Driving defensively is your best option for protecting yourself because you have no control over other drivers on the road and you can’t assume they are driving with safety in mind. In fact many truck drivers will agree that most motorists do not know how to drive safely around a big truck. According to a University of Michigan Transportation Institute study, 81 – 91% of crashes involving a commercial vehicle are caused by cars, not the trucks. To stay on point with your defensive driving, here are some defensive driving tips:
- Stay aware of your blind spots: 10-15 feet in front of you, directly behind your trailer, on the passenger side from the door to the back of your sleeper unit, and on the driver side from the front bumper to the nose of the trailer. Checking your mirrors every 3-5 seconds can help you maintain 360 degrees of awareness at all times.
- Maintain a safe following distance. The FMCSA recommends 1 second for every 10 feet of vehicle length at 40 mph. If you are traveling over 40 mph add an additional one second. The average length of a Class A combination truck and trailer is 72 feet so your following distance should be 7 seconds at 40 mph and under, and 8 seconds for speeds over 40 mph. You can measure this distance by observing a point on the road and counting the time from when a car in front of you passed that point to the time that you reach that point.
- In just a second or two an emergency can develop, especially at high speeds on the interstate highways so remain alert at all times for emergencies. Remain calm. If you’re in an agitated state because of a close call with a motorist find a safe place to park and calm down before continuing your trip. Pay attention to what’s going on a quarter of a mile or more ahead of you and slow down if you observe unsafe traffic behavior, road construction or other potential hazards.