Semi-trucks – also known as big rigs, tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers – are a vital part of our economic infrastructure. These giants can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, they move over 71 percent of the nation’s freight and they drive a combined 181.5 billion miles a year.
But semi-trucks can also be dangerous. Large-truck crashes account for 11 percent of all roadway fatalities, and 68 percent of the people killed in those fatal crashes were occupants of passenger vehicles, not truckers. Driving around large trucks isn’t dangerous if you keep some safety tips in mind.
1. Avoid blind spots
Semi-trucks have large blind spots, sometimes called “no-zones,” on all four sides. If you can’t see the driver in the truck’s mirrors, assume the driver cannot see you. Large trucks’ blind sports are 20 feet in front, 30 feet behind, one lane to the left and two lanes to the right. Do not drive in these spots too long.
2. Don’t tailgate
Tailgating is always dangerous, but it is even more dangerous to tailgate semis. As mentioned above, semi-trucks have large blind spots behind them, so they won’t be able to see you if you’re following too closely. If the truck needs to stop suddenly, you risk rear ending it. The semi’s size also prohibits you from seeing what’s ahead of you in traffic if you’re too close behind it.
3. Wide turns
Large trucks need extra room to make right turns, so they may need to move into the lane to the left of them to complete a tight maneuver. Generally, semis have a turning radius of about 55 feet. Never try to squeeze past a truck that is turning.
4. When passing
When you’re passing a semi-truck on a two-lane highway, maintain a steady and safe speed. Because of trucks’ large blind spots, do not return to the right lane until you can see the semi’s headlights in your rearview mirror.
5. Avoid distractions, impairments
Distracted driving and drunk driving are always dangerous behaviors, but they’re even more dangerous around semi-trucks. Driving around trucks safely requires your full concentration and that’s not possible if you’ve drank too much or if you are not focused on the road.