A little about meFocus
on Safety: How to Share the Road with Truckers
Something that you probably wouldn't guess, is what my profession is.(A truck driver)Yes I'm one of those people that you just can't stand when your out on the road driving, because I'm always in your way, or going to slow on the freeway. What you don't know is that I'm going to slow because some 4 wheeler (that is driver talk for a car) moments before cut me off trying to get on or off the freeway, because where he is going is more important than who he kills on his way there.
Ok, now that Iv'e got that off my chest, please read the rest of this page about sharing the road with truckers.
By Christian J. Wardlaw
Everybody has a horror story to tell about an encounter
theyve had with an 18-wheeler on the Interstate, and how
they were nearly killed by the inattentiveness of the truck
driver. News programs like "Dateline NBC" and "60
Minutes" feed this fear with selectively edited stories
regarding truck safety. But what nobody seems to consider is that
they themselves may have caused the problem because of ignorance
about what is involved in driving a truck, or by engaging in
righteous driving behavior that did nothing but endanger their
own lives and those of the people they care most about.
Personally, Ive seen rude truckers hog the road, and
Ive seen dimwitted drivers set themselves up for what could
be a very painful, if not deadly, lesson. Furthermore, not all
trucks traveling the nations highways are properly
maintained, due to a lack of finances or pure laziness. But for
most truck drivers, who are paid by the mile and are held
responsible for damaged goods, their lives and livelihoods depend
on driving a well-maintained truck carefully, and getting freight
to its destination on time.
Tractor trailer trucks are responsible for carrying nearly 30
percent of all the cargo shipped in the United States. Technology
and improved roadways have allowed the use of trucks for shipping
to increase steadily since the 1920s, resulting in larger
vehicles and heavier loads. Yet, traffic fatalities involving
trucks have steadily declined during the past 50 years, except
for a small spike upward in the early 1980s right after the
trucking industry was deregulated. Fatalities due to accidents
involving semi-trucks total 3,000 annually on average, with 98
percent of those fatalities suffered by occupants in passenger
vehicles that collided with a truck. As motorists who must share
the road with semi trucks, we can do our part to help reduce this
number even further if we simply take the time to follow a few
simple driving rules and try to understand how difficult it is to
maneuver a tractor-trailer in traffic.
I asked Michael Taylor, transportation special programs
developer for the Tractor Trailer Training Program at Triton
College in River Grove, Ill., what the top five pet peeves
truckers had with fellow motorists were. Here is his list:
1.) Riding in a truckers blind spots. Trucks have
large blind sports to the right and rear of the vehicle. Smaller
blind spots exist on the right front corner and mid-left side of
the truck. The worst thing a driver can do is chug along in the
truckers blind spot, where he cannot be seen. If
youre going to pass a truck, do it and get it over with.
Dont sit alongside with the cruise control set 1 mph faster
than the truck is traveling.
2.) Cut-offs. Dont try to sneak into a small gap
in traffic ahead of a truck. Dont get in front of a truck
and then brake to make a turn. Trucks take as much as 3 times the
distance to stop as the average passenger car, and youre
only risking your own life by cutting a truck off and then
slowing down in front of it.
3.) Impatience while reversing. Motorists need to
understand that it takes time and concentration to back a 48-foot
trailer up without hitting anything. Sometimes a truck driver
needs to make several attempts to reverse into tight quarters.
Keep your cool and let the trucker do her job.
4.) Dont play policeman. Dont try to make a
truck driver conform to a bureaucrats idea of what is right
and wrong on the highway. As an example, Taylor cited the way
truck drivers handle hilly terrain on the Interstate. A
fully-loaded truck slows way down going up a hill. On the way
down the other side of the hill, a fully-loaded truck gathers
speed quickly. Truckers like to use that speed to help the truck
up the next hill. Do not sit in the passing lane going the speed
limit. Let the truck driver pass, and let the Highway Patrol
worry about citing the trucker for breaking the law.
5.) No assistance in lane changes or merges. Its
not easy to get a 22-foot tractor and 48-foot trailer into
traffic easily. If a trucker has his turn signal blinking, leave
room for the truck to merge or change lanes. Indicate your
willingness to allow the truck in by flashing your lights.
According to Sharing the Road, a booklet distributed by John
Deere Transportation Insurance, the three most common types of
accidents involving heavy trucks involve the following:
1.) Crashes caused by the trucks inability to
stop in time.
2.) Crashes caused by a motorist trying to pass a truck
on the right while the truck is making a right-hand turn. Also
known as the right turn squeeze.
3.) Crashes caused by a motorist riding in the
truckers blind spots. Use the following rule of thumb: if
you cannot see the truck driver in his mirrors, he probably
cannot see you.
By taking simple common-sense steps to protect yourself and
your family when driving near large trucks, traffic fatalities
will continue to drop. Over the years, the trucking industry
improved the quality of truck drivers by making it more difficult
to qualify for and keep a Commercial Drivers License (CDL).
Mandatory drug testing has also been instituted. In fact, the
National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
published the following data in 1993. The intoxication rate for
drivers involved in fatal accidents was:
32.9% for motorcycle riders
20.7% for passenger car drivers
1.7% for truck drivers
Still, more work must be done to combat tightly scheduled
deliveries, overbearing stacks of paperwork, and driver fatigue
caused by federal regulations that work against the human
bodys natural circadian rhythm. Congress is currently
looking at ways to make trucking even more safe than it already
is. But unless the general public also takes action to reduce
deaths, thousands may still perish annually.
After meeting with truck driving instructors at Triton
College, with representatives from the Illinois Transportation
Association, and learning what it takes to pilot a
tractor-trailer by taking the wheel for myself, I joined Taylor
for a ride in a brand-new empty tanker truck. We covered suburban
roads during a half-hour loop just to the southeastern side of
OHare airport. During our 30 minute ride, two motorists
turned left across traffic directly in front of the truck. One
young woman in a Toyota Celica crossed no more than 50 feet in
front of us as she zoomed onto a side street. An older couple in
a Dodge Grand Caravan turned in front of our International
tractor, and incredibly, slowed so they wouldnt scrape the
van on a steep driveway apron to a convenience store. A dude in a
new Camaro RS blasted by on the left, cut in front of the truck,
and stopped at a red light we were approaching. When the light
turned green, he turned right.
These are the kinds of driving habits that we must break for
truck-related accident rates to drop even lower. After a day at
truck driving school, I left Chicago for Denver in a 1997 Subaru
Legacy Outback. During that evening and the next day traveling
I-80 and I-76, I was keenly aware of the needs of the truckers
with whom I shared the road. I behaved more courteously toward
truck drivers and fellow motorists than usual, and exercised more
patience. I doubt very much that by driving more defensively and
less aggressively that I arrived in Denver any sooner than I
would have had I not let that Kenworth into my lane back in Iowa
or tried to beat that Freightliner to the construction zone near
Lincoln, Nebraska. I do feel, however, that my trip was a safer
one, that I had done my part to make highway travel better. Now
its time to do yours.