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Driving Safely Around Semi Trucks - Part 3

Updated on August 10, 2012

Part 1 & 2 recap

In parts 1 & 2 we talked about braking and stopping distance, blind spots and safely passing semi trucks. In part 3 we will go over a couple of things on city driving around the big boys.

Trucks at Intersections

A truck going straight through an intersection is no big deal to you or the truck driver. It’s pretty straight forward -no pun intended. Making turns is another story. When a truck turns the trailer follows a different path - this is called off tracking. The longer the vehicle, the more it off tracks. Understanding how these trucks move is essential for safely sharing the road with them. I know I wasn’t taught the dynamics of large trucks when I went to school.
How many times have you actually looked at the broad white line painted on the pavement that designates where you are supposed to stop? Just to be clear, you stop at the line, not over it or beyond it. What difference does it make? Well, to most other vehicles, not much unless the roadway is very narrow. To a truck driver it makes all the difference in the world. Stopping at the line allows room for a large vehicle to make the turn - if your bumper is hanging out over the line there’s a good chance you will be impeding traffic because the truck can’t get through unless you move or he does a little body work to your car.

If you are approaching an intersection and see a tractor trailer to your left that is making a right turn, stop as far back as needed and let him complete the turn. Due to the length and off tracking of the tractor trailer several feet of your lane will be needed to complete the turn.


The left photo shows the proper way for a truck to make the right hand turn. The reason truck drivers are to turn wide when completing their turn is to keep other vehicles from passing on the right while they are turning. Anytime you see a semi with a turn signal on, be patient - turning the truck takes space and it’s better to sit and wait than to assume the truck isn’t turning only to find yourself stuck to the bumper.

Trucks Backing Up

When a tractor trailer is backing up sometimes you will hear a back-up alarm but not all trucks are equipped with them. Most truck drivers will turn on their emergency flashers as a signal that the truck is backing. This is another reason to stay out of that rear blind spot (part 2).
A truck trying to back into a dock or other loading zone may have to pull up several times to get in the correct position.

Just keep in mind that those trucks can not maneuver around like you can in your car. And, contrary to what you may think, not all truck drivers have years of experience behind that wheel. Trainees have to learn somewhere and while they have trainers with them, they are still the ones driving and need even more room while they learn - but we will talk about that later.

If you missed them here are the links for parts 1 & 2


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