How to Safely Share the Road with 18-Wheelers

April 19th, 2021

There are few feelings more terrifying than being boxed in by semi-trucks on the highway. After all, when big trucks and cars collide, things often don’t end well for the occupants of the passenger vehicles.

According to the National Safety Council, 71% of people who die in large truck crashes are occupants of other vehicles. 18% of deaths are truck occupants, and the remaining 11% are pedestrians and cyclists. 

Because collisions between trucks and other vehicles can be so dangerous, it’s important for drivers of other vehicles to know how to safely share the road with big trucks to reduce their chances of a crash.

Important Things to Remember About Semi-Trucks

There’s a reason you need a special license to drive a commercial vehicle like a semi-truck, and that’s because big trucks are very different from cars! Yes, there’s a steering wheel, a shifter, an accelerator and a brake pedal. But trucks behave differently, and that changes how a truck driver needs to drive.

  • Semi-trucks need more space to complete a turn.
  • Semi-trucks need a lot more time to come to a complete stop than your vehicle.
  • Semi-trucks have massive blind spots.
  • Semi-trucks are more likely to experience tire blow-outs (due to the long distances truck drivers travel combined with heavy trailer loads). 
  • Semi-trucks can jackknife and are more likely to experience roll-overs (due to a higher center of gravity).

When Driving Behind Trucks

You should always leave enough room between you and the semi-truck so that you can have time and space to react and get out of the way or stop if something goes wrong.

Industry experts recommend always keeping a four-second following distance from semi-trucks. When driving, start counting when the truck in front of you passes a landmark, such as a road sign. There should be at least four seconds before you pass that same road sign. If you reach the sign before you count to four, it means you’re following too closely.

Additionally, semi-trucks with tractor-trailers attached have massive blind spots, and when you are driving directly behind a truck, there is a very good chance the driver does not know you are there.

A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t see the side mirrors of the cab, the driver can’t see you. If necessary, slow down to put enough space between you and the truck ahead so that its mirrors are always visible (and you’re always visible to them). 

When Driving Beside Trucks

Always drive on the left-hand side of 18-wheelers and other large trucks.

Trucks are generally instructed to keep right on highways to allow for faster moving traffic to pass. However, large trucks may occasionally drive in the left lane on the highway to pass another truck, or on city streets because they need to make a right-hand turn and need two lanes to make the turn.

Because a truck driver cannot see a car that is on their right-hand side and in their blind spot, drivers who are driving on the right-hand side of a truck risk getting into a collision if the truck driver tries to turn or pass into the right lane.

When Passing Trucks

Just as you should never drive on the right-hand side of an 18-wheeler, you should also never attempt to pass an 18-wheeler on the right-hand side.

Secondly, never cut off a truck! When trying to pass a truck, don’t move back over until you can see the entire front of the truck in your mirror, and always signal when you do so. Your vehicle can move, speed up or down, and stop faster than the truck can, and the truck won’t be able to quickly stop if you don’t give enough space before changing lanes in front of them. Furthermore, the truck has another blind spot directly in front of the cab, and if you are not far enough ahead of the truck before you move back into their lane, the driver may not see you.

When Driving in Front of Trucks

Trucks cannot quickly slow down, so if you need to slow down or stop for any reason, such as a flat tire or mechanical failure (and if you need to stop, make sure to pull over to the shoulder of the road if possible), make sure to tap your brake lights and put on a turn signal or your hazard lights to alert the driver of the truck behind you what you are doing and give them time to start slowing down early to avoid colliding with you.

Were You Injured in a Truck Collision Through No Fault of Your Own?

Because auto wrecks involving commercial vehicles can involve multiple parties (including the drivers, the employer of the truck driver, the company that owns the truck–if it is different than the employer of the driver, the company that employs the people who maintain the truck or load the truck, and so on) it can become extremely complicated for victims to get compensation on their own.

Because truck accidents so often result in serious injuries that require a great deal of compensation, potentially for years to come, we know how important it is for victims to get all the money they need to make up for their medical bills and lost wages.

At Dudley DeBosier, we know what to do after big truck accidents, and we want to help you. Call our Louisiana truck accidents attorneys today for a free consultation