Truck Safety Tips

As motor vehicle operators, we share the roadways with other vehicles. The following are some facts about large trucks and some recommended safety tips.

  • More than 200,000 collisions involving at least one passenger car and one large truck happen each year in the United States.
  • In the United States in more than 60% of all fatal collisions involving automobiles and large trucks, law enforcement officials report that the automobile operator rather than the truck driver contributed to the cause of the collision.
  • Most collisions involving cars and trucks occur in daylight, on straight and dry pavement, and under good weather conditions.
  • Because trucks are larger and heavier than automobiles, the operator of the automobile or its passengers and not the truck driver are usually killed in a fatal automobile-truck crash four out of five times.
  • Large vehicles with a weight of more than 10,000 pounds can be either single-unit vehicles or combination vehicles consisting of a single-unit truck and/or a tractor pulling one or more trailers. In many states, the maximum permitted length for a single trailer is 53 feet. Tractors pulling two 28 foot trailers are usually called twins or western doubles.
  • Two agencies of the U.S. Department of Transportation have oversight of large truck safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets the standards for new truck equipment and has some jurisdiction over equipment standards for large vehicles currently on the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees the safety of commercial vehicles in interstate commerce. This agency’s regulations cover equipment, licensing, hours of service, and vehicle inspections and maintenance.
  • Remember, large vehicles do not drive like automobiles. Trucks tend to have special hazards. They have large blind spots, also known as “No Zones,” and need additional room when making turns. A trustworthy rule to follow at all times is if you cannot see the operator of the truck in their outside mirrors, then he/she probably cannot see your vehicle. At night, use low beam headlights when following large vehicles. It is recommended that you maintain at least a minimum of a four-second following distance.
  • When passing a large vehicle, remember they are much longer than an automobile and will take longer to pass. Maintain a constant speed when passing and be sure you can see the front of the cab of the truck in your rear-view mirror before pulling back into the lane of travel in front of the truck. Keep in mind that it is a violation to exceed the posted speed limit to pass any vehicle.
  • When being passed by a large vehicle slow down slightly, as water spray or dirt from the vehicle’s tires can reduce your visibility. Be especially careful when passing a large vehicle that is also pulling a trailer. There are times when the trailer may swing into your lane.
  • Since large vehicles need additional turning space, never try to squeeze into the space next to a large truck when it is making a turn. As the truck continues its turn, it might just drive over the top of your vehicle.
  • Some people have heard stories of motorists that get very close to the back of a large truck while traveling on an expressway because they believe that if they get into the vacuum found behind a large truck traveling at high speeds that this will save them fuel. There may be some truth to this procedure, but this is a very dangerous tactic. There is no way a driver could stop their vehicle in the event of an emergency.
  • When traveling on multi-lane highways, it is a good idea to not position your vehicle in between two or more large vehicles. Since you are in the vehicle’s “no zones,” they may pull into your lane forcing you into the other vehicle. The “no zones,” are a truck’s blind spots to the side, rear, and front of the vehicle.
  • If you are stopped behind a large vehicle on an incline, leave space between the vehicle and yours in case the vehicle operator allows the vehicle to drift backwards slightly when it starts to move. If possible, try not to drive next to a large vehicle. The best defensive driving technique when dealing with large vehicles is to stay away from them.

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, publication
Number: FHWA-MC-96-017, HPS-10/R6-96(50M)EW, Don’t hang out in the NO-Zone, numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6
American Automobile Association, Responsible Driving, Chapter 13, pages 240, 241, numbers, 1,2,3,4,5,6