Latest available information from FMCSA.
Think back to when you first started driving. You were probably pretty nervous, having to constantly be aware of your surroundings and the vehicle itself. When you try to switch lanes, you have to do your best to see four ways at once: in front, behind, to the sides. It is difficult enough trying to switch lanes in a sedan, now imagine doing that in a vehicle that is 10 times in length and has no rear-view mirror, all while other vehicles driving around disregard you as a human being with a life, dreams, family, etc. This is what truck drivers go through every-single-day.
3,660 people died in crashes involving tractor trailers in 2014. 585 of these deaths were truck occupants. 2488 were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles. 549 were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists. 74% of accidents involving a passenger vehicle and a truck were at fault of the driver of the passenger vehicle. That doesn't even account for accidents that have no casualties.
By educating yourself on how to drive around trucks, you can save lives! It isn't hard: pay attention, be patient, and be kind.
Don't tailgate. Tailgating won't accomplish anything. The driver most likely cannot see you and you're not intimidating them to go faster by tailgating. The only thing that can come from this is them having to slam on their breaks and you getting decapitated.
Don't play games with trucks or other cars. I'll let this video speak for itself:
Give trucks room. Various things can happen to semi-trucks that you don't want to find yourself involved in. Trucks often have tire blow-outs due to the stress the weight of the truck puts on them. In windy weather, they can be blown over. They have multiple blind spots. When passing them, do it in the left lane and as quickly as possible.
Never cut a semi off or brake-check them! If you think they “wronged” you in some way, you're probably wrong. Do not play games with trucks because you are playing with your life! Trucks cannot stop the way vehicles can.
Don't weave in and out of semis. They cause blind spots for you and if you hit something, it could cause them to hit you.
Mind the gap. If there are multiple semis in a row, don't get in-between them. They leave this room so they can stop if they need to.
Scenario: You're coasting along the highway and suddenly a truck's turn signal illuminates in your direction.
What you should do: If you are less than halfway past the truck, you should safely slow down (check for people behind you) and let the truck over. A truck urgently needs to get over for a few reasons…
1. There's an officer with a vehicle pulled over. Truckers and cars alike are always supposed to move to the opposite lane in this case. In fact, it's the law. In some states, not moving over is punishable with a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail. Over 200 officers have been killed since 1999 by being struck by a vehicle during a stop. You can ensure the safety of multiple people by letting the truck over.
2. A vehicle is broken down/stopped on the side of the road. If a person is out of their car trying to change a flat tire or something like that, driving next to them could mean hitting them, so trucks try to move out of the way (cars should do this too!).
3. There is a slower driver in front of them. This could be a car or another truck. They have every right and reason to pass slower moving vehicles, just as you do. “The stopping distance for a tractor-trailer that is fully loaded on dry pavement going at 60 mph is approximately 335 feet — a little over the distance of a football field. Keep in mind this does not include driver reaction time or the .5 second delay found in air brakes.” A truck slamming on its brakes is not a good thing. The truck getting in front of you may add a few seconds to your drive, but is shaving those seconds off really worth anyone's life?
Scenario: You're in the passing lane on a two-way highway and a truck is in front of you, with seemingly no cars to the right of them.
What you should do: DO NOT PASS THEM ON THE RIGHT. The right side of the truck has the biggest blind spot. They could possibly run you off the road and not even know it! Be patient, wait for them to move back over (maybe there's something up ahead that you can't see) and then safely pass in the left lane.
The best thing you can do to help is read through the information on this site and try to follow it (we're all human and sometimes we make mistakes!).
You can also help spread awareness by getting a MindTrucks.org bumper sticker and putting it on your vehicle! A campaign on Indie GoGo's platform Generosity has been started to help raise funding for merchandise.
I drive 66 miles on the highway Monday through Friday; on an average day, I see around 200 tractor trailers. Over the last 3 years, I have witnessed accidents, accidents that almost occurred, and people generally being terrible to truck drivers. I want to spread awareness in hopes of saving lives and make the roads safer for everyone!
Please feel free to send me any suggestions or resources that you think could benefit anyone visiting this website.
Last update: January 8th, 2017