Dealing with Trucks and Buses

Monday, 23 August 2010
Trucks and buses take longer to get up to speed and longer to stop.  They can’t turn as nimbly as a car, and their drivers are often labouring behind massive blind spots that render you invisible.

Failure to appreciate how difficult it is for a driver to see all the way around a heavy or commercial vehicle is a potentially deadly trap. 

However, the common sign ‘If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you’ tells only half the story.  Trucks and buses are not just unsighted to the rear, they can also have huge blind spots alongside them.

When following a heavy vehicle, you may need to extend the ‘three-second gap’ even further so that you can clearly see the truck’s wing mirrors on both sides.  Not only does this let the driver know you’re there, it has the added benefit of decreasing your risk of rear-end collision even further – and a rear-ender with a truck is definitely something to be avoided. 

The front of a car can easily slide straight under a truck’s higher body.  That’s not a pretty sight.

If you find yourself alongside a truck on a multi-lane highway, try not to stay there for too long.  Complete your overtaking manoeuvre or fall back but don’t sit alongside unnecessarily.  If the truck driver finds he wants to change lanes, he may not be able to see you, and if he suddenly needs to swerve to avoid an incident ahead, he’ll need all the room he can get.

Heavy vehicles also need all the stopping distance they can get.  You might be able to pull up without much notice, but the weight of something like a semi-trailer means it has much greater momentum and it will take significantly longer to stop.  It is extremely unwise to chop and change lanes in front of trucks and buses. 

If you fill the gap in front of a truck and another vehicle, the truck will have to drop back markedly to regain a safety buffer and during that time you’re placing yourself and everyone else around you at risk.

Treat buses with extra respect.  Even if you’re not rear-ended executing an emergency stop in front of a bus, you may be directly responsible for injuries to passengers thrown about as the bus driver brakes.

As stated many times before, patience is a virtue and no more so than when you find yourself behind a truck on a single lane road, particularly in hilly areas.  Any overtaking must be carefully considered.  The longer vehicle will increase the time you spend on the wrong side of the road during the overtaking manoeuvre.  If you have the slightest doubt, wait for a passing lane.

A final word on sharing the road with trucks:  Their large tyres are frequently retreads and are prone to blow-outs and shredding.  This can mean the road around you is suddenly full of large chunks of disintegrating tread and even whole tyre carcasses.  It’s another reason to keep your distance from the big guys.

Drive Safely – Russell White

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