance of four seconds between the truck and a passenger vehicle. If passenger vehicles follow too closely behind a big truck, the truck driver cannot see. Some of the most catastrophic traffic accidents happen when a car follows too closely behind a big rig and gets rear-ended by another vehicle, forcing the car underneath the truck’s trailer.

Be sure to keep a safe distance to avoid collisions due to tire blowouts or rollovers. If traffic stops, make sure to keep a safe distance between the trailer and the passenger vehicle in case the truck begins to roll backward.

5. Be Aware of Wide Turns

Large trucks take wider turns than passenger vehicles. These turns are dangerous, especially right turns. Depending on the amount of room available, trucks may swing left when making a right turn to allow enough room for the trailer. Never drive between a truck and the curb, especially on the right side. Don’t pass trucks with a turn signal on, and make sure to stop behind the line at intersections to allow turning trucks plenty of room.

6. Wear Your Seatbelt

Wearing a seatbelt is a state law in Washington, but it’s an important reminder. Even if the seatbelt is uncomfortable, wear it. Make sure all children have the appropriate seating arrangement in the vehicle to ensure their safety.

7. Put the Phone Down

Do not text and drive. Using a phone while driving is dangerous, especially when driving around big trucks and other large vehicles. Don’t eat or adjust the radio while driving. A split second at highway speeds can be the difference between life and death.

8. Do Not Drive Drowsy or Under the Influence

Any alcohol or drug consumption affects a driver’s ability to react to and judge traffic conditions safely. Pay attention if any over-the-counter or prescription medicines cause side effects such as drowsiness. Don’t drive when under the influence of any of those substances.

Additionally, long road trips are tiring. Don’t drive if it’s hard to stay awake. Pull the car over at a rest stop and take a break to rest or switch spots with another driver.

9. Be Patient

Sometimes it seems that truck drivers are doing strange things on the road. However, truck drivers are under strict operation guidelines, and they may be limited by policy or “speed limiters” that prevent the truck from going over a specific speed limit. One of the most frustrating things for passenger vehicle drivers and truck drivers alike is when one semi attempts to pass another semi. It can seem that the trucks are blocking traffic, but due to speed limiters and the weight of the vehicles, sometimes the passing truck gets “stuck” at the same speed as the truck it’s attempting to pass. Be patient in these moments, as the truck drivers are also frustrated and do not want to hold up traffic.

About Western Pacific Truck School

Western Pacific Truck School of Oregon provides CDL training to Longview-area residents. While not everyone is suited for a life on the road in a big rig, Western Pacific Truck School aims to provide comprehensive CDL training to enhance road safety for truck drivers and passenger vehicle drivers alike. Call today for more information and join the next class of big-rig truck drivers in the Pacific Northwest!