• Defensive Driving Rule #46: Share the Road With Trucks

    Drivers must deal safely with all obstacles and situations we encounter. We take responsibility for a safe outcome -- because that's sometimes the only way we can avoid a collision. One special hazard is that posed by heavy trucks. Commercial drivers are proven professionals; they must meet exacting, tough federal standards and maintain excellent driving records to keep their jobs. The differences between trucks and cars require special consideration -- them for us, and us for them.

    Give them plenty of room. A truck is like an ocean liner -- developing massive amounts of energy to move down the road. They cannot maneuver "on a dime." A truck driver is trained to leave plenty of space around his vehicle. In our smaller vehicles, we often see this space as a convenient avenue to a lane change. Many a "four-wheeler" has darted in front of a truck and braked to make a right turn -- and found out the hard way how much extra space a truck needs to get stopped. Don't cut a truck off. When you pass them, look to see the entire front of the truck in your mirror before returning to the right lane.

    Don't follow closely, either. If you are close behind the trailer, the chances are the driver cannot see you. You also cannot see the road in front of HIM (or her -- there are lots of women drivers these days). Look for his mirrors -- if you can see his FACE in the mirror, he can see you. If you don't have a good following distance and he hits the brakes (more likely if he doesn't know you are there), you run a greater risk of rear-ending him. Leave yourself extra following distance (at least 3 seconds, 4 is better), so you have more time to react and a better view of the road ahead.

    Watch for his signals -- a truck makes wide turns. Many collisions occur when a truck swings left to make a wide right turn, and an unaware driver tries to pass on the right as he starts to swing right again. Click here to see an example of this!

    Be patient. Yesterday, I watched a truck try to back into a loading dock from a busy boulevard. He had difficulty because of a tight, blind angle, and it took longer for him to get out of the way. Cars along the street he was blocking got impatient and began going around -- which made it difficult for him to finish the maneuver, and made it a longer wait for everyone. Have patience - if a truck is in your way, chances are he's aware of it. Give the driver the time and room to get YOUR goods delivered.

    Finally, use your lights to communicate. It's not possible for the driver of a long rig to see exactly where the rear of the truck is. Let him know he's safely past by switching your headlights on/off. In daylight, watch his mirror and when you see him look at you, turn your lights on for a few seconds. At night, turn your lights off for a second or two. Please do NOT flash your brights (this blinds him just like it would YOU). He will know you're telling him he's clear, and usually, you'll get a blinking clearance light "thank-you" as he moves back into your lane.

    Keep it between the fence posts!