40 tons of reasons to be cautious

TRAFFIC TALK

Trucks: Common sense - and the laws of physics - suggest that motorists pay attention to the needs of large vehicles.

June 22, 2005|By Jody K. Vilschick | Jody K. Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When we hit the roads in search of pleasant summer memories, we dread finding ourselves right behind that 18-wheeler, just as truck drivers dread being surrounded by impatient car drivers.

"Cars are notorious for cutting in front of trucks, placing everyone in jeopardy," said Larry Daniel, president of AITA Inc., a trade association of independent truck drivers.

When loaded, trucks can weigh as much as 40 tons.

"The law of physics dictates that when 40 tons are in motion, it cannot stop, turn or react quickly," he said. "[When] a truck driver is forced to try to violate this law, something bad usually happens."

As many hours as we commuters and vacationers put on the roads, keep in mind that truck drivers log far more. They're the professional drivers on the roads.

Truck drivers are required to have a commercial driver's license that is renewed regularly. Truck drivers must stay up to date on any changes in the laws regulating the types of freight and loads they haul.

Daniel said that truckers often drive 10 hours a day.

"During their 10 hours, they stop for food, fuel and rest stops, and try to average 500 miles per day," he said. "At that rate, they would average more than 125,000 miles per year."

It's also in their best interest to drive safely. "If they get three moving violations, they lose their licenses, just as four-wheeler drivers," said Daniel. "There are no allowances for miles driven."

The length and width of trucks create unique driving hazards. To avoid coming on the wrong side of the law of tonnage (the heaviest vehicle wins), follow these tips:

At intersections, truck drivers turning right might move into the left lane to avoid hitting the curb. Do not position yourself along the right side of the truck. It's not a mistake if the truck is in the left lane and has the right blinker on. Don't pull into the open space to the right of the truck, as it is swinging wide to navigate the turn.

Most trucks need a longer distance to stop than cars. Don't scoot in front as you approach a stoplight - you might not be allowing the truck enough room to stop. Signal your intentions well before turning, slowing or stopping to give trucks behind you more time to brake.

When stopped, a truck might roll back farther than a car when the driver releases the brake. Give a truck room to do so.

Be visible. Stay out of a truck driver's blind spots, typically to the sides and back. If you can't see the truck's mirrors, then the truck driver cannot see you.

When passing trucks, pass as quickly and safely as possible, and don't cut in front of a truck too closely - many trucks have front blind spots.

Never drive or walk around the back of a truck when it is in reverse. You may be in the driver's blind spot.

When meeting or passing a truck on a highway, stay as far away from it - in your lane - as you can to avoid the wind pressure created at high speeds. A truck also uses all of its lane space. If you are stopped or broken down, where possible, park well clear of the roadway.

What's your traffic trauma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at TrafficTalk@comcast.net, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Anne Arundel County, 60 West St., Suite 400, Annapolis, 21401. Please include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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