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Driving Safely Around Transport Trucks

Updated on March 10, 2015
A typical International bunk truck with a 53' van trailer.
A typical International bunk truck with a 53' van trailer. | Source

Without Trucking, Our World Wouldn't Be The Same

If you’ve got it, a truck brought it. Unless you bought it directly from a factory, or farm gate, everything you own was in a truck at some point. Even in the above cases, components of the product were probably in a truck at some time. Without trucks, and the drivers that operate them, life as we know it would grind to a halt. Trucking is a 24/7 industry. Whether you call them Semis, 18-Wheelers, Big Rigs, or Transport Trucks, they are on the road every day of the year, hauling all sorts of freight in all sorts of weather. We often talk of the mailman delivering in rain, snow, sleet and hail. Truckers are subject to all these conditions too. In reality, even the Postal Mail spends some time in trucks. Yet how often is a car frustrated by a truck’s behaviour.

In my years as a LTL (Less Than Truckload) Delivery Driver, I’ve seen all sorts of odd things happen when cars don’t drive defensively around a big truck. Truck drivers do their best to navigate city streets safely and without hindering anyone else, but the reality is, many city streets, especially in older parts of town, are not well designed for transport truck traffic. If you’ve wanted to know more about how trucks operate, keep reading.

What You Should Know about the Hazards

Trucks are big. Really big. Yes, it’s a no-brainer, I know, but have you ever actually stopped to think about it? Trucks often travel slower than the cars around them. Any truck I have driven has been speed governed at 105km/hr or less. Obviously, Canadian 400 series highways have a speed limit of 100km/hr, so this speed should be more than sufficient, but often, cars fly by me like I’m standing still. The truck’s speed is affected by the load it’s hauling. For instance, pulling heavily loaded B-Train trailers uphill as I was doing, will find most truckers creeping along with their hazard lights on. Trucks also can’t accelerate from a stop the way a car can. This is because a truck transmission has from 10-13 gears that have to be worked through as the truck picks up speed. Most automatic trucks can accelerate a little faster, but they still will never match a compact car.

Wide Right Turns

The ‘Wide Right Turns’ sign on the back of most transport trailers is there for a reason. When a truck tractor turns, the trailer follows along in a shorter path. This is called ‘Off Tracking’. In a left turn, there is usually lots of room in the intersection for the trailer to off track. You will notice that the driver will drive deep into the intersection before making the turn. This allows the trailer to swing wide enough to make the turn into the new lane. In order to make a tight, right turn, a truck often has to take up part of the left lane, and often a good portion of the oncoming lane they are turning into. Most truckers will wait until there is ample space, and be as courteous as possible, but sometimes, oncoming cars will have to back up. In order for the trailer to get through the intersection without hitting and light poles, road signs or living beings on the right side, the driver has to swing the tractor very deep into the turn. If you see a truck with its right turn signal on, use caution. They may need a lot more room than you expect.

If You Can't See My Mirrors, I Can't See You

It’s true. We really, really can’t see you. At night, we may see light reflection on the pavement from your headlights and assume you’re still back there, but we can’t actually see you. A transport has a huge blind spot behind it, and a smaller blind spot directly in front of it. We rely totally on our mirrors when our truck is in motion. Truck drivers do their best to get out and check their surroundings before backing up. This is known as GOAL: Get Out And Look! But at some point we have to put the truck in motion and back up. It should be a no brainer, but never walk or drive behind a truck backing up, even if you think you have lots of space. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

Don't Cut Us Off

Trucks require astronomical distances to stop. There is nothing more frustrating to a truck driver when a car driver, (a 4-Wheeler in trucker speak), passes us on a 4-lane road, only to dart back in front of the truck and decide to slow down. If you do pass a truck, make sure you are well past before pulling back into the same lane as the truck. Most truckers will do their best to not tailgate you, as they know their truck doesn’t stop on a dime, but don’t make things hard for them by cutting in and out of your lane.

Remember, the truck drivers want the same things you do, to get their job done and get home safely to their family. Help make it easier for them by leaving appropriate space around these large vehicles.

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