Many people on the road fear driving at a close proximity to semi-trucks due to their limited mobility and large size. Although sharing the road with these large vehicles can be intimidating, by following some simple tips, you can ensure your safety on the road as well as others around you. Here are some tips for you to keep in mind next time you find yourself driving near a semi-truck or large truck:
Always Maintain a Safe Distance
Due to the large size of semi-trucks, they require more time to slow down and eventually stop. By keeping a safe distance, you give yourself more time to stop in case of emergency or sudden stops. It is even more crucial to keep a safe distance from semi-trucks when driving on a decline or incline, as they are known to be more unpredictable in these conditions. As a general rule of thumb, always keep 2-3 cars-length (about 4-6 seconds) between you and the truck in front of you.
Avoid Blind Spots, But Don’t Panic
Semi-trucks generally have large blind-spots or “no-zones” where the driver of the truck is unable to see your vehicle. Do not worry too much, as all vehicles have blind spots and most truck drivers are professionally trained. However, it can’t hurt to avoid these blind spots when possible. In this case, if you are unable to see the truck driver in your mirrors, he probably cannot see you either, so be sure that you have a view of the truck driver if you want to avoid blind spots.
Use Your Signals Accurately
It is extremely important that you use your turn signals accurately at all times on the road, but especially when you are driving near semi-trucks. Indicating your intentions is essential for truck drivers to be able to react accordingly, especially on the highway when surrounding vehicles are driving at high speeds. When you turn or change lanes, use your signals in advance and have a plan.
You should have a heightened awareness driving near semi-trucks at nighttime. Potential problems such as visibility and truck driver fatigue are common in the evening and early morning hours. While following a truck at night, ensure your headlights are properly adjusted, and avoid using your high-beams, as this can cause even more visibility issues for the driver.
Use Caution Around Parked Semi-Trucks
When driving around parked semi-trucks, be sure to give the truck an ample amount of space. Truck drivers will have to open doors, unload cargo, and perform maintenance regularly on their trucks. For the safety of yourself and the truck driver, leave some extra room when you are passing a parked semi-truck.
If you find yourself on a long stretch of road, it is common to get “stuck” behind semi-trucks as they generally travel at slower speeds. If you plan to pass or “overtake” a semi-truck, do so with caution. Ensure that you are not overtaking on a curved, downhill road and that no cars are approaching. Then, use your signals accurately, slowly accelerate and keep a safe distance while passing the truck.
On a regular sized vehicle, tire blowouts are scary and inconvenient, and even more so when they occur in a semi-truck. If you witness a tire blowout on a semi-truck, it is paramount that you do not make any sudden movements with your vehicle. Calmly reduce your speed, change, lanes, and do what you need to do to maintain a safe distance from the truck.
Report Suspicious or Unsafe Driving Behavior
If you witness a truck or truck driver engaging in suspicious or unsafe driving behavior, it is important that you report it immediately for the safety of yourself and others on the road. Unsafe driving behavior might include: speeding, swerving in and out of lanes, or excessively braking and accelerating. Use your best judgment and contact the authorities if you feel that something is off.
Be Alert and Cautious Around Intersections
Semi-trucks require more space and time to make turns, so when around semi-trucks in intersections, be extra vigilant. Do not ever try to maneuver in between a truck and the curb as you are turning. Be sure to give them the appropriate amount of space to turn, even if this means hanging back a bit. Many truck accidents are caused by drivers ignoring both the space and time semi-trucks require on the road.
Be Aware of Truck Swing Out
Semi-truck swing out is a term used to describe the action of a semi-truck turning or changing lanes, and the trailer of the truck swinging out or swerving into different lanes. Although there isn’t much you can do to prevent this, you can be aware of it when you’re driving near semi-trucks, which many drivers on the road are not.
Be Wary of Wind and Weather
If you are unaware, high winds can have a significant impact on semi-truck stability. This is especially true when driving through a storm or near structures such as bridges and tunnels. Be aware of the fact that strong gusts can cause a truck to sway or change lanes suddenly, which means you may also need to adjust your driving accordingly.
Defense, Not Offense
It is simply always a good idea to be practicing defensive driving on the road, whether you are around semi-trucks or not. Aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding, tailgating, and swift/tight lane changes put you at risk. Practice a respectful, calm, collected, and courteous attitude towards all drivers on the road, including truck drivers. Maintain a safe distance, scan the road for potential hazards/dangerous conditions, and be as prepared as possible to calmly and appropriately react to unexpected situations.
By adhering to these safety tips, you can significantly reduce the risks associated with driving near semi-trucks. Remember that patience, awareness, and respect for the size and capabilities of these vehicles are crucial. Stay alert, follow traffic rules, and maintain a safe distance to ensure a safer driving experience for everyone on the road.