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Aug 26, 2019

7 min. read

How to safely drive alongside big trucks and other commercial vehicles.

The larger the vehicle, the greater the challenge of driving near it. Commercial vehicles mean more splatters spraying your windshield, more air when driving by and less visibility for everyone.

But with the right attitude and some healthy respect for big trucks and buses, you can stay safe on the road. "When you're behind a large commercial vehicle, give yourself a six-second following distance on the highway and four seconds in town," says CAA Manitoba's Teresa Di Felice, assistant vice-president of government and community relations. Estimate the correct distance by noting when the vehicle in front passes a certain point—a lamppost or road sign—and counting down the seconds until you reach that same point.

"The bigger the vehicle, the larger its blind spots. Buses, semi-trailers and snowplows have more blind spots than a regular vehicle," Di Felice says. An 18-wheeler, for example, has four blind spots: extending forward about eight metres from its front bumper; back 60 metres from its rear bumper; from the driver's door to the trailer's midsection on the left; and from the truck's front to its rear on the right. "So give a truck lots of room, and if you decide to pass it, do so as quickly as possible while maintaining a safe speed." Don't merge or pass in front until you see the truck's tires in your rearview mirror. That'll give the big rig the right amount of stopping distance.

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When approaching a large vehicle that's driving toward you, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. "At high speeds, large trucks create air turbulence; they can throw up gravel and mud, or blowing snow in the winter," Di Felice says.

Be mindful at intersections too. "A bus or larger vehicle often goes a bit to the left to turn right or vice versa," she notes. "Don't get in between them at turns, especially right turns. Even if you see space, do not get in there, as they need that room to manoeuvre."

If you're on a multi-lane highway, it's always safest to pass another vehicle on its left because the driver's blind spot is larger on the right. There's a reason driving instructors call the left side of any vehicle its "view side," while the right side is known as the "blind side."

Likewise, when you're on a multilane highway and a large vehicle is merging ahead, you should move over a lane to allow it to drive smoothly into your vacated space. If the lane alongside isn't open, slow down or speed up to make sure there's enough room for that merging truck or bus.

Always remember that larger vehicles take longer to accelerate and stop. A large truck may not always have the right of way, but you should always respect its "right of weight."

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