Big Rigs: Share the Road Safely

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Semi-trucks can be intimidating vehicles for people who are unfamiliar with them, either as drivers or as newcomers to driving on the interstates and other roads where truckers need to travel. Fortunately, state and federal governments understand the potential for disaster with these sorts of vehicles and have instituted several regulations for their cargo and drivers to follow to keep everyone safe. For an overview of what truck drivers need to be mindful of and some good practices for motorists who share the road with them, read on.

Federal Trucking Requirements

Truckers are subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. While this is a lengthy list of provisos and requirements, the following are just a few highlights.

  • Trucking companies need to not only know the regulations but also educate their drivers about those regulations.
  • Truckers must age 21 or over, speak and understand English, and be physically able to operate such a large vehicle in safety.
  • Truckers can be fired if caught driving under the influence, possessing a blood alcohol score of 0.04 gr/%, and cannot imbibe alcohol 240 minutes before they begin driving.
  • All truck drivers must take pre-employment as well as random drug testing. Failing a DOT drug test can result in immediate removal from duty.
  • Trucking companies must monitor their truckers’ driving records at least once a year.
  • Truckers must log all time spent driving to adhere to service rules. They are only allowed to drive for so many hours in total and consecutively. Truckers carrying property cannot drive more than 11 hours, 10 of which are consecutive, within 24 hours nor drive beyond 14 hours after starting duty, regardless of hours driven that day. Furthermore, they cannot drive 60+ hours within seven days nor 70+ hours within eight days; if forced to drive 70+ hours within eight days, the trucker must rest for 34 consecutive hours before driving again. Lastly, truckers must take one half-hour break within the first eight hours of their workday.
  • Before hitting the road, every trucker must verify that the following components are in good condition: services brakes and connections; hand brake; steering; lights and reflectors; tires; horn, windshield wiper(s); rear-view mirror(s); and coupling mechanisms. Unless they carry a sealed trailer, they must also inspect cargo at the start of the trip, again 25 miles out, and once again every 3 hours or 150 miles.
  • Warning signs must be deployed when a truck becomes disabled.
  • If conditions are too severe, commercial trucks will pull over or turn back until conditions improve.

Sharing the Road

If you are sharing the road with a trucker, chances are good that you are traveling in a smaller vehicle that will do poorly in a collision. Abide by these tips and your trip will be safe instead of harried.

  • Always drive defensively. Stay vigilant, watch your speed, and be mindful of other drivers.
  • Stay out of blind spots. Semi-trucks have blind spots: the trucker’s right side, front cab, and behind the trailer.
  • Give more space between trailer and curb. When making right turns, truckers tend to move away from the curb to safely turn. This is why other sensible motorists tend to give trucks such a wide berth.
  • Keep a safe distance. Tailgating a truck or staying too close can ruin your reaction time to avoid a collision. Avoid this by keeping several car lengths behind a semi-truck.
  • Always signal when changing lanes and turning. Truckers need more time to react to other drivers’ actions.
  • Pass with caution. When passing a semi-truck, always do it on the driver’s side.
  • Reduce your brights. When driving at night, always kill or dim your bright lights to avoid blinding the trucker when the light bounces off their side mirrors.

Conclusion

Truck drivers play a crucial role in our country. Moving goods and supporting our economy. There are many regulations in place to help keep these large vehicles safe on our roads. Truck drivers and those that share the road with them can work together to make sure we all arrive at our destinations safely.