With over 3 million semis on the road logging thousands of miles each week, learning to safely share the road is crucial. Truck drivers make their living on the nation’s highways moving freight from one destination to the next. Their livelihoods depend on careful driving and timeliness. Remember, over 70% of goods in the United States are transported by truck. If you bought it, chances are it got there by truck. Here are six things you can do as a motorist to help truck drivers do their jobs safely and deliver your goods on time.
- Understand blind spots. Trucks have large blind spots to the right and rear, and smaller blind spots on the right front corner and mid left side of the truck. Understand that these blind spots exist, and always avoid cruising alongside a truck at the same rate of speed. Look for the driver's face in his mirror - if you can't see him, he can't see you!
- Never pass on the right. The biggest blind spot on a semi is on the right side, making this a dangerous place to be. When semis take right turns, their back wheels take a shorter path than the front. Don't try to dart in the opening when the driver takes the turn wide because the gap will quickly close. Stay back to avoid a collision.
- Don't follow too closely. If you're following a truck closely, you can't see the traffic ahead to know if you'll need to make a sudden stop. You also can't see obstacles in the road that might not be a big problem for semis, but would cause a large amount of damage to you.
- Don't cut off a semi. The stopping distance of a semi is much greater than your car. At highway driving speeds, it can take a fully loaded tractor trailer the length of over 2 football fields to safely come to a full stop. Forcing a semi to stop any faster than that will likely cause a jackknife. Don't try to sneak into a small gap, or get over and brake for a turn. Always leave the driver room to safely slow down.
- Be nice during lane changes. You've probably felt the frustration of maneuvering into heavy traffic with your turn signal on when no one seems to want to let you in. Imagine an additional 48 feet behind you to get into traffic too. If a trucker has their signal on, leave some room for them to merge. Remember, they're dealing with a much bigger and heavier vehicle with much larger blind spots, it's not simple to dart into an opening.
- Be patient. Handling an 80,000 pound vehicle with up to a 53 foot trailer can take time and concentration, particularly when backing up. Be patient if the driver needs to make a couple of attempts to safely get into a tight space. It also takes time to get a large vehicle up to speed, and drivers are often limited to a slower speed by highway regulations or fleet driving rules.
Next time you're behind the wheel, show some appreciation for the men and women who choose to drive tractor trailers. Remember, truck drivers provide the crucial link between businesses and consumers. They deliver the clothes you shop for in the mall, the supplies you need when you're in the hospital, the produce your family eats each week, the fuel for your car so you can drive to work, or the deliveries you order online for holidays. Be patient and courteous on the road and help get everyone- car, van, or tractor trailer- to their destinations safely.