It’s a simple fact: passenger cars share the road with heavy-duty trucks and big rigs. Unfortunately, many individuals bring their offensive game when they take to the highways. Forcing other drivers, especially those piloting a semi-truck, to respond to you is dangerous. It also usually ends sadly. If people understood what it’s like to operate an 18-wheeler, maybe more of them would be mindful of driving safely around semis. It’s often forgotten or overlooked that truck drivers are trained professionals, and they have useful knowledge to share. If asked, these words of wisdom are among the important things heavy-duty truck drivers wish you knew.
1) Air Brakes Work Differently
Truck drivers have a list of legitimate frustrations, but the issue with air brakes is one of the most frequently mentioned. A semi’s brake system takes a lot longer to engage than a car’s brakes do. There’s about a 4-second delay when a trucker hits his brakes, and that might seem minimal. However, you have to factor in the delay with the truck’s speed and weight. Consequently, a truck might need anywhere between 22 and over 500 feet to stop. If you are directly in front of a truck and hit your brakes, you’re almost guaranteed to get rear-ended by a 40-ton comet.
2) Give Them Space
They call them “big rigs” for a reason. They’re huge and unwieldy and hard to maneuver. Driving safely around semis requires giving them a wide berth—front, back, and sides. On top of needing extra space to stop, they need more room to make turns. Don’t get too close at a crossroads or when they’re trying to turn into an alleyway. Don’t tailgate. You run the risk of sliding beneath the truck as a result. Don’t crowd them when entering the highway, they might not be able to move over. Also, stop behind the white line at intersections to give semis enough room to turn without clipping your car, and give them more space in general in bad weather.
3) Give Them Time
In line with numbers 1 and 2 above, big trucks need more time to perform maneuvers smaller cars can do with ease. Things like making left or right turns or backing out into the street take a large truck more time to do properly and safely. Take a breath and let the driver do what he needs to do, and everyone can be on their way.
4) Beware the Blind Spot
Giving heavy-duty trucks time and space has a lot to do with the massive blind spot they all have. It’s similar to your car’s blind spot. However, the truck is much bigger, and the blind spot is bigger, too. Plus, it’s worse on the right side of the semi. Even with a mirror mounted on that side, most of the space to the right of the truck isn’t visible to the driver. The rule of thumb is that if you can’t see the driver in either rear-view mirror, he can’t see you.
5) Move it on Over
Driving safely around semis applies to ones that are stopped, too. If you see a truck pulled over to the side of the road, move over a lane away from them. That will give the driver enough room to exit his cab. It also allows him enough space to move freely and safely around his truck as he attends to it.
6) Light Etiquette
You wouldn’t drive behind another car with your hi-beams on, so please don’t do it when driving behind a semi. The driver may be sitting feet above you. However, your brights will still limit his visibility. Also, did you know you can use your lights to communicate with truck drivers? Flashing your lights several times will let oncoming traffic know that you just passed some type of danger and they should be cautious. Or, when a semi is passing you, flash your headlights quickly once the trailer is past your car. That lets the driver know it’s safe to change lanes.
7) Driving Safely Around Semis Takes Patience
The importance of patience in driving safely around semis cannot be overestimated. Try to see the road from their perspective. They already know what it looks like from yours. Truck drivers are professionals doing a job. They don’t set out to make you late for work or put you in danger.
In fact, many of them use high-tech tools to navigate and keep their rigs in compliance with federal safety standards. Software like Fullbay helps drivers stay on top of maintenance issues so they can hit the road knowing that their trucks are safe and running in top form. And that helps ensure the safety of all the drivers around them.