Driving close to large trucks, such as semi trucks can be frightening. They are larger than traditional vehicles and weigh a lot more. Over 3,000 accidents involve large trucks. Truck drivers are on the road more than any other driver, and you’ll mostly see them traveling on the highway. However, some drivers forget to pay close attention to trucks and drive with caution. Let’s talk about navigating proximity to large trucks and what to avoid while driving.

How to Drive Near Large Trucks

There are certain things you need to do when driving near large trucks, so here are some things you need to keep in mind.

Proceed with Caution

Some drivers view big trucks as a nuisance or a major source of anxiety. Trying to pass large trucks on the highway is different than driving around standard vehicles. Large trucks, such as semi-trucks or tractor-trailers are often fully loaded with items and can easily weigh over 80,000 pounds. The amount of weight these trucks carry makes it difficult for the driver to respond quickly to dangers on the road, such as braking instantly.

Avoid Driving in Trucker’s Blind Spots

Make sure you’re not driving in the truck’s blind spots. Commercial trucks have multiple blind spots, including the following:

  • In the front of the truck
  • On both sides of the tuck
  • Behind the truck (when you can’t see the side mirrors)

There’s a good chance your vehicle won’t be visible to a truck driver if you’re traveling adjacent to it. If you’re in a trucker’s blind spot and have to change lanes or swerve to avoid an object in the road, the outcome could be an auto accident.

Practice safe driving by avoiding the trucker’s blind spots. It’s best to stay where you are easily visible to the truck driver, which is on the driver’s side of the truck. If you need to pass the truck, make sure you pass the truck safely and as quickly as possible.

Never Cut a Truck Off

As we previously mentioned, large commercial trucks carry a lot of weight, making it difficult for them to immediately stop. Also because of the weight, semi-trucks and other large vehicles often drive slower than other drivers on the road.

Cutting off a large vehicle, especially a commercial vehicle such as a semi-truck, is never a good idea. It’s not a good idea to cut off any driver, but trucks especially because they are slower at braking, and their visibility (blind spots) are not like the ones on a standard vehicle, which means cutting them off puts you in an extremely dangerous situation.

If you need to switch lanes that have a large truck, don’t switch lanes until you can see both of the truck’s headlights in your rear-view mirror.

Avoid Braking Suddenly

When you’re driving in front of a truck, make sure you don’t slam on your brakes or stop abruptly, which is something you shouldn’t do in any driving situation. Remember that larger vehicles are harder to stop than traditional vehicles, and if you’re suddenly braking and only a short distance from the trouble, the result could be catastrophic and fatal. Since trucks are much larger than standard vehicles, you’re likely to be worse off than the truck.

Never Pass On the Right

If you need to pass a commercial truck, NEVER pass on the right. Why? Passing on the right of a commercial truck is dangerous and illegal. Attempting to pass a truck on the right creates a situation where the truck can ram into your vehicle if it’s turning right. Trucks are huge vehicles and make wide turns whether they’re turning right or left. These wide turns create a gap that makes it appear you have enough room to pass but don’t take that risk.

Don’t Drive Too Relaxed

You want to be comfortable when you’re driving, but not too relaxed. If you’re too relaxed, you’re not as aware as you should be, which could lead to an auto accident, especially when you’re driving next to large trucks. Large trucks don’t move like standard vehicles do. Wind and other factors can push trucks into different traffic lanes, their tires can go flat, and other issues can occur. Since truck drivers can’t respond as quickly as an individual driving a standard vehicle can, you should keep your distance, stay alert, and drive defensively.

Use Safe Passing Techniques

If you need to pass a large truck, make sure it is safe to do so before passing. Because of a truck’s size and weight, truck drivers need time to respond, so sudden movements, such as braking, will be an issue. Truck drivers must adjust their brakes and speed accordingly to accommodate your actions, so be considerate.

Maintain Your Speed

It’s important to maintain a consistent speed while you’re passing any vehicle, especially trucks. Make sure you use the proper turn signal to let the driver know what you plan on doing, such as switching lanes. It’s important to pass trucks on the left because the driver can see you easier.

Be Patient

Don’t rush the truck driver! Remember they need time to accommodate you, so use your turn signal to let the driver know you need to get over. Most times, truckers will decrease their speed and allow you to get over. You’ll need to increase your speed to get in front of the truck. It’s safe to switch lanes once the front of the truck is in your rear-view.

Increase Your Following Distance

You should have at least 4 seconds between your vehicle and large trucks. If you’re tailgating a large truck, the driver won’t be able to see you. If you aren’t able to stop before rear-ending a truck, your vehicle could be pushed underneath the truck, resulting in a catastrophic collision.

Increasing your following distance also gives you more time to react and respond to tire blowouts and rollovers. If you’re stuck in traffic and you’re behind a large truck, put extra space between your vehicle and the truck in case of an emergency. Large trucks tend to roll backward before they move forward, so make sure there’s enough space.

Watch for Wide Turns

It’s obvious that large trucks are larger than standard vehicles, and because they’re larger, trucks will need more room when making turns. A truck driver may turn to the left to have more space to turn to the right or start turning in the middle traffic lane to make a turn. You need to stay focused and avoid trying to pass a truck at this time. You should never drive between a truck and the curb.

Wear Your Seatbelt

All drivers know they should wear their seatbelt, and it’s a law, however, if you’re rushing, you may forget to. Make it a habit to put your seatbelt on before you do anything else, including starting your vehicle. Wearing a seatbelt can save your life. Don’t pull off without having your seatbelt on!

Remain Focused

Stay focused! One of the best things you can do as a driver is to be predictable. However, don’t count on other drivers to be the same. Staying alert means you are better focused on your surroundings, which means you can react appropriately in an emergency. Remaining focused is a part of being a responsible driver.

Understand the Differences

We’ve discussed the size difference between standard vehicles, semi-trucks, and similar large trucks. Semi-trucks are significantly larger than standard vehicles, and tailgating or small mishaps can have fatal results. Here are different facts you should keep in mind:

Weight and size differences greatly affect how truck and bus drivers operate. In fact:

  • Trucks are often 20 to 30 times heavier than passenger vehicles. A tractor-trailer truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded.
  • The weight of a truck or bus increases the risk of more severe crash damage, injuries, and fatalities.
  • Large size and weight increase driving challenges, including acceleration, braking, and maneuverability. Trucks and buses accelerate slower uphill and may gain speed quickly downhill.
  • Tall vehicles with a higher center of gravity must travel much slower on curves and ramps to avoid the risk of rollovers.
  • Large vehicles can generate wind gusts that can be felt by vehicles around them; drivers of smaller vehicles should anticipate this and maintain control in their lane.

Key Takeaways

  • Pass large trucks safely: pass large trucks on the left and never pass on the right. Large trucks have a smaller blind spot on the left side.
  • Maintain your speed: it’s important to maintain your speed, especially when you’re on the highway traveling next to large trucks.
  • Give trucks space: it’s important to maintain a safe following distance of 4 seconds or more when you’re driving near large trucks. Remember that if you can’t see the truck’s mirrors, the driver probably can’t see you.
  • Stay alert: you should never drive distracted! Avoid using your phone and engaging in other distracted driving activities, such as eating and drinking, and continuously changing radio stations while driving.
  • Avoid driving when you’re tired: drowsy driving is a real thing and it’s more common than you may think. Driving while tired is a common cause of accidents. Make sure you get rest before driving whether you’re traveling a short or long distance.

The Bottom Line

Driving is a bigger responsibility than most people realize. Not only do you have to be a responsible driver, but you also have to watch for other drivers on the road who may not be as responsible. Stay safe and alert. Happy driving!