If you’ve been thinking that there seem to be more trucks than ever on the road these days, you’re right. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) says there are nearly 12 million commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) crisscrossing the country. While they play a critical role in moving our nation’s economy and transporting individuals, these vehicles present hazards for other drivers.
The number of fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses has decreased in recent years, but the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says more can be done. The agency is working to educate drivers of both commercial and passenger vehicles about how to improve driving behavior, coexist on the roadways, and work together to reduce crashes. FMCSA has launched a campaign, Our Roads, Our Safety, to heighten awareness and provide resources.
The experts say understanding the safety challenges CMVs face, and making some simple adjustments in driving behavior, can go a long way to improving safety. Large trucks and buses are more difficult to maneuver than average passenger vehicles. That’s due to larger blind spots, being heavier and longer than other cars, and having longer stopping distances, says FMCSA.
Share these tips for driving safely around large vehicles with your employees, whether they’re commuting to work or heading to the beach in the family SUV:
Stay out of “no zones.” Commercial motor vehicles have huge blind spots (“no zones”) around the front, back, and sides of the vehicle. If you can’t see the driver in the truck’s side mirror, it’s safe to assume that the driver can’t see you. Don’t drive in a blind spot; slow down or move ahead to stay visible. Be especially careful when merging near a CMV as you may be in a blind spot.
Pass safely. Make sure you can see the driver in the mirror before passing. Signal clearly, then move into the left lane and accelerate so you can get past the big rig safely and promptly. Avoid passing on a downgrade.
Don’t cut it close. Cutting in too close is always dangerous, but it’s especially risky to cut off a large vehicle. Even if you’re visible, the vehicle may not be able to slow quickly enough to avoid a crash because of the amount of time it takes to stop.
Stay back. Tailgating is a risky practice. It puts you in a blind spot. And because trucks are high off the ground, if you fail to stop in time, or get hit from behind, your vehicle could slide under the truck.
Anticipate wide turns. CMVs require extra turning room—they swing wide or may even turn from a middle lane. Never try to get between the vehicle and the curb.
Other important reminders for safely sharing the road with large vehicles:
Stay focused on driving.
Don’t drive tired or under the influence.