A Car Driver’s Guide to Sharing the Road with Big Rigs

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A whopping 70% of all goods consumed in the United States are moved by trucks. Consumers, retailers and other businesses rely on big rigs and their drivers to transport everything from baby food to medical supplies throughout every step of the supply chain.

As much as we appreciate the vital role truckers play in our lives, we often don’t enjoy driving in close proximity to their vehicles. Here are some patience and awareness tips to help you safely co-exist when sharing the road with tractor trailers, construction vehicles and other large commercial trucks.

Don’t travel close to trucks.

18-wheelers and other big trucks simply do not have the same stopping and braking ability as cars and require much more time and distance to stop safely. Give them plenty of room and make it a practice to move past and away from them.  In general, try to avoid driving close to them at any given time. Under no circumstances should you ever tailgate a truck.

Pass with caution and avoid the right side.

When passing, allow trucks more space than you would give cars, SUVs and motorcycles. Check that the front of the rig is visible in your rear-view mirror before returning to the truck’s lane. Do not put the truck driver in a situation where he or she must brake suddenly (see above!). When passing a tractor trailer, do so on their left-hand side, maintaining a consistent speed.  

Watch out for those turns.

Always operate under the assumption that a truck driver can’t see you. Truck drivers may need to swing wide to the left in order to make a right turn, so attempting to squeeze directly behind or beside them can cause a collision. Wait to see where a truck intends to turn before making any move — and be sure to give it enough room.  Pay particular attention when a truck is turning right: 1). The truck driver’s range of vision is limited on the right and,  2). when a tractor trailer turns, the trailer follows the truck around the corner and the distance between the curb and the trailer narrows.  Anything that gets in between the trailer and the curb can be crushed.

Think before  maneuvering in front of a semi.

Accelerating to get ahead of a truck, then pulling in front of it and slowing down is exceedingly dangerous.   When a tractor trailer is very close behind a smaller vehicle, the truck driver may not be able to see you over the rig’s long hood (see the part about blind spots!).  

Drive at consistent speed.

Avoid making any sudden moves. When you’re driving your car, move slowly and be predictable with your actions. One of the hardest parts of being a professional driver is anticipating the actions of other drivers.  If you need to change lanes or turn, signal well in advance. Change lanes or make your turn when you are far away from the truck, where he can see you and clearly see what your intentions are.

For more helpful tips on safely sharing the road with big trucks visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration online.

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