Give big rigs a big, big berth
The most skilful and safest drivers in the world are big-rig truckers.
They travel millions of kilometres each year and should be treated with the highest regard and respect.
Here are some tips that make it easier to understand the driving behaviour of truckers and how to accommodate them.
Truckers need more time and space to do virtually every driving manoeuvre. They cannot stop as quickly as other vehicles. For this reason, they use a three-second-following-distance rule as opposed to the normal two-second rule. It’s a good idea for all of us to do the same.
Never cut immediately in front of a truck when passing on the highway.
Always allow more space, so you can at least see the grille of the truck in the rearview mirror before returning to the travelled lane.
Don’t travel in a trucker’s blind spot. There are four such spots around a truck. A truck driver can’t see a car that’s too close behind or in the trucker’s left or right shoulder area.
The most often-forgotten blind spot is immediately in front of the truck, often hidden by the truck’s extended hood and an especially perilous position for pedestrians.
If drivers behind can’t see the truck’s mirrors, the trucker can’t see them. Even with extended convex mirrors, there are still huge blind spots. The left-shoulder blind spot extends from the driver to halfway to the truck’s trailer. The rightside blind spot extends back to the whole trailer.
Trucks make wide turns. Sometimes, the driver will move left to make more room for a right turn. Never try to pass a truck on the right in this situation. The same behavior is evident when a trucker is making a left turn. Always watch for turn signals and stay well back when any turning move is indicated.
When a vehicle driver is first at an intersection, it’s important to stay behind the stop line. Truckers will have a much easier time turning when the first vehicle at the intersection stays back to allow more room at the intersection.
If you have to pull off the road and park, it’s a good idea to get as far off the highway as possible. Trucks have extended mirrors and are more apt to overlap the shoulder of the road.
Recently, I’ve noticed semi-trailers with fabric or canvas sides on the trailer portion of the big rig. I keep getting the feeling the cargo can easily escape onto the roadway, with no structural walls to prevent it. For this reason, I don’t recommend travelling beside trucks with hidden cargo, without evidence that loads have been secured.
Always be aware of the limited crash-avoidance options available to truckers. Swerving to avoid a collision will often jackknife the trailer. Worse still, stopping suddenly will drive the load through the cab, killing or severely injuring the truck driver.
Nobody is perfect, truckers included. We have all seen bad truck drivers. Fortunately, they are few and far between.
Whenever I have been in need of help at the side of the road, truckers are usually the first to stop and help. They have the equipment and expertise in most cases to do so. Would that we were all as helpful.
Steve Wallace is a certified teacher and the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C.
Photograph by: Peter J. Thompson , National Post