Commercial Vehicle Awareness

Trucks, buses and RVs can pose special hazards, because they are significantly larger and heavier than other vehicles. While bus and truck drivers are experienced professional operators, other drivers may not recognize the importance of special considerations in sharing roads with these large vehicles.

Drivers of large commercial vehicles like trucks and buses need you to be aware of their unique circumstances:

Give them plenty of room

Trucks and buses cannot maneuver quickly. A commercial driver is trained to leave plenty of space around the truck or bus. In our smaller vehicles, we often see this space as a convenient avenue to a lane change. Do not cut in front too soon after passing a truck or bus. You should not pull back in until you see both of the truck’s headlights in your rearview mirror.

Do not follow closely

If you are too close behind the bus, truck or RV, the driver probably cannot see you. You also cannot see the road in front of the driver. Leave yourself extra following distance, so you have more time to react and a better view of the road ahead.

Be Visible. Be Safe. Be Truck Aware.

Watch for the commercial driver’s signals

Trucks and buses make wide turns. A collision may occur when a truck or bus swings left to make a wide right turn, and an unaware driver tries to pass on the right as the bigger vehicle starts to swing right again.

Beware of no-zones

Places where a truck driver cannot see you are referred to as “no-zones.” No-zones are immediately in front of trucks, in back of trucks and to the side of trucks. If you cannot see the truck or bus driver in their side view mirror, the driver cannot see you.

Source: AARP

Many businesses use vans, trucks and buses to move their customers, products or equipment. Depending on the size and use of those vehicles, a business and its drivers may be subject to state and federal commercial vehicle regulations. Complying with these regulations is an important part of a fleet safety program.

Commercial motor carriers are regulated by the states in which they operate. If these vehicles operate in interstate commerce, federal regulations also apply. In general, most states follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) or similar rules.

Trucking requires full concentration on the road. Not only must commercial drivers contend with other motorists, dangerous weather conditions, and wandering wildlife, but they must do so while operating large rigs, often carrying heavy and sometimes dangerous cargo. One mistake carries possible huge repercussions.

Consider the following safety tips when driving:

Watch The Road

Pay attention to the road.  Don’t drive distracted or be on your phone.  To safely slow down, a commercial motor vehicle driver should look at least 15 seconds ahead (a quarter-mile on the interstate and one-and-a-half blocks in the city). Paying close attention to the road ahead helps avoid abrupt braking situations and potential accidents.

Don’t Drive Drowsy

If you are drowsy, pull over.  Research shows that being awake for 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent. Always pay attention to signs of drowsiness like frequent yawning, heavy eyes, blurry vision, and spacing out.  Don’t lose your job, or even worse, kill someone.  Pull over and stay safe.

Buckle Your Seatbelt

As with driving any vehicle, your chances of being killed are almost 25 times higher if you are thrown from your vehicle during a crash. Safety belts can keep you from being tossed out a window, from being dragged on the road or from being crushed by your own vehicle or another.

Don’t Speed

Truck drivers have their own speed limit for a reason.  Trucks have much less control when going fast than cars.  Curve and entrance/exit ramp speed limits are intended for small vehicles, not large trucks. Studies show large trucks often lose control or roll over when entering a curve at a posted speed limit due to their high center of gravity.

Pay Attention To Driving Conditions

Unless you’re on the show, “Ice Road Truckers” if really bad weather is in the forecast, consider taking a detour or pulling over to ride out the storm.  Bad weather conditions contribute to 25 percent of speeding-related large-truck fatalities. Drivers should reduce their speed by one-third on wet roads and by half or more on snow-packed streets.

Check Blind Spots Frequently

Truck drivers have many blind spots and no rear view mirror.  Never rely on other drivers to stay out of your blind spots; they may not be aware of the size of your vehicle’s “no zone.” Check your mirrors every 5-8 seconds as well as before you change lanes, turn or merge. This will help you keep track of changing traffic patterns around your truck.

Other Tips:

  • Do not tailgate. Be patient. Maintain proper space with the vehicle in front of you. According to studies, the most common vehicle trucks hit is the one in front of them, due to tailgating. The bigger the rig the longer it takes to brake and stop.
  • Signal early when approaching an intersection, giving other motorists ample warning of your intended direction.
  • With so many blind spots on a truck, minimize lane changing. Check your side mirrors at least once every 10 seconds.
  • Use the truck’s flashers when driving below the posted speed limit for an extended period of time.
  • Give your truck ample time and space when slowing down for a complete stop. Use brake lights early. Most motorists don’t realize how long it takes for a rig to stop.
  • If you must idle the truck, keep windows closed to avoid prolonged exposure to fumes.
  • Avoid idling while sleeping, loading, or unloading.
  • When pulled off to the side of a road, highway, or Interstate due to mechanical problems, always use flashers, reflective triangles, and even road flares to alert approaching drivers.
  • Always have tire chains at the ready, especially when driving in mountainous regions.
  • Try to maintain a full fuel tank in winter driving to prevent water condensation from building in the fuel lines.
  • Maintain additional space with the vehicles in front of you when driving in rain or snow.
  • Operate below the posted speed limit when driving in wintery conditions.
  • Exercise caution when approaching bridges in wintertime. Bridges freeze faster than roads, creating difficult to detect black ice.
  • Slow down in work zones. Close to one-third of all fatal work zone crashes involve large rigs. Plus, you could lose your commercial drivers license if caught speeding in a posted work zone.
  • Take plenty of driving breaks, especially while driving cross-country, to help remain alert.
  • Don’t fight eye-fatigue. Pull off the road and take a nap. The consequences of falling asleep at the wheel, far outweigh those associated with arriving late.
  • Strictly adhere to commercial driver hour restrictions. By law you cannot exceed 11 continuous hours of driving. You could jeopardize your truck driver career if caught violating this law.

For additional safety driving tips, consult your state’s CDL manual. You can grab one from any Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office, or download a copy from your DMV’s website.

Source: Safety Tips for Commercial Drivers

Updated: 10/18/2021 01:44PM