Auto Service World
News   April 19, 2024   by Auto Service World Staff

What New Drivers Need to Know About Commercial Trucks

Large commercial trucks are a familiar sight on roads across the United States, as they fulfill their goal of delivering items from one place to another. Although they play an essential role in the U.S. economy, the size and weight of commercial vehicles makes them daunting when less-experienced drivers encounter them. Understanding these size differences and practicing safe driving habits can significantly reduce the risk of accidents.

Understanding the Imposing Presence of Commercial Trucks

The most significant difference between a commercial vehicle and passenger car is the size and weight of the former. A typical passenger car weighs around 4,000 pounds, while a loaded commercial truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. As a result of this increase in mass, trucks take significantly longer to come to a stop, have a wider turning radius, and generally do not handle as well as other vehicles on the road. Newer drivers should not expect commercial vehicles to behave the same way their car does.

All drivers should be aware of the significant blind spots of commercial vehicles. Trucks have extensive blind spots around the sides and rear of the vehicle. Even with mirrors, it may not be possible for truck drivers to see everything alongside or behind their vehicle. Drivers should be extra cautious and avoid lingering in these blind spots. Staying in a truck driver’s blind spot increases the chance of them accidentally merging into your lane without realizing you are there. If a collision does occur, a truck accident lawyer in Atlanta may be able to provide assistance.

Truck Have Increased Stopping Distances & a Wider Turning Radius

Commercial trucks require significantly longer stopping distances than passenger cars. As previously touched upon, these vehicles weigh much more than other cars on the road. Due to their mass and air brake systems, it takes even an unloaded truck a sizable amount of space to come to a stop. Always maintain a safe following distance behind a commercial truck, giving yourself room to maneuver if the truck stops or makes a sudden movement. You should never come to a rapid stop in front of a truck, as they may be unable to stop quickly enough to avoid hitting you.

Keep in mind that trucks also take a considerable amount of space to turn, particularly on right turns. Trucks may need to swing wide to make turns, so you need to make sure your vehicle does not get clipped as the truck attempts to turn. Keep an eye out for the truck’s turn signals and give them the space they need to make a safe turn.

Passing, Merging, & Yielding to a Commercial Vehicle

When passing a commercial truck, make sure you have enough space in the passing lane to make the maneuver safely. Maintain a steady speed as you pass the truck and use your turn signal so other drivers know your intention. You should never cut off a truck after passing or begin to pass if you don’t have a clear view of the road ahead.

When merging onto a highway or changing lanes near a commercial truck, always yield the right of way. The blind spots of a truck may make it difficult for the driver to see your vehicle, making aggressive merging very dangerous for you. Try to confirm that a truck driver is aware of your presence before merging, so you don’t inadvertently put yourself in a dangerous situation.

How Does Weather Affect Commercial Trucks?

Poor weather conditions such as rain, snow, and fog can significantly impact the handling and braking capabilities of commercial trucks. You should increase your following distance even further in poor weather conditions to allow for extended stopping times. When approaching trucks on icy or slick roads, be sure to exercise extreme caution.

Another weather condition that can cause problems for top-heavy vehicles like trucks and buses is heavy wind. Strong wind gusts can cause a driver to lose control of his truck or even cause the vehicle to topple over. Be aware of wind advisories on your route and adjust your speed accordingly when sharing the road with large vehicles in windy conditions. Maintain a safe distance and avoid driving too close beside them in case they veer into your lane or roll over.

Sharing the Road Responsibly With Commercial Trucks

Commercial truck drivers are a critical component of the economy, as they keep vital goods in motion across the country. By treating them with respect and courtesy on the road, we protect ourselves and reduce the risks of a collision. You should take care to practice defensive driving and avoid aggressive tactics like tailgating or unsafe braking in front of a truck.

If you observe a commercial truck driver engaging in unsafe behavior, report it to the authorities right away. This may include erratic driving, unsafe lane changes, excessive speeding, or a driver who appears to be fatigued. Most trucking companies have strict safety protocols and reporting potential violations can keep everyone safe on the road. By staying aware of your surroundings and avoiding potentially dangerous situations, you protect yourself and the motorists around you.

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