One of the most crucial elements in the American economy is the vast fleet of semi trucks that use our roadways daily. These millions of trucks carry billions of tons of cargo annually from manufacturers to retailers for consumers to then buy. In fact, they carry about 70 percent of all cargo in the United States. When it comes down to it, our consumerist society simply wouldn’t survive without semi trucks and their drivers. For that, we should be thankful.
However, it often seems like semi trucks are constantly clogging our roadways. They often drive slower than the rest of traffic, and when it comes down to it, they can be terrifying to drive next to. It sometimes seems like one strong wind could knock the trailer over and right on top of a car. While this is probably the last danger you should think about, there are some common risks you should be aware of when driving around semi trucks in California. Being impatient or hasty while driving near these behemoth vehicles could result in a serious wreck — one that could leave you injured or even killed.
Maybe you’ve heard the myth that driving close behind semi trucks will help you save gas. In theory, this is true; less wind resistance means less gas used. But there are important factors to consider. One, you have to constantly speed up and slow down to maintain a safe distance, as MythBusters proved. Second, even if you can keep a safe, yet close, distance consistently, the gas savings are minimal. That few cents a gallon isn’t worth your life if the truck brakes suddenly.
You also need to be careful driving beside or in front of a truck. If you can help it, never pass a semi truck on the right. Truckers have a massive blind spot on the right side, and there just isn’t a good mirror setup to cover it all. If you do pass a truck, make sure you can see the very top of the cab in your rear-view mirror before merging over. Once you get in front, stay well ahead if you can. Due to the size and weight of these trucks, they simply take farther to come to a complete stop — up to three times farther. All in all, the further you can stay away from semi trucks while you’re driving, the better off you’ll be.
Your car is likely carrying no more than a thousand pounds — and that’s with a few good-sized people as passengers. Even so, you likely don’t notice any difference in performance driving up or down hills. Sure, your car may need to shift into a lower gear to maintain speed on a steeper hill, or you may need to lightly apply the brake going down. But overall it’s fairly consistent. As such, you may think all vehicles can do the same.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for semi trucks. Due to the weight of their cargo, they may slow down going up a hill, or speed up going down. In areas of steep ups and downs, you may even see runaway truck ramps. Obviously, it is best to stay far ahead of a semi if you are in a hilly area. If you can’t get far in front of it, stay behind it. While it may make a slower drive, it’s much better to need to react to an errant semi truck than have it respond to you.
In general, the best thing you can do is be a defensive driver around semi trucks. If they need to get over, there’s probably a good reason for it. Don’t force them to wait; it could mean disaster for other drivers on the road. The truck driver is just doing their job, which sometimes means inconveniencing other drivers. Allow them to work; they quite literally put food in the stores.
Truck accidents are some of the deadliest on California’s roadways. While some may be unavoidable, there are many ways to avoid such a wreck. When it comes down to it, being patient and wary around semi trucks could save your life.