Drivers Education classes provide young drivers scant instruction on how to safely pass semi-trailers. This is alarming since crashes with 18 wheelers frequently result in very severe injury or death. And, perhaps surprisingly, most semi-truck accidents are not the fault of the trucker.
Many motorists simply don’t know how to properly drive around trucks because motorists don’t understand the everyday hazards of simply operating a semi-truck. In the paragraphs below, a trucker sheds light on proper passing of semis considering the inherent risks of trucking.
First and foremost, give truckers plenty of room. Why? Tire blowouts are common. Semi-truck tires are akin to bombs, waiting to explode shards of heavy rubber. When that happens, the truck will swerve violently.
Remember too, semi-trailers act as sails that can be blown by the wind….into your car, especially if the truck is not heavily loaded. This occurs very frequently on US 84 between the Portland Airport and Troutdale. Also keep in mind, that the big rig may not see you. As shown in the illustration below Semi-trucks have several huge blind spots. Always pass a semi-truck on the left hurry to get ahead of the truck. The trucker may not know you are in the lane, and may not be able to easily change lanes.
To overtake a big rig, pass as quickly as possible hugging the outside part of the lane. Pass on the left whenever possible. The right truck side is nearly fully blind, from the trucker’s point of view.After passing the tractor trailer, don’t cut in front. Instead, allow much more room than if passing an automobile. It may take the length of three football fields for a fully loaded rig to completely stop from a speed of 60mph.
And, prepare for the unexpected. Some truckers do strange things. Some truckers ride aside each other for many freeway miles. Most truckers don’t do this intentionally. Trucks are equipped with “speed limiters” so as a semi-truck begins to pass another semi-truck, the passing rig can only go so fast. If the passing rig is loaded heavier, its speed will slow increasing passing time.
Despite stickers posted on the back of most trucks stating “This truck makes wide turns.” Motorist still cut aside the semi while the truck is turning. This behavior is a major cause of truck-automobile crashes—especially with regard to right turns.
As a trucker enters a right turn, the truck swings left creating enough room to drive between the road shoulder and the trailer. Don’t do it! The trailer will soon swing back as the truck completes the turns. When that happens, the trucker won’t be able see any vehicles attempting squeeze around the right side of the truck. By the time the trucker knows a car is there, it’s too late. The same applies for left turns, although it’s not quite as severe. The right side of a truck is extremely dangerous!
Always practice proper truck safety techniques when driving around big rigs. And please, drive safely.