Large commercial vehicles like tractor trailers and buses are intimidating sites on the road. Outweighing the average vehicle by thousands of kilograms, incidents involving commercial vehicles can be devastating and cause major damage, injuries, and fatalities. Commercial truck drivers need to be professionally trained to operate their vehicles safely, but operators of passenger vehicles need to take responsibility for driving safely around large trucks. In fact, studies show that the driver of the passenger vehicle is at fault at least two-thirds of the time in fatal car-truck crashes. There are very serious implications of not appreciating the safety risks associated with commercial trucks:
1. In collisions between cars and large trucks, the occupants of the passenger vehicle are four times more likely to be killed than the driver of the truck. (US Department of Transportation, 2017)
2. A fully loaded transport truck travelling at 65 km/h (40 mph) takes 36 percent longer to brake and stop than a passenger car travelling at the same speed. A fully loaded transport truck travelling at 105 km/h (65 mph) takes 66 percent longer to brake and stop than a passenger car travelling at the same speed. (Utah Department of Transport, 2017)
3. 80 percent of drivers claim to know how to drive safely around large trucks, but over 40 per cent don’t always drive that way. In addition, nearly a third of drivers surveyed say they feel nervous driving around big trucks all or most of the time. (Insights West, 2017)
4. Collisions between cars and large trucks are more likely to be caused by the actions or inactions of the drivers involved (both truck and passenger vehicle drivers), as opposed to other factors such as weather, road conditions and vehicle performance. (US Department of Transportation, March 2006 (Updated April 2014))
By taking measures to drive safely and accommodate large trucks, passenger vehicle drivers can significantly reduce the risks of being involved in a crash.
Tips for passenger vehicle drivers:
– Large trucks cannot navigate the roads as easily – they need more room to turn, change lanes and stop. Passenger vehicle drivers should take extra precautions to allow large trucks more room to move and operate.
– Because commercial trucks are so large, it can be more difficult to estimate their size and speed. When merging or passing a truck, make sure you can see both its headlights in your rear-view mirror before changing lanes.
– Understand that trucks have larger blind spots. Slow down or speed up to avoid blind spots and limit the time you spend directly in front of, behind or beside large trucks.
– When carrying heavy loads, large trucks take more time to change lanes. Give trucks more room by slowing down or moving ahead.
– Anticipate wide turns and avoid driving in the right lane beside a turning truck.
When operating such large vehicles, commercial drivers must be especially vigilant in the operation of their own vehicle and in keeping an eye out for passenger vehicles. Work-related crashes can result in injuries, fines, and lost time, but proper safety precautions can reduce the probability and severity of crashes.
Tips for commercial truck drivers:
– Ensure that trucks receive regular safety inspections and that brakes and tires are in good condition to help reduce stopping distances.
– Consider the weather and road conditions and adjust your speed accordingly.
– Don’t drive tired and stay sharp and focused by getting plenty of rest and eliminating in-cab distractions.
– Loads should be well balanced and secured to reduce the likelihood of a crash and the risk of injury and damage should a crash occur.
– Communicate with other drivers using your signals well in advance of turns or lane changes.
– Begin braking well in advance. Other drivers do not realize how long it takes for a truck to come to a full stop, so seeing the brake lights early will help to avoid a collision.