Safe Driving with Big Rigs

A container truck. Cab-over design.

A container truck. Cab-over design. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


How the humble automobile can coexist with 18-wheel mammoths.

Big rigs deserve lots of attention, especially from motorists who must share the road with truckers. Up to three-fourths of all truck-involved fatalities are unintentionally initiated by car drivers. Overall, large trucks account for 7 percent of vehicles involved in fatal crashes, and 2 percent of those in crashes that cause injuries, according to the most recent available statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

By following these safe-driving practices, you’ll increase the odds that you—and the long-distance haulers out there—will have a safe trip.

Give ’em room. Setting aside sufficient space between you and the vehicle in front remains essential for highway safety, and even more so when it comes to trucks. A car takes between 220 to 230 feet to come to a complete stop. But the average 18-wheeler needs closer to 290 feet—about the length of an entire football field. “As a rule of thumb, leave about one car length for every 10 miles of speed you’re going,” says John Roehll, co-owner and executive vice president of Dependable Auto Shippers (DAS), a leading auto-transport company. “When it comes to really large trucks with big blind spots, we recommend driving at least 70 feet behind.”

High visibility. A trucker can see much better on the left side, as opposed to the right. Since it’s always advisable to pass on the left in any circumstance, you should especially keep this in mind when moving ahead of a big rig. But also consider this when merging or switching lanes, making sure that you’re within the truck driver’s sight at all times.

More merger advice. If you’re merging in front of a truck, prospects of cutting it too close can lead to a fatal encounter. “A driver should be able to see the entire front of the truck in the rearview mirror before merging,” Roehll says. “Many accidents occur when a driver believes their vehicle has enough room to merge, and it doesn’t.”

Don’t pull a sidecar. It’s never wise to drive alongside a truck for any significant length of time. For starters, they have a huge blind spot along their trailers. “If you camp out there and they need to change lanes, you’re in trouble,” Roehll says. “Also, a large truck needs an escape route if traffic ahead suddenly stops. That route is often to the right or left lane to avoid hitting vehicles in front. So when driving in the lane next to a truck, decide whether you’re going to maneuver behind it, or accelerate to pass it.”

Do you have a late-night story about a big rig you would like to share?

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