Sharing the Road with Tractor Trailers

Driving alongside tractor trailers can make even the most confident drivers uneasy. Highly qualified and aware truck drivers in the best of circumstances have to contend with the poor visibility and flexibility of their “big rig.”

sharing the road with tractor trailers

Factors such as driver fatigue, inadequate training, and tight delivery schedules can cause truck drivers to be an precarious presence on the road. In 2014, the number of people injured in accidents with tractor trailers increased by 17%. Tractor trailer drivers are literally driving a warehouse on wheels, and automobile drivers need to be extra cautious on the highways to avoid them.

According to a 2014 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 73% of fatalities in accidents with tractor trailers were occupants of passenger vehicles. You are far more vulnerable in your car than the truck driver is in his semi-truck.

In addition, according to studies done by the American Trucking Association, more often than not the driver of the passenger vehicle is at fault in these collisions. Understanding the limitations of a tractor trailer and learning a few simple defensive driving techniques can literally mean the difference between life and death for you and your family.

Be Aware of the Stopping Distance of Tractor Trailers

semi-truck blind spot

Large trucks do not have the same capacity to maneuver as passenger vehicles. It is impossible for a tractor-trailer to stop quickly at high speeds because of the vehicle’s size and slower break response time.

It can take up to the length of two football fields for a fully loaded semi-truck traveling 60 mph to come to a complete stop. A mid-sized car can stop at less than half that distance. Considering this difference, it is imperative to never cut off or pull in front of a tractor trailer. Allow the truck driver plenty of room in case the vehicle ahead stops unexpectedly. Put at least four car lengths between you and the nearest tractor trailer.

Avoid Tractor Trailer Blind Spots

Do not drive in a tractor trailer’s blind spots. These blind spots, also referred to as “no-zones,” are to the rear and on both sides of the truck. A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot see a truck driver in his mirrors, he probably can’t see you either. Avoid driving alongside big rigs unless you are passing. Check out Truckers Report for more information on the dangers of tractor trailer blind spots.

Safety Tips for Passing an 18-Wheeler

If you are going to pass a tractor trailer, do it quickly to avoid being in the blind spot for longer than necessary. Here are more tips for passing a tractor trailer:

  • Pass as quickly as possible while maintaining a steady speed to avoid lingering in the no-zones
  • Hug the left side of the lane as you pass
  • Always pass on the left
  • After passing, wait until you can see the front of the truck in your rear-view mirror before changing lanes again
  • Always give a tractor trailer a wider berth than you do passenger vehicles
  • If a semi-truck is attempting to pass you, slow down to allow them ample space and time to clear your vehicle

Give Large Trucks Plenty of Space

tractor trailer stopping distance

There are further reasons to give tractor trailers a lot of space on the roadways. A fully loaded semi-truck can weigh nearly 80,000 pounds (compared to 4,000 pounds for an average car), and this puts a lot of stress on tires. It is common for semi-trucks to have tire blow-outs while driving, which can cause the driver to briefly lose control of the vehicle. You want to be as far away as possible from a tractor trailer when its tire blows out!

Semi-trucks not only create wind gusts, but are very difficult for truck drivers to control in wind and inclement weather. Though drivers are trained to handle their vehicles in adverse conditions, it is best to steer as clear as possible from a tractor trailer in foul weather. They can make unexpected swerves or movements as the driver attempts to steady the vehicle. An unloaded truck is even more likely to be affected by wind and rain, and a loaded truck may be carrying hazardous or combustible materials.

The Tractor Trailer “Squeeze Play”

large truck squeeze play

One of the most common accidents with tractor trailers involves “squeeze play” during a right hand turn. Because of the size of a semi-truck, drivers need to swing left as they are attempting a right hand turn. If you try to pass the truck on the left as it is turning right, you run the risk of getting stuck between the trailer and the curb. This is referred to as “squeeze play” and is a common cause of injuries and fatalities in collisions with tractor trailers.

When a truck is turning it is best to play it safe — do not try to pass. Avoid pulling next to a turning semi-truck! Be patient and hold off passing until the tractor trailer has completed its turn.

Personal Injury Lawyers for Tractor Trailer Accidents

The experienced attorneys at Donaghue & Labrum understand that an accident can happen when you least expect it. If you have been the victim of an accident involving a tractor trailer, trust our attorneys to guide you through the litigation process. We stand by our clients and work tirelessly to ensure that they receive the highest possible compensation for their injuries. We have over 30 years of experience in personal injury law, and have convenient offices in Media and West Chester, PA. Call us today to set up a free consultation.