Sharing the Road with Commercial Trucks: 5 Must-Know Tips

It seems that everywhere you drive in America, you will come across a big rig along the way. The trucking industry is a cornerstone of our country’s economy, allowing goods and products to be transported from one state to another in a relatively short amount of time. It makes sense that there are so many commercial trucks on the highways at all hours.

However, a large number of commercial trucks on the highways of the country means a higher risk of being caught in a devastating truck accident. Thousands of deaths and many more serious injuries each year are caused by collisions with big rigs, with many of those incidents being caused primarily by a truck driver’s mistakes. What can you do as a motorist to help lower your risk of being in a truck accident when traveling across town or state borders?

You can start by remembering five easy safety tips for whenever you have to drive near a big rig.

Multiple Big Blind Spots

Your passenger vehicle has blind spots that can cause a car accident if you don’t check them when turning, merging, and changing lanes. Commercial trucks have blind spots, too, except that they are much larger and more numerous than those of smaller vehicles.

Within the typical tractor-trailer, the trucker cannot see:

  • About 1.5 car lengths directly in front of the tractor
  • About 2 car lengths directly behind the trailer
  • Into the adjacent left lane for about the front half of the entire tractor-trailer
  • Into the next two right lanes for more than half of the entire tractor-trailer

The worst blind spot experienced by commercial truck drivers is the right-side blind spot. Multiple lanes on the right can be entirely obscured from the driver’s vision, so you should never try to linger there. If you need to pass a big rig, then you should use the left side only. Also, an easy rule to remember is that the truck driver cannot see you if you cannot see their side-view mirror.

Wide, Wide Turns

Another big thing about big rigs is how big their turning radiuses are. The turning capabilities of most commercial trucks are awful, to say the least of it.

To complete a left turn, a commercial truck driver will usually take as much of the intersection as they can. Right turns are even trickier since they tend to be narrower and made against 90-degree intersections. It is not uncommon for a truck driver to enter the left-most right-turn lane, start the right turn, and end in the right-most lane, cutting off vehicles in the other lanes in the process.

When you see a semi-truck waiting to turn right at an intersection, you should never pull up into any free lanes to its right. It is highly likely that the truck driver intends to steer their trailer into that lane! If you are there when they turn, your smaller vehicle could be crushed or dragged underneath the trailer in a dangerous underride accident.

Leave Space in Front & Behind

Big rigs struggle to come to a complete stop due to the immense size and weight of the entire vehicle. You might be used to your smaller car coming to a halt within about 300 feet if you are driving at freeway speeds, which you use to gauge your following distances. A commercial truck can easily take three-times that amount to stop completely if not more. To keep space for a big rig to come to a halt, try not to occupy the space in front of it while on the highway.

You should also never follow a commercial truck too closely or for too long. When you are behind a big rig, your field of view will be greatly diminished. Seeing hazards on the road ahead becomes impossible, increasing your chances of getting into a crash if something goes wrong. Do yourself a favor and leave plenty of room between you and a semi-truck, so you can plan ahead as you drive.

Cautious Passing

As mentioned, you should only pass a big rig on the left side because this side has a smaller blind spot than the right. The left-most available lane will be ideal. Furthermore, you should only pass when necessary. The fewer times you try to pass or overtake a semi-truck, the safer you will be.

When you do find it necessary to pass a semi-truck, use caution, and make certain the truck driver knows what you intend to do. Use your turn signal and try to watch their side-view mirror when it is safe to do so. If they see and acknowledge you in the side-view mirror, then you should have a much safer chance of passing them without incident.

Eliminate Distractions

This last safety tip cannot be stressed enough: eliminate driver distractions. Using your smartphone, typing directions into a GPS, eating, applying makeup, and talking to passengers are never safe ideas while you are driving. The distractions only get more dangerous when an already-hazardous big rig is on the road near you.

You, your family, and your friends should all agree that distractions need to come to a total halt for everyone in the car when you need to pass or follow a commercial truck. If everyone pays attention to the road, then they can possibly spot a sign of danger before you do. At the least, they will not take your own attention away from the task of safely sharing the road with a commercial truck.

Hit by a big rig in Chicago? McHargue & Jones, LLC can help you file a claim in pursuit of compensation. Call (312) 739-0000 now.