Last Updated on August 1, 2023 by John Robinson
Commercial trucks play a critical role in the daily function of businesses across the United States. A significant percentage of domestic shipments are transported via truck, allowing local companies and consumers to receive the supplies, produce, and equipment they need to function. Despite the crucial role commercial vehicles play within the U.S. economy, it can be stressful to drive around large trucks. We put together this article to help you safely maneuver around commercial vehicles while on the road.
Why Are Commercial Trucks Dangerous to Smaller Vehicles?
A commercial truck can be as much as six times the size of a passenger vehicle in terms of length, width, and height. In the U.S., a fully-laden commercial vehicle may weigh up to 80,000 pounds. In contrast, the average sedan weighs between 3,000 and 3,500 pounds and a full-size SUV can weigh up to 6,000 pounds. The size and weight disparities between civilian and commercial vehicles makes collisions between the two catastrophic. When a passenger vehicle and large truck collide, the larger vehicle’s momentum and weight can cause severe damage to the smaller car and its occupants.
Safely Changing Lanes Around Commercial Vehicles
Commercial trucks have much larger blind spots than the average car or SUV. As defined by Aceable, blind spots are “the areas to the sides of [a] car that can’t be seen in [the] rear mirror or side mirrors.” Large trucks have blind spots running down the sides of their rig and may not be able to see cars that are directly in front of or behind their vehicle.
You should always strive to stay out of a truck’s blind spots, as remaining visible to the driver means that they are less likely to accidentally merge into your lane, strike the back of your car, or brake suddenly without realizing that you are following closely behind. A good rule of thumb is that, if you cannot see the truck driver in his or her side mirror, they likely cannot see your car. When merging, try to avoid cutting directly in front of or behind a big rig, as the driver may not be able to react to your lane change in time to avoid a collision.
Maintaining a Safe Following Distance Behind Large Trucks
If you are tailgating a large truck, the driver will likely be unable to see your vehicle. This increases the chances that they will unknowingly brake abruptly or perform a lane change that puts you at increased risk of a crash. If you cannot stop in time to avoid rear-ending a commercial vehicle, your car may end up underneath the larger truck. This type of collision is commonly referred to as an “underride accident,” and these types of crashes tend to be particularly deadly.
Maintaining a safe following distance behind a large vehicle gives you more time and space to react in the event of an unexpected emergency. Whether the truck in front of you suffers a blowout or an accident occurs, you have a better chance of safely avoiding the situation and protecting your vehicle’s occupants.
Anticipating a Truck Driver’s Behavior & Practicing Defensive Driving
It’s impossible to predict with certainty what course of action another driver is contemplating. However, by practicing defensive driving and maintaining awareness of road conditions, you can proactively work to avoid accidents and protect yourself and your loved ones. Defensive driving consists of implementing a series of safe responses to possible hazards into your regular routine when behind the wheel of a car.
Some components of defensive driving include:
- Driving the proper speed for prevalent road conditions
- Detecting and avoiding potential hazards in, on, or near the road
- Focusing fully on driving while behind the wheel
- Passing other drivers with caution
- Avoiding road rage incidents
- Paying attention to the actions of other drivers
Avoiding Sudden Stops
Commercial trucks are substantially larger and heavier than passenger vehicles, even when they are not transporting a full load. As such, it takes a large truck a considerable amount of time and space to come to a complete stop. If you find yourself directly in front of a commercial vehicle, leave as much space as possible between your car and the car in front of you. By doing so, you give yourself space to coast to a stop if you encounter traffic or need to slow down. The truck behind you also benefits from the fact that you don’t need to stop abruptly, as they are given more space to work with to avoid ramming into the back of your vehicle.
Protecting Yourself While Driving Around Commercial Vehicles
Driving around large trucks can be challenging if you aren’t used to traveling alongside commercial vehicles. We hope that this article helps you keep yourself and your car’s occupants safe while on the road. Remember to always avoid a truck’s blind spots, maintain a safe following distance, and practice defensive driving and your chances of experiencing an accident should be considerably reduced.