Behaviour around heavy trucks

Ask any trucker about the most dangerous stunt pulled by the drivers of cars and pickup trucks and they will immediately complain about drivers who pass, cut in front of the truck and then slow down. Many drivers of light vehicles seem to have no appreciation at all for sharing the road with heavy trucks. Right or wrong, 78 percent of fatalities occur to the small vehicle occupants in a collision.

During training as a collision analyst, I learned that a loaded tractor trailer combination typically has 50 to 60 percent of the braking capacity of a light vehicle. If you stop or slow suddenly in front of one without allowing for this fact it could be the last mistake that you will ever make. Always allow plenty of room and never let a heavy truck follow you too closely.

Another common error committed by light vehicle drivers is traveling in the No Zone. These are areas around the tractor trailer combination where the driver cannot see you and are a dangerous place to be if the truck should turn or change lanes. The rule here is that if you cannot see the driver by looking though his windows or into his mirrors, he cannot see you and you need to move immediately.

Always pay careful attention to brake and signal lights on heavy trucks. They are allowed by law to swing wide if necessary in order to make turns at intersections. If you don't heed the signal and pull along side you could be squeezed between the truck and the curb. Remember the No Zone?

Following too closely behind heavy trucks severely limits a driver's view of what is ahead on the highway. During poor weather conditions visibility can be limited even further by spray thrown up by the trailer. If you have to use your wipers in order to keep the following distance you have chosen, chances are that you are too close.

Truck are and always will be a fact of life on our highways. Learning to understand their needs and sharing the road with them will keep you safe.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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