How to Drive Around a Semi-Truck

Truck on highway image

Typically, our blog posts are directed at motor carriers and truck drivers. However, this week’s is actually for passenger vehicle drivers. With Operation Safe Driver Week underway, now’s the time to learn how to drive around an 18-wheeler.

#1 Never Cut in Front of a Truck

While you may be wondering why semis leave so much space between them and the car in front of them, it’s actually for the safety of that vehicle. If a tractor-trailer is traveling at 60 mph, it takes about 100 yards (the length of a football field) for that vehicle to come to a complete stop. Never pull in front of a semi until you can see the entire rig in your rear-view mirror.

 

#2 Stay out of Blind Spotssemi-truck blind spots image

As displayed in the image on the right, all four sides of the tractor-trailer have a blind spot. Although, some are more dangerous than others.

As you can see, it is much safer to pass an 18-wheeler on its left-side than on its right. In fact, some consider the left-side of the truck the “safe side,” and the right-side the “sui-side.”

 

A good rule of thumb is “If you can’t see the driver’s face, the driver can’t see you.”

#3 Don’t Follow too Close

Following a truck too closely is dangerous for a number of reasons. If traffic suddenly slows and you are tailgating, you’re not going to be able to see the slow down. When that truck driver hits the brakes, you could end up under the truck. Trucks can also drive over and straddle objects that cars cannot (i.e., large branches). Leave yourself enough room to be able to react if something arises. If you can’t see the truck’s side mirrors, then you’re too close.

In the video below, a sedan is seen tailgating a pickup truck. The pickup truck swerves to avoid a mattress in the road, but the sedan does not have enough time to respond. The sedan couldn’t see around the pickup truck, so imagine the visibility one would have following that close behind a Semi.

 

#4 Be Extra Aware in Construction Zones

 

To reiterate, do not cut off a truck. If you see a sign signaling you to merge, do not try to speed around a truck and steer in front of it. The driver may not see you coming, and may also not be able to stop in time to let you safely merge.

While it’s always advised that you keep two hands on the wheel when driving, it is especially important to do so in construction zones. Uneven pavement and narrow lanes increase the likeliness that you’ll lose control of your vehicle.

#5 Don’t Drive Distracted

While trucks have many technological gadgets in their cabs, these gadgets increase the safety of the vehicle. However, the gadgets found in today’s passenger vehicles can often lead to distractions if used at inappropriate times.

Eating and drinking while driving can also lead to disaster. How many sitcoms have you seen where the driver spills hot coffee in his or her lap? When this happens on a busy freeway, the aftermath isn’t quite as funny.

Finally, remember not to text and drive. No text is worth risking your life and the lives of motorists around you.

Truck Writers aims to be a safety advocate for the trucking industry. If you have questions about our insurance services, please contact us today.

2 comments on “How to Drive Around a Semi-Truck

  1. Following too close is probably the number one mistake I see people making all the time. Good advice here. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Thank you for writing about this topic. I think it’s something that needs to be incorprated into DMV driving classes along with the steps you need to take if you are ever pulled over.

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