Truck safety training is barely ever touched upon in drivers education classes. As a current long haul trucker, that’s very concerning to me. Having an accident with an 18 wheeler almost always leads to injuries.
Truckers are plucked from the general public, just like everyone else. So you will find both great truck drivers on the road, as well as some terrible ones. But statistics show that over 72% of accidents involving trucks are the fault of the other vehicle!
It’s clear that most drivers don’t know how to properly drive around trucks. Here are some truck safety tips that all motorists should know, written from the perspective of a trucker.
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Before we provide tips on how to drive safely around trucks, I want to emphasize how catastrophic truck accidents are.
Let’s start with the most recent truck accident statistics. According to policyadvice.net, there has been a 52% increase in truck-related accidents since 2009, in which 74% of the most fatal ones involve a large truck. It’s also recorded that almost 70% of the fatalities are passenger vehicle occupants.
For the past 10 years, almost 20% of accidents involving trucks occur during the day, when the roads are more active. So there’s a higher chance of other vehicles getting involved in the aftermath.
Meanwhile, if you’re wondering what’s the most common cause of these accidents, its tire defects – accounting for around 30%. This is something to frown upon because seriously, how hard is it to ensure that your tires are well maintained and functioning properly?
Other causes include distracted driving, drowsy driving, aggressive driving, and even driving under the influence – all of which can be attributed to driver’s negligence. Out-of-control causes include road conditions and severe weather.
Anyway, an average car has little to no chance at all to survive an accident against a big rig. Trucks can’t slow down as fast as your car, and if it hits you, the impact will be devastating due to weight difference alone. What more if it comes to you at higher speeds
Even at lower speeds, an average car sits lower to the ground, and it can easily slide under in case of a semi-crash. In this scenario, the car occupants can end up with severe head or neck injuries.
I’m telling you all this to show you the importance of driving safely around trucks.
Tips for Driving Safely Around Trucks
Although we can’t control when and where accidents can happen, driving safely around trucks can at least minimize the impact in case you happen to be in one. Better yet, it can help you avoid being involved in an accident in the first place.
Here are some of the tips coming from the perspective of a trucker.
Give truckers LOTS of room!
There are a ton of reasons why you shouldn’t crowd a tractor trailer. And you’d think this was common truck safety knowledge. Yet, I find myself being crowded by drivers all the time. Being close to a semi is a terrible place to be. Here’s why…
Tire blowouts are common
Anybody who has ever taken a road trip has seen areas where large chunks of rubber are all over the road. That rubber is from a blown out tire from a big rig. Most loaded trucks can legally weigh 80,000lbs or more. Can you imagine the stress that puts on tires? Semi tires are ticking time bombs. You don’t want to get caught next to a big rig when the tire blows and shards of heavy rubber start flying at you. Not to mention there is a good chance the trucker will begin swerving as this happens.
Trucks are like sails
Just because trucks are heavy, doesn’t mean trucks are immune to being blown around by the wind. In fact, the opposite is true. Trucks create a huge amount of surface area. This creates a “sail” like effect and makes a truck very difficult to control. This is especially true if the truck is not loaded. The end result is unexpected drifts into your lane. Check out this dash cam video of an 18-wheeler being blown over in a wind storm:
See what I mean? Seeing that should force you to take truck safety seriously! Don’t get caught next to a truck when that happens!!
Blind spots are everywhere!
Even your car has blind spots. The number of blind spots in a big rig is insane. The passenger side of a semi has far more blind spots than the drivers side, so use proper truck safety techniques and try to always pass an 18 wheeler on the left. Hurry up and get ahead of the truck…don’t dilly dally around. The trucker may not know you’re even there, and God forbid the driver makes a quick lane change or swerves to avoid road debris, etc. Here is a diagram showing the most dangerous areas to be. Stay out of the no zone!
Properly passing a large truck
If you want to pass a big rig, try to pass as quickly as possible and hug the outside part of the lane. Pass on the left side whenever possible. The right side is fully of blind spots and they can barely see you! After passing the tractor trailer, don’t cut in front. Practice good truck safety training tips and give them much more room than you give regular cars. It can take a fully loaded rig the length of three football fields to come to a complete stop from 60mph. Not only is it dangerous and rude to cut in front of a large vehicle, but it’s also illegal in many states. Don’t take your chances. Give truckers as much room as possible.
Truckers can do some strange things
Sometimes, it seems like truck drivers do some strange things. Many people get upset when trucks seem to ride next to each other on the expressway for an extended period of time. The problem here is that most trucks have “speed limiters” on them. So as a semi begins to pass another semi, the passing rig can only go so fast. If the road starts to go uphill, the passing big rig might be loaded heavier and his speed will slow down at a quicker pace than the guy he’s trying to pass. The end result? The trucks get “stuck” next to each other. It’s not only frustrating for you, but also for the truckers.
To learn more information about why truckers drive the way they do, check out this excellent blog post: Why do truck drivers do that?
Trucks make WIDE turns
You’ve probably read the stickers posted on the back of most trucks. “This truck makes wide turns.” Yet, people cutting onto the side of a semi as the truck is turning remains one of the largest forms of accidents involving trucks. This is especially true for right turns. As a trucker begins his right turn, usually the driver will swing left, maybe even into the left lane or an oncoming lane. This will create enough room for you to drive between the shoulder of the road and the trailer. Don’t do it! The trailer will come back over as the trucker makes his turn. What’s worse? During the turn, all the driver can see in his mirror is his trailer. He can’t see any vehicles that squeeze on the right side. By the time the trucker knows you’re there, it’s too late. The same applies for left turns, although it’s not quite as severe. The right side of a truck is extremely dangerous!
Truckers are doing their best
Sometimes, people think truckers are being “bullies” or “take advantage” of the fact we are driving such a large vehicle. While there are a few bad apples out there, the vast majority of truckers are doing the best they can. Sometimes, we have to “force” a maneuver. Driving a warehouse on wheels is extremely difficult and stressful. Please bear with us. We are doing the best we can. Your help and understanding goes a long way.
Always practice proper truck safety techniques when driving around big rigs. And please, drive safely!