Sharing the road with semi-trucks is inherently dangerous. These trucks are massive and powerful. Of course, our supply chains depend on these trucks crossing the country every day, so they’re an unavoidable part of life for anyone on the roads.
The following are six things to know about sharing the road safely with semi-trucks.
1. The Risks of Overloaded Trucks
There are certain things you can do to keep yourself safer when you’re on the road with big trucks, which we’ll detail below. However, some of the risks of these trucks are out of your control.
Overloaded trucks are one major risk that’s more common than you might think. Federal laws cap the weight of a truck and trailer at 80,000 pounds total.
In some states, a truck might be able to carry a larger load, but they may need a permit to do so.
When a truck is overloaded or isn’t properly loaded, it can increase the risk it will tip over. It also makes it harder for the truck to stop simply because a heavy load has more momentum than one that’s lighter. The truck driver needs more braking powder to bring an overloaded trailer to a stop.
Overloaded trucks are also more at risk of mechanical failures because it puts stress on the systems.
When you’re sharing the road with a truck, ensure that you’re mindful of their cargo. If you notice red flags, like the doors of a trailer opening or moving in an odd way, it could indicate cargo that wasn’t loaded properly. You should stay out of the way of the truck.
2. Give Them Plenty of Space to Maneuver
Because of how heavy and large they are, semi-trucks need more space to maneuver safely on the road. You can help alleviate some of the pressure facing truck drivers by giving them plenty of room.
More specifically, make sure you aren’t pulling over in front of big trucks. You want to leave plenty of room behind you before you pull over, especially at a stop sign or traffic light. The truck driver can’t stop their vehicle very quickly, especially when they’re pulling heavy weight, as mentioned above.
Leave room for drivers to change lanes when they need to. If a driver is signaling they need to change lanes, don’t try to go up further in the lane to prevent that. Instead, it’s safer to drop back in traffic. You can then flash your lights to let the driver know he has room.
Give plenty of room for making turns as well.
3. Learn Truck Blind Spots
There has been a lot of advancement in technology that makes it easier for truck drivers to see what’s going on around them, but that technology hasn’t eliminated truck blind spots and the risks they can create.
Even when a truck has a collision warning system and cameras, it may still have blind spots that prevent them from getting a view of the road.
Trucking blind spots include the area directly behind them, directly in front of them, and areas on each side of the truck. The old saying is that if you aren’t able to see the mirrors of a truck, then the driver probably can’t see you.
Even when traffic is tight, try your best to avoid spending an excessive amount of time in the blind spots of a truck. You may need to accelerate so you can move forward in traffic or lower your rate of speed.
4. Drive Defensively
Defensive driving means that you’re paying attention at all times when you’re driving, and you’re especially mindful when you’re around big trucks. Semis are bigger and heavier, so their reaction time is slower. There’s not much they can do in certain situations, but as the smaller vehicle, following defensive driving practices gives you more options to handle a challenging situation.
5. Use Your Signals
If you need to change lanes, turn or slow down, your signals are important because they’re how you indicate intent to other drivers. Truck drivers especially can rely on your signals so they’re able to determine what their next moves should be.
6. Slow Down in Bad Weather
Bad weather is dangerous for all drivers, and semi-trucks deal with even more risks if the roads are wet or icy. If a vehicle swings out of the control of a driver, if the roads are wet or icy, it’s difficult to get it back under control.
Wet roads increase the risk of jackknife accidents, where the trailer swings around its cap and into the other lanes of traffic. If you can slow down, it can reduce the risk of accidents happening near you involving trucks and other vehicles.