Sharing the Road With Big Rigs

My father was a truck driver for as long as I can remember. It was in the days when there were virtually no creature comforts in the cabs of the trucks. I donít think he ever drove a truck with air-conditioning, and there were certainly no CD players, video monitors, or CB radios. One night during the summer, around 10 PM, he was driving between Dallas and San Antonio and fell asleep while driving. He woke up too late to navigate a turn in the highway and turned the big rig on its side, spilling 40,000 gallons of paint in pop-top cans. It was a mess, but nobody was killed.

Without truckers, there would be no gas, grocery store shelves would be empty, and the economy would crater. The 18-wheelers you see today carry heavier loads than ever before, and will go faster than in years past. I was proud of what my Dad did for a living, but as someone who drives a lot, I see a lot of truckers these days who drive too fast, drive too aggressively, seem to have trouble staying in their lane, and I often see them bully their way into traffic. The stats would seem to agree, take a look at the latest statistics from 2015:

  • Of the approximately 415,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in 2015, there were 3,598 fatal crashes and 83,000 were injury crashes.
  • Approximately 60 percent of all fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred on rural roads and 25 percent on urban Interstate highways.
  • Thirty-five percent of all fatal crashes, 21 percent of all injury crashes, and 19 percent of all property damage only crashes involving large trucks occurred at night (6:00 pm to 6:00 am).
  • The vast majority of fatal crashes (83 percent) and nonfatal crashes (89 percent) involving large trucks occurred on weekdays (Monday through Friday).
  • There were 11.2 fatal large truck crashes per million people in the United States in 2015, a 6-percent increase from 2010.

People are going to continue to drive, and products must be moved from factories to merchants, so how do we co-exist? If you do battle with an 80,000-pound object traveling at over 60-miles per hour, the odds of winning are not good. So, here is a list of doníts to be conscious of while traveling the American road:

  • Donít travel next to a big truck. Slow down or speed up, but donít linger there. The trucker may not be able to see you and he or she has a much better view of the road ahead and may have to make an emergency lane change. There is also the chance the truck will blow a tire, causing a loss of control. What it says on the back of many trucks is trueÖif you canít see the driverís eyes in the side mirrors, he or she canít see you either.
  • Donít get in a truckerís way. Most truckers like the middle lane on a three-lane or wider road. It gives them more options and they donít like merging traffic. It takes a loaded truck as much as a football field and a half to stop, you donít want to cut in front of them.
  • Donít tailgate them either. When following closely to a semi, you cannot see anything in front of you except the trailer and have no idea what is happening down the road. If the trucker has to make an emergency stop, it wonít likely end well for you.
  • Donít get distracted when an 18-wheeler is around you. Truckers tend to be very good at using their blinkers. If you see a turn signal come on, be extra cautious and never get on the right side of trucker when his or her right blinker is on. Trucks need a lot of extra room to navigate turns.
  • Donít get into a road rage incident with a trucker. Be patient when a big rig is passing another truck or even a car. Acceleration is not quick in these rigs. Iíve actually seen ignorant people get mad at a trucker, cut in front of them, and slam on the brakes. That is a death wish.

We can all safely co-exist on the highways and byways of our wonderful country, but it takes patience, skills, and a healthy respect for a vehicle that is way bigger than yours.

Photo Credit: Carolyn Franks/
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