Sharing the Roadway with Tractor-Trailer Trucks

When a large truck signals to turn into the lane ahead of us, our natural temptation is to speed up, ensuring to not get stuck behind the large vehicle. However, that very move may be the most dangerous choice we make while driving. If we better understand the obstacles truck drivers face while driving, we can alter our driving habits to prevent car and truck collisions, keeping us all safer when sharing the roadways.

About 2 million tractor-trailer trucks and 13.5 million large commercial motor vehicles can be found on the road each day. 2016 statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claimed that of the 34,439 fatal crashes reported on U.S. roadways, almost 12% involved at least one large truck or bus. Additionally, a study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute concluded that 81% of road accidents involving both a car and truck were caused by the fault of the car driver — not the truck driver. These startling statistics prove that drivers of cars must be more cognizant of the roadway obstacles that tractor-trailer truck drivers face to keep us all safer on the roadways.

With its workers on roads throughout North America each day, PLH Group, Inc. wants to ensure that its utility construction workers are driving safely while on and off the clock. Therefore, the company encourages all field crews and office staff to review the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Ten Rules of the Road:

  1. Stay out of the “No Zones” – Familiarize yourself with the location of a large truck’s’ blind spots, and ensure to stay out of them. If you cannot see the truck driver in the truck’s side mirror, then the truck driver most likely cannot see you either.
  2. Pass Safely — Prior to passing a large truck, use your turn signal, and ensure that the driver can see you in the side mirror. Then, promptly pass the truck, making sure that you do not drive in a blind spot for longer than necessary. Then, be sure that you can see the truck in your rearview mirror before signaling and returning to the truck’s lane. Also, prevent passing while going downhill, for trucks tend to pick up speed while descending.
  3. Don’t Cut it Close — Not only do tractor-trailer trucks have larger blind spots, but they also take much more time to stop than the average vehicle because of their significant weight difference. Therefore, be certain to not move too quickly around a large truck.
  4. Stay Back — Tailgating a truck too closely puts your vehicle at risk of sliding under the truck if an accident were to occur. This comprehensive Driver Solutions’ infographic recommends driving four seconds behind a truck. Additionally, when stopped on an uphill, the truck could slide back, pinning your car underneath. Prevent this by keeping adequate distance between your vehicle and the truck.
  1. Anticipate Wide Turns – When a tractor-trailer truck turns, it sometimes needs to swing into another lane to safely complete the turn. Never try to squeeze past a truck while it is maneuvering a turn. Instead, give it the room it needs.
  2. Be Patient — Instead of automatically trying to zip past a truck, be patient. Give the truck time to accelerate. Aggressive driving only causes distraction and risk of an accident.

Courtesy: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

  1. Buckle Up — Always wear a seatbelt and ensure that others in the car are safely secured, as well.
  2. Stay Focused — Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents. Instead of dealing with distractions while driving, safely pull to the side of the road until you can devote your full attention back to driving.
  3. Don’t Drive Fatigued — If you are tired, find a safe place to rest until you can safely get behind the wheel again.
  4. Never Drive Under the Influence — Driving under the influence not only impairs vision and slows reaction time, but also distorts decision-making. Therefore, whether you think you can safely drive or not, if you are under the influence, never get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Review these Ten Rules of the Road, as well as other tips and statistics, with your family and friends, as well as in your next team safety meeting. By better understanding how to drive around tractor-trailer trucks, we will all be safer on the roadways.