Driving Tips for Safely Sharing the Road with Large Trucks

by Andrew R. Young | June 15th, 2012

A large commercial motor vehicle can weigh up to 80,000 pounds.  An accident with one of these heavy trucks can be life changing.  To avoid an accident, licensed drivers must understand how best to share the road with these large vehicles.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a “Share the Road Safely Program.”   This program is designed to educate drivers about the operating characteristics and limitations of large trucks and buses.  Education is the key to accident prevention.  Most highway users do not realize that large trucks require more stopping distance than other vehicles.  Motorists may also not be aware of the size of a large truck’s blind spots.  According to the FMCSA, one-third of all crashes between large trucks and cars take place in the No-Zone.

Protect yourself and your loved ones with these simple driving tips:

  1. Know The No Zones The No-Zones are the blind spots or danger areas around large trucks and buses.  Crashes are more likely to occur in one of the no-zones.  Most highway users are unfamiliar with the size of the no-zones.  For example, triple trailers can be up to 105 feet long creating much larger no zones and greater limited visibility along side and behind these trucks.
  2. Avoid Tailgating A truck driver does not have a rear-view mirror and cannot see vehicles that are in the no-zones directly behind them.   It is unsafe to travel where a truck driver cannot see you.  Likewise, it is a danger to hang out directly behind a truck because you cannot see what is ahead of the truck. What do you do if the truck has to brake suddenly?  It is best that you are able to see down the road so that you have plenty of reaction time to encounter rapidly approaching hazards.
  3. Don’t Linger Alongside Trucks may have to swerve for debris or obstructions in the roadway.  The truck driver may move into your lane without knowing you are there.  Due to a truck’s size and weight, they are not able to maneuver as easily as a car.  As such, do not linger on either side of a truck’s no zone because the truck driver may unknowingly change lanes or swerve into your vehicle.   Make sure you can see the driver’s face in his or her side-view mirrors.  If you cannot see the truck driver, then he or she cannot see you.
  4. Pass On The Left In the event of an emergency, truck drivers have been trained to swerve to the right.  I have seen trucks with stickers on their back doors with an arrow pointing to the left as “passing side” and an arrow pointing to the right as “suicide.”  A truck driver expects you to pass on the left.  Do what is expected, pass left, and avoid an accident if a truck has to suddenly move to the right.
  5. Don’t Cut Off A Truck You would not cut off a train, so why would you cut off a truck?  A heavy load requires a lot more room for a truck to stop.  It is important to “Leave More Space For Trucks.”  In many states, you can be ticketed for cutting off a truck.   Look for the entire front of the truck in your rear-view mirror before pulling in front.  Once you pull in front of the truck, it is important to maintain your speed and avoid slowing down after passing.
  6. Watch For Backing Trucks Trucks are often required to back up due to maneuvering limitations.  Be patient and wait for the truck to complete its maneuver.  Do not ignore the truck or the truck’s no zones.  Truck drivers may not see you cutting in behind them and will not expect your vehicle to be there if you have suddenly moved in their backing path.
  7. Watch For Wide Turns Similarly, do not suddenly attempt to squeeze between a truck and the curb lane.  Trucks require a lot more room to make tight turns.  Watch for blinkers and give trucks room to turn.  Also, if a truck is turning toward you, use courtesy and back up and help make room for a truck to turn.

When trucks stop moving, the economy stops moving.  Trucks literally bring everything that you  see around you (food, furniture, clothes, etc).  Knowing how to safely share the roads with big rigs will help you prevent an accident and not only save your life, but your passengers lives too.  It is important to educate yourself and others about the operational limitations of large commercial vehicles.  Be a highway safety advocate and educate others about sharing the road safely.

Authored by:  Trial Attorney / Truck Accident Attorney / Class A CDL Truck Driver – Andrew R. Young, Esquire