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Defensive Driving with Trucks - 7 Tips From a Trucker that Could Save Your Life

Aug 17, 2007
I would like to share with you some of the daily safety problems that the professional truck driver faces. In my opinion, cars maneuvered by poor drivers (J. Q. Public) must have a magnet installed in their front bumper that attracts them to trucks. This magnet pulls them within thirty feet of the rear of semi-trailers.

The semi driver CAN NOT see anything behind the trailer within that distance. This magnet theory is the only reasonable explanation for auto drivers following too closely behind semi trailers.

Cars not equipped with this magnet are operated by good drivers who keep the 2 to 4 second rule for following distance (about 100' to 250') behind a truck.
J. Q. Public, with his magnet engaged, pulls out in the passing lane, gets even with the truck, and sets up residency.

If J. Q. Public were a good driver, he would move from behind the truck, pass quickly and safely, and allow adequate space after the maneuver. He would watch his inside rearview mirror and make sure both of the truck's headlights were visible in the mirror as he merged back to the right.

Another example of the magnet theory occurs when making a right hand turn. While Mr. Truck Driver pays close attention to the right mirror on the cab of the truck and watches the left corner of the truck, the magnet activates and J. Q. Public sneaks along side to get around the corner before the truck does. The car is hit by the tandem on the trailer.

The truck needs all this space (approximately 120') to complete the turn safely. Having arrived at his destination, typically Mr. Truck Driver will need to back into a loading dock. It would appear that sometimes he is expected to bend into places even a helicopter could not land.

Back on the interstate, Mr. Truck Driver knows that in 5 to 10 miles there will be a weigh station. As a professional, the driver puts on his RIGHT-TURN SIGNAL to make his way over to the right lane to exit off. Remember the magnet theory.

The cars instantaneously get closer to each other. The weigh station that was 5 to 10 miles ahead is now 3 miles closer. A good driver would slow down and let the truck merge into the right lane.

1. Do not tailgate. Remember the 2 to 4 second rule, 100' to 250'.
2. Wait your turn at an intersection. When you see a truck turning or backing up, give him a break, remember the 30' rule.
3. Pass a truck and allow plenty of room to merge back. Remember both truck headlights in should appear in your rearview mirror.
4. Remember trucks use signals so a blinking signal means we are going to turn. We are not thinking about turning. We are definitely going to turn in the direction of the blinking light. So don't cut us off, especially right turns.
5. Plan ahead when you see slow moving vehicles. Trucks, U-Hauls, campers, and some truck lines still have their speed at 55 to 57 mph.
6. PLEASE let us over, the sign says "Weigh Station 1 Mile".
7. Leave yourself an out. Don't be so close to the vehicle ahead of you that if something happens you have a wreck. Never ever get yourself boxed in: always leave room to escape.

If people could ride with a truck driver for a week, they would soon understand. My door is open to anyone who thinks my job is easy. I am inviting them to ride along, watch, learn, get a better understanding because without trucks, America would stop!
About the Author
Neil Lemons represents Comedy Defensive Driving School the first no reading Texas state-approved Texas defensive driving online course.
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