In the United States we rely heavily on the commercial trucking industry to carry goods back and forth from port to port, state to state, east coast to west. Without large trucks it would be difficult for consumers to have oranges from Florida in the winter or new cars in Ohio dealerships that come into the Tacoma, Washington docks. Truck drivers perform a service for consumers throughout the US by delivering the goods we need to run our homes and businesses.
Unfortunately, in order to make a living as a truck driver the amount of miles traveled per day becomes critical to their ability to make a living. Truckers will typically get paid on a per mile basis which leads drivers to try and get as many miles as possible. However, this means long hours on the road. Some truckers will drive until they are so exhausted they simply cannot drive a moment more.
This puts nearby motorist at risk as truck drivers can fall asleep at the wheel or have impaired reflexes from exhaustion. You can blame it on the drivers that don’t rest enough, the system that is looking at the sales figures, or whatever is irritating you on any particular day. Whatever the reason (or combination or reasons) motorists can be at risk of a possible accident when driving next to semi trucks.
It is impossible for motorist to know how long a truck driver has been on the road – whether this is the beginning of their shift or the end. With that in mind practicing defensive driving is essential to staying safe. Here are some tips for staying safe next to a big truck:
1. Lights. It is important to have all of your lights in working order to ensure that a truck can see you in the evening hours. One light out can make the difference between getting cut off or not.
2. Horn. Make sure your horn works so that you can honk in the event that a truck starts to swerve out of their lane. Do not go easy on a swerving truck by assuming the driver knows he is in trouble. The driver could be falling asleep so use your horn aggressively if they start to move into your lane.
3. Keep Your Distance. Do not drive next to a truck or in their blind spot. When possible either speed up so that you are driving in front of a truck or slow down to drive behind them. This way you can monitor how they are driving. If you are immediately next to a truck and they start to swerve into your lane it could be too late to avoid an accident.
4. Bridges. While driving on a bridge with a truck stay a safe distance behind them. Bridges are especially dangerous because it is nearly impossible to get out of their way if the driver starts to drive erratically.
5. Stay in the left lane. Truck drivers will typically stay in the right two lanes where slower traffic and merging traffic drive. By staying in the far left lane you have a better chance of avoiding trucks and do not need to worry about them merging over to exit to a weigh station.
6. Stay focused. While driving next to a truck pay attention to the road and surrounding conditions. Any changes such as ice or standing water are especially dangerous when near a truck. They may not be able to respond to conditions fast enough which puts you in danger. During bad road conditions driving a safe distance behind a truck is the safest option.
While driving remember that practicing defensive driving tactics are your best option in staying safe. Other drivers may not be responsible so it is essential to stay alert and watch for potential dangers.
Written by Andrew Miller