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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sharing the Road with Trucks

Big trucks, small trucks or medium trucks, regardless of their size, they are a natural part of the driving environment. They are driven by commercial drivers and play a substantial role in our commerce. It is important to learn about their characteristics and how to drive defensively around them.

So what should you keep in mind when sharing the road with trucks?

  • Take in account the differences in size and weight.

  • Due to their size and weight they can not react quickly in the driving environment. While most cars weigh an average of 3,000 pounds, large trucks are heavy and can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. At that weight trucks can't maneuver like a 3,000 pound car and can not be brought to a quick stop. In a crash involving a 3,000 pound car and an 80,000 pound truck, the truck is going to sustain less damage.

  • Increase your following distance.

  • When traveling behind a truck use extra caution and increase your following distance to three or fours seconds. Doing so allows you to have a better view of the traffic conditions ahead. If you are following at a safe distance, consider it will only cost you two or three seconds of your time to remain behind the truck as you approach your exit.

    The most common mistake that drivers make around trucks is thinking trucks have the ability to perform and to stop like a small car. It takes at least twice the distance for a large truck or bus to stop than it does for a small car. It also takes them longer to accelerate and get up to speed.

  • Use extra care when passing.

  • The US Department of Transportation Office of Motor Carrier Safety conducted a study titled "The Unsafe Driving Acts of Motorists in the Vicinity of Large Trucks". The study found "Particularly distressing to truck drivers is when a motorist passes a large truck, quickly cuts in front of it, then exits the highway." They cited the most common reason for collisions involving passenger vehicles and large trucks was the motorists "unfamiliarity with the performance limitations and capabilities of large trucks. It appeared that most drivers are unaware of the limited acceleration, braking, and visibility of large trucks and of the relationship between mass and velocity and the potential consequences of that relationship to safety." They need lots of room to maneuver and have a much wider turning radius.

  • Be aware of the blind spots.

  • Avoid cruising along in a truck's blind spots. Large vehicles have very large blind spots or what is referred to as "No-Zones". Semis have a large blind spot reaching up to 200 feet directly behind them. As you near the cab on the left side there is a blind spot that runs from behind the cab to just behind the driver. There is a much larger blind spot on the right side of the vehicle. Trucks with high hoods have a blind spot of up to 25 feet in front of the truck. The old saying that "If you can't see the truck's mirrors, the truck driver can't see you" is true. Some go even further to say if you can't see the truck driver's face in his mirrors, he can't see you.

    A study conducted by the AAA Foundation found that in collisions involving cars and trucks, the driver of the car was at fault 73 % of the time. Other studies have shown that:

  • Passenger-car drivers are four times more likely to rear-end a truck than truckers are to rear-end cars;

  • Non-commercial drivers are 10 times more likely to crash into a truck head-on than vice versa;

  • Passenger-car drivers are three times more likely to speed in poor road conditions (such as rain) than truck drivers;

  • Non-commercial drivers are eight times more likely to be involved in crashes involving drowsiness.

  • The AAA study also found that in fatal collisions involving cars and trucks, 98% of the deaths were among occupants of the car.

    When sharing the road with trucks, give trucks a wide berth and respect their limitations.

    For more information about truck safety or commerical drivers license (CDL) please visit

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