Guide to Sharing the Road with Big Trucks
Big trucks are an essential element of Missouri’s economy, transporting 81% of manufactured goods in the state in 2017. According to the Missouri Trucking Association, 73% of Missouri communities rely on trucks to move goods throughout the state.
Unfortunately, commercial trucks can also cause severe injury when a crash occurs. The Missouri Department of Transportation reported 156 fatalities with commercial motor vehicles in 2021.
Due to their size and unique characteristics, all drivers need to understand how to safely navigate alongside big trucks.
Operating heavy trucks presents multiple challenges for drivers. The dimensions of big trucks make it hard for both car and truck drivers to see each other on the road, while the truck’s weight makes it difficult to respond quickly to hazards. Some of the challenges drivers encounter when operating big rigs include:
- Maneuverability: Heavy trucks have a larger turning radius and require more space to maneuver compared to smaller vehicles. Negotiating tight corners, narrow streets, and crowded urban areas can be particularly challenging for truck drivers.
- Limited visibility: The size and height of heavy trucks often result in limited visibility for truck drivers. Blind spots, especially on the sides and rear of the vehicle, can make it difficult for them to see smaller vehicles, pedestrians, or obstacles. This increases the risk of accidents, especially during lane changes or turns.
- Braking distance: Heavy trucks require considerably longer distances to come to a complete stop due to their weight and size. Truck drivers must maintain a safe following distance and allow extra braking time to avoid rear-end collisions.
- Uphill and downhill gradients: Negotiating steep inclines and declines poses additional challenges for heavy trucks. Ascending slopes requires more power and a slower pace, potentially affecting traffic flow. Descending gradients necessitate careful speed management and effective braking to prevent the vehicle from gaining too much momentum. Maintaining control and adjusting speed is crucial to travel safely on hilly terrains.
- Road infrastructure limitations: Certain road infrastructure, such as narrow bridges, low underpasses, or weight-restricted roads, may be unsuitable for heavy trucks. These limitations can force trucks to take longer routes or require careful planning to avoid infrastructure that cannot support their size or weight.
- Fatigue management: Long hours behind the wheel can lead to driver fatigue, a significant concern in the trucking industry. Fatigue impairs reaction times and decision-making abilities, increasing the risk of accidents. Truck drivers must adhere to rest breaks and hours of service regulations to mitigate fatigue-related risks.
- Adverse weather conditions: Heavy trucks are more susceptible to adverse weather conditions such as rain, snow, ice, or high winds due to their size and weight. These conditions affect traction and braking ability, requiring drivers to adjust their driving techniques accordingly. Slower speed, increased following distances, and cautious maneuvering are vital to ensure stability and control.
- Parking and loading/unloading: Finding suitable parking spaces for heavy trucks can be challenging, especially in congested urban areas. Additionally, loading and unloading cargo in crowded or restricted spaces can be time-consuming and may require careful coordination to avoid disruptions to traffic flow.
Passenger car operators can use safe driving techniques to help prevent accidents when sharing the road with big trucks. Implement the following tips when driving near commercial vehicles or big trucks:
- Stay visible: Be aware of a truck’s blind spots and avoid lingering in those areas. If you can’t see the truck’s side mirrors, assume that the driver cannot see you. Pass trucks quickly, and when following, maintain a safe distance that gives you and the truck driver adequate visibility.
- Avoid cutting off trucks: Never cut abruptly in front of a truck or large vehicle. Since they require significantly more time and distance to stop due to their size and weight, cutting off a truck can lead to a potential injury or fatal rear-end collision.
- Maintain a safe distance: Maintain a safe following distance from trucks to allow time for braking and reacting to sudden changes. Maintain at least a four-second gap (one second per 10 ft. of vehicle length at 40 mph) between your vehicle and the truck, depending on road conditions and speed.
- Plan for wide turns: When driving alongside a truck that intends to turn, be aware that it may need additional space to complete the maneuver. Do not drive in the lane next to a turning truck unless necessary, as it can restrict their movement and cause an accident.
- Watch for tire spray: Large trucks can create spray from their tires during wet conditions. This spray can impair visibility, so exercise caution and adjust your speed to maintain a safe distance.
Staying safe on the road, especially when sharing it with big trucks, requires knowledge, awareness, and responsible driving practices. However, even when using safe driving techniques, you may be involved in an accident with a large truck on Missouri roads.
If you or a loved one is injured in a truck accident, our truck accident attorneys at Cofman Townsley can help you seek compensation for your damages. We’ve been helping accident victims recover damages since 1973 and will use our years of experience to help you win a settlement to pay for your losses. Contact our legal team today for a free consultation.