Danger is Everywhere
An accident can happen anywhere and anytime. Sometimes they’re unavoidable, but there are some things that can be taken into account to keep yourself and your loved ones safer during your travels, especially when sharing the road with oversized vehicles.
Oversized vehicles, including tractor-trailers, roll-off trucks, school buses, tow trucks, dump trucks, and other large vehicles have many differences from passenger vehicles. In 2020, the percentage of fatal crashes involving big trucks was 5.6% in Delaware and 7% in Maryland according to the US Department of Transportation. Of the approximately 415,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in 2020, there were 4,444 fatal crashes and 101,000 crashes resulting in injury. Single-vehicle crashes (including crashes that involved a bicyclist, pedestrian, nonmotorized vehicle, etc.) made up 22 percent of all fatal crashes, 16 percent of all injury crashes, and 24 percent of all property damage only crashes involving large trucks in 2020. The majority (62 percent) of fatal large truck crashes involved two vehicles. The vast majority of fatal crashes (82 percent) and nonfatal crashes (87 percent) involving large trucks occurred on weekdays (Monday through Friday).
Big Differences In Weight
Large trucks can weigh 20-30 times the weight of a passenger car. This leads to several differences in the way a large truck is operated as compared to a passenger vehicle. They must go much slower on curves and ramps to avoid a rollover. They take much longer to ascend an incline and often pick up speed quickly on a decline.
According to Pride Transport, in ideal driving conditions, a passenger vehicle traveling 65mph needs up to 300 feet of stopping time. In these same conditions, a fully loaded truck needs a stopping distance of 525 feet. A quote from the CDL manual states, “The heavier the vehicle, the more work the brakes must do to stop it and the more heat they absorb. The brakes, tires, springs, and shock absorbers on heavy vehicles are designed to work best when the vehicle is fully loaded. Empty trucks require greater stopping distance because an empty vehicle has less traction.” This means that the empty truck requires more time to stop since they don’t have the weight of a full load pressing down on the springs to provide the traction the truck needs to come to a safe stop.
There are several safety tips that can be lifesaving when operating a motor vehicle around an oversized vehicle. According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, these are some facts to keep in mind when sharing the road with a large vehicle.
- Never cut in front of a truck or bus. If that vehicle needs to reduce its speed abruptly, a fully loaded truck can take more than the length of a football field to stop.
- Keep a safety cushion around trucks and buses. Leave at least a 10-car-length gap when your vehicle is in front of a truck or bus, and 20 to 25 car lengths when you are traveling behind a truck or bus.
- Never linger alongside a large truck or bus. Cars can “disappear” from view due to unavoidable blind spots on a truck or bus.
- Pass trucks and buses quickly, and safely, to increase visibility and reduce dangers associated with lingering beside a truck.
- Only change lanes when you can see both of the truck’s headlights in your rearview mirror.
- If possible, pass a truck or bus on the left, not on the right. The truck’s blind spot on the right runs the length of the trailer and extends out three lanes.
- Check a truck’s mirrors. If you are following a truck and you cannot see the driver’s face in the vehicle’s side mirrors, the driver cannot see you.
- Allow trucks and buses adequate space to maneuver. Those vehicles make wide turns at intersections and require additional lanes to turn.
- If you are approaching a stop sign or traffic light in a smaller area, stop a larger distance back where you’re able, to allow the truck the space needed to turn safely.
- Be careful approaching stop signs and traffic lights when you see an approaching large vehicle, They may be traveling faster than they appear, and a collision could occur if they don’t have time and distance to stop safely.
Space Equals Safety
Remember, when in doubt, it’s better to allow that vehicle extra time and space to maneuver. An oversized vehicle needs extra time to slow down and to stop, and even longer for an empty truck. Since that load isn’t visible to the other drivers, it’s safer to assume the truck is empty than to risk a collision.