Driving Safely Around Semi’s

Bad Driving Habits You Didn’t Know You Had

Sharing the road with semi’s is a daily reality.  It requires a basic understanding of both his truck and trailer, as well as the space immediately around him.  In this blog we will share first-hand input from truck drivers themselves and give you a unique view of your own car – from his seat.

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The Space Ahead of Him

Never be tempted to hop in front of him just because there is space. This is one of the worst mistakes you can make, and sadly one of the most common.  The space he is maintaining is HIS, and is the space he needs to stop the truck.  Trucks have air brakes.  If you cause him to hit his brakes and use up his air before it can recharge, then he has no brakes for a second stop.  This significantly increases his stopping distance and will result in him rear ending you. This is not a lack of ability or skill on his part, it is a matter of simple science and stopping forward motion.

The Space Beside Him

Never ride directly alongside a truck, for a few reasons.  First, he is blocking half of your view.  Second, if he blows a tire, it will likely cause him and you both to wreck.  If you’ve never seen the power behind a truck blowout, take a moment to look up a video of it on Youtube.  It sounds like a bomb going off.  If you’re behind the wheel when you hear it, you could lose control of your own car.  Sometimes the tire exits the truck with such force that it will knock a car right off the road.  Your reaction skills likely will not save you from hitting it, nor from the inevitable swerving he is likely to do.  Either pass him, or stay well behind him.

The Space Behind Him

You may not have realized that when you’re directly behind him, he can’t see you.  This often leads to unintentional tailgating.  Riding in this spot blocks your entire view and puts the truck driver in charge of your decision making.  In other words, if he brakes hard, you’re forced to brake as well.  Back off and allow enough space to make your own decisions.

Allow Him Space to Turn

He is pulling a 53 foot trailer.  He makes very wide turns.  When you see a truck with his blinker on, do not pull up beside him.  He will only take a few seconds to turn, and you can quickly regain your cruising speed.

His Speed is Likely Governed

Many trucking companies have speed governors on their trucks.  A driver who is maintaining a constant speed of 62 is not trying to ruin your day.  Understand this, and move around him.  Never get impatient.  It will not make his truck go faster.

When He’s Merging into the Left Lane

Truck drivers will maintain the far right lanes as often as possible.  In fact, there are some places, particularly in large cities, where he can be given a ticket for riding in the fast lane.  If a truck is trying to move into the left lane, there is likely a good reason ahead that you cannot see yet.  Allow him to come over.  He will not be there long and will return to the right lane.

Pay Attention

There are countless distractions we fall victim to.  Cell phones, radio stations, other passengers, roadside distractions, even day dreaming.  Stay alert around a truck.  His means of communicating with you are limited to his blinkers and his horn.

Many of these points are related to the space around his truck.  As courteous and safe drivers, it is our responsibility to keep the roads safe.  This does not fall only on the truck driver’s shoulders.  Please share your thoughts below on other safe driving habits around semi’s.



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