Commercial Vehicles and You

Sometimes stereotypes are accurate, but often they are far, far off the mark, and that is certainly the case when it comes to long-haul truckers. It seems they are almost invariably depicted in the media as drawling, dimwitted dropouts, but the fact is that the vast majority of big-rig drivers are well-educated, totally professional and -- bar none -- the most courteous and thoughtful drivers on the road.

Still big-rig truckers often get bum-rapped for being slow, lane hogs who can't get out of their own way. But most of that perception is in the minds of drivers who don't understand the limitations of semi-trailer trucks, and, unfortunately, that lack of understanding costs precious lives each year.

Now, in an effort to foster a better awareness of how trucks operate, Roadway Express and the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSP) have partnered to create an educational video entitled, "Sharing the Road Safely with Commercial Vehicles." The video is intended to provide highway safety facts to passenger-car drivers, who have been found to be the cause of the vast majority of accidents between cars and trucks.

A key challenge to sharing the road successfully is the impression most passenger car drivers seem to have that big rigs can stop, accelerate, and maneuver like cars. The fact is, they can't. Big rigs require more time to get up to cruising speed, more time to stop, and more space to turn than typical passenger cars. It shouldn't take a physics professor to understand that. But most car-truck accidents occur because passenger car drivers fail to stay in their lane, run off the road, drive too fast for the conditions, fail to obey signs or signals, don't yield to the right of way or are simply not paying attention. Very often cars flit around trucks like bees around a flower, not realizing that trucks have big blind spots to either side, behind and even in front.

The new safety video shares the following tips for passenger car drivers:

Pass trucks quickly and don't linger in blind spots. Those blind spots (areas where truck drivers can't see you in their mirrors) are larger than you might guess, especially directly behind and on the right (passenger) side of the truck.

Allow plenty of room for trucks entering the highway or stopping. Remember trucks can't accelerate or stop as quickly as cars, so don't pull in front of them until you can see both headlights in your rearview mirror.

In construction zones, slow down, increase your following , and let other drivers merge. Don't try to be the last one to zoom in front of the truck entering a construction zone, because if you have misjudged the distance the truck can't stop short to assist you.

Keep alert and stay free of distractions. Driving a vehicle requires your full attention, and that is never truer than when sharing a highway with heavy trucks.

Drive in accordance with the conditions. Slow down and turn your headlights on if the weather is bad or visibility is reduced, because trucks can't avoid you if they can't see you.

Move over for stopped and oncoming safety vehicles.

Don't drink and drive.

Buckle up.

Copies of "Sharing the Road Safely with Commercial Vehicles" will be distributed to law enforcement agencies to use in drivers' education programs as well as to Roadway Express drivers who make presentations to the public. Roadway Express and OSP have worked together for more than six years to communicate the "share the road" message to the public.

Roadway Express drivers also work with the Ohio State Highway Patrol to train every cadet class in the safe and proper way for troopers to stop commercial vehicles. In 2001, the partners developed their first joint-effort video: "How to Safely Stop a Commercial Vehicle," which was intended to increase the safety of law enforcement officers when pulling over commercial vehicles.

"America on the Road" co-host Jack R. Nerad is proud to have thousands of long-haul and short-route truckers among his listeners.