Did you know 11.49 billion tons of freight were transported by trucks in 2018? With approximately 3.5 million professional truck drivers in America delivering our nation’s freight, professional drivers must be alert at all times and adhere to the highway laws and regulations. Professional truck drivers go through extensive training to obtain a class A commercial driver’s license to operate a tractor-trailer and deliver the goods we purchase and use each day. It’s not an easy task, but a very important one that requires patience, adaptability and a commitment to safety.
It is important that the motoring public does their part to keep our roadways safe as well. Three transportation experts gave their insight on what they wish everyone on the road would remember in order to keep the roads a safer place. Thank you to Sanaye, a Werner Enterprises Road Team captain, Rudy, a professional driver for Werner’s Intermodal Kansas City fleet and John, an operations associate for Werner Logistics alliance carrier RBX Transportation.
Give Trucks Extra Space When Changing Lanes and Merging
It’s terrifying enough being cut off by a driver while going 60 miles per hour, imagine that happening while trying to operate an 80,000-pound vehicle. “When drivers are merging onto the interstate from a ramp, it’s important for them to remember that trucks can’t stop as quickly as a car can,” said John of RBX.
It’s crucial to understand that it takes much longer for a tractor-trailer to stop due to the size and weight versus a typical car. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a fully loaded truck traveling in good road conditions at highway speeds needs a distance of nearly two football fields to stop.
Therefore, be cautious when merging off ramps and changing lanes and be extra careful when there’s inclement weather, such as snow or rain. Professional drivers stress the importance of how they must maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of them to ensure they are able to stop safely and quickly, if necessary. When another driver merges in front of them, it becomes much more difficult. Remember, just because you are merging onto the highway or interstate from a ramp, it does not automatically mean you have the right-of-way. Adjust your speed and yield rather than cutting in front of a truck.
Maintain a Safe Following Distance
While professional drivers maintain a safe following distance from your vehicle, it’s important to do your part as well. Often times, drivers on the road may get irritated since a truck often travels at a slower speed. Since tractor-trailers are much larger and heavier, it also takes much longer for it to accelerate. Rather than tailgating a truck, be patient and uphold a safe following distance.
“I find that drivers will follow so closely to the back of the truck that I’m unable to see their lights,” said Sanaye of Werner. “This is obviously incredibly dangerous because in the event of a road hazard, such as a stopped vehicle or an animal in the road, the driver following closely behind me would not be able to react at the rate I would, potentially leading to a much larger incident.”
The American Trucking Association (ATA) states that when following behind a truck you should leave yourself 20 to 25 car lengths behind it. Maintaining a safe following distance allows you to have a longer reaction time.
Know a Professional Driver’s Blind Spots
A tractor-trailer may be much larger than a standard vehicle, but that doesn’t mean the driver has a bird’s eye view of the entire road. The height of the vehicle can create obstacles. To ensure the professional driver can see you, always stay out of their blind spots or “no zones.” This includes right behind the trailer, directly in front of the truck and along the right side. If you can’t see the driver in his or her side mirror, then there’s a good chance that they can’t see you either.
Respect Everyone on the Road
It is important to realize that distracted driving has an impact on others. Put your phone down and keep your full attention on the road at all times. If you are driving at night and are tired, stop somewhere and continue driving after you get some rest.
Finally, be kind to professional drivers. “Don’t let road rage get the best of you and smile at others,” said Rudy of Werner.
Remember that we all share the road. Professional drivers make personal sacrifices, like time away from their family, to safely and efficiently deliver the freight that keeps America moving.