Driving near oversized and overweight vehicles on the interstate or highway can be a nerve-racking experience. It’s important to understand how to safely share the road with these types of vehicles. It involves being cautious, courteous, and considerate.
To reduce the chance of a collision with an oversized or overweight vehicle such as a large truck or big rig, motorists must be familiar with their physical capabilities and how they maneuver.
Oversized and overweight vehicles take longer to stop than a car traveling at the same speed. The average passenger vehicle traveling at 55 mph can stop in about 225 feet (this does not include reaction time). However, a large truck traveling at the same speed can take more than 400 feet to stop (this does not include reaction time). Don’t pull in front of a large truck and suddenly slow down or stop. The trucker will not be able to stop quickly enough to avoid crashing into you.
For all turning vehicles, the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels. The longer the vehicle; the greater the difference. This is why big rig drivers must often swing out to the left as the first step in making a right turn. When you follow a big rig, look at its turn signals before you start to pass. If you think the truck is turning left, wait a second and check the turn signals again. The driver may actually be turning right.
Passenger vehicle drivers falsely assume that a trucker can see the road better because they are higher off the road. While truckers do have a better forward view and bigger mirrors, they still have serious blind spots. Your vehicle can get lost in those blind spots. If you stay in those blind spots you block the trucker’s ability to take evasive action to avoid a dangerous situation. If you can’t see the truck driver in his or her side mirror, he/she can’t see you.
Oversized and Overweight Vehicles MANUEVERABILITY
Trucks are designed to transport products and they are not as maneuverable as passenger vehicles. Oversized or overweight vehicles have longer stopping and starting distances. They take more space for turns and they weigh more. On multi-lane highways and freeways, oversized or overweight vehicles usually stay in the center portion of the lane to help the flow of traffic. This also increases the trucker’s options in case he/she must change lanes to avoid a hazard.
Here are some of the most common mistakes passenger vehicle drivers must avoid when driving around oversized or overweight vehicles:
- Cutting off a truck in traffic or on the highway to reach your exit or turn. Cutting into the open space in front of a truck is dangerous. Trying to beat a truck to a single-lane construction zone. Don’t speed up to pass a truck so you can exit the roadway. Take a moment to slow down and exit behind a truck, it will only take a few seconds.
- Don’t linger alongside a truck when passing. Always pass a large truck on the left side and after you have passed the truck move ahead of it. If you linger beside the truck, you make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the trucker to take evasive action if an obstacle appears in the road ahead.
- Following too closely or tailgating. When you follow behind a truck and you cannot see the truck driver’s rearview mirrors, the trucker has no way of knowing you are there. Tailgating a truck, or any vehicle, is dangerous because you take away your own cushion of safety. Where will you go when the vehicle in front of you stops quickly?
Never underestimate the size and speed of an approaching tractor-trailer. A large tractor-trailer often appears to be traveling at a slower speed because of its large size. Many passenger vehicle-large truck collisions take place at intersections because the passenger vehicle driver did not realize how close the truck was or how quickly it was traveling.