In the U.S. there are an estimated 11 million tractor trailers that log over 288 billion miles a year (US DOT). Trucking is essential our economy. We are reminded of this most during the holidays as we ship packages and shop more, requiring some stores to double their inventory. This means is that there are more trucks on the roadways with heavier loads, combined with increased holiday traffic, less daylight hours.
The trucking industry specifies that truckers should not work more than 11 hours per day. Truck drivers get paid by the mile, not by the hour. Because of this, many tractor-trailer drivers drive longer than they should. Especially during extremely busy times of the year, there can be pressure to bend the rules, leading to fatigue. According to the US Department of Transportation, "Working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes, and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers".
Here are some tips to help you avoid collisions with tractor-trailers this holiday season:
- Watch for blind spots. Tractor-trailers have large blind spots, called "no-zones," located at the rear of the truck, the side, and the connecting point between the truck and the trailer. If you can't see the driver in the truck's side mirrors, the driver can't see you.
- Avoid changing lanes abruptly. Any sudden motion in a truck driver's periphery can cause the vehicle to respond unpredictably.
- Be aware of Tractor trailers turning. At an intersection, be aware that tractor-trailer drivers can sometimes make wide turns. Allow the truck a wide berth to avoid getting caught in the driver's blind spot.
- Stay Back. Maintain a following distance of 20 to 25 car lengths when you're behind any tractor-trailer.
- Use turn signals when passing. Give the tractor-trailer every available visual indicator of your intentions.
- Adjust driving speed to climate conditions. Rain, snow, and high winds can make driving behind a tractor-trailer more hazardous. Allow more distance to maximize braking capabilities.
- Give the truck more room going uphill. If you are behind a tractor-trailer on an incline, allow more space in case the driver is struggling to shift gears and the truck starts to drift backwards.
- If necessary, pull completely off the road. If your vehicle becomes impaired, pull off the road as far as possible. Place hazard lights or flares at both ends to warn approaching traffic, then move as far away from your vehicle as you can.