The View Through My Windshield

[The second in a series about highway and trucking safety]

Every day, five days a week, I drive the highways of western Canada, and I see a lot of things. In a previous blog post I wrote about the State of the Industry which posted my opinions on some of the issues that I see in the trucking industry. But I also see many other things as I drive down the highway.

As a professional driver I have daily interactions with other drivers of varying experience, and those interactions can directly affect my safety. Few industries have people entering their workspace and creating safety issues, but trucking is certainly one of them.

So as you drive down the highways, do you consider large trucks as a hindrance or an essential part of your life? Everything you use in your daily life was at one point on a truck, and therefore you should see a truck as an essential part.

With that in mind I’d like to point out a few of my pet peeves that I see as I spend my time out on the highway, There are many more than this, and my trucking buddies will probably have their own, but I’d just like to share a few.

My truck is heavy and it takes a long time to come up to speed, I also have 18 gears to shift to get up to speed. I can’t help the time it takes me to get up to speed. Other factors like windspeed and hills also cause the truck to take longer. But eventually I am going to get up to cruising speed. If you pass me during the time it takes me to get up to speed and then run slowly in front of me, that makes my day longer. Its difficult for me to pass, especially on an undivided highway, so consider that when you’re passing a truck.

Another one that is directly related to this, is when you pass a truck and then shortly slow down to turn. I have to slow down to allow you to turn, and then begin the process again. If you stayed behind me and lost just a couple of minutes of your day, it would be better and safer.

And while we’re on the subject of turning, you have a lever on your steering column that activates the signal lights on your vehicle, use it! I cannot read minds, and when I see you slowing down I don’t know why until you tell me. Turning your signal on at the last second is a bad idea. A good rule on the highway is to give approximately 500 metres (1500 feet) before the turn. I always try to signal first and then begin braking.

As for signals, we also have a wonderful feature called hazards (or flashers, 4-ways, etc) and they are used to signal all sorts of things. If you let me pass or change lanes, I’ll give you a few flashes of my hazards to thank you. But they’re also used to warn you of upcoming hazards that require me to slow down. Because a truck is so large, its often difficult to see around it and therefore if a truck activates its hazard lights you need to be aware why! When I enter a construction zone that requires me to slow or stop for a flagman, I’ll put on my hazards. If an emergency vehicle is stopped or oncoming with its lights activated, I’ll put on my hazards and slow down. If I see something on the road, an animal or other hazard, I’ll put on my hazards. All of these time should be a warning to you to slow down and be alert. Don’t pass unless you know its safe to do so.

When a truck is on the shoulder of the highway, whether broken down or just checking something out, or maybe even taking a bathroom break, give room if you can. Speeding by at highway speeds right alongside is extremely dangerous and unnerving. This is especially true when someone is trying to repair something at the side of the road. The person may be concentrating so much on the task at hand, that they forget their own safety. Be aware.

One of the most frustrating things I encounter is oncoming headlights and also headlights in my mirrors. This is especially true with the new LED lights that are extremely bright. Please dim your lights at an appropriate time and not just as you meet me. And if you have a truck that often hauls a utility trailer, then you need to have your headlights reaimed due to the added weight lifting the front of your truck and causing your headlights to be messed up and very bright. This is also true when you’re following me, those bright headlights in my mirrors are really annoying.

Don’t be in my safespace! I try to keep a certain distance between the vehicle in front of me and when you cut in front of me, I have to adjust my speed to accomodate you. Make sure you leave plenty of space before you cut in. Also on divided highways, don’t drive along side a large truck for a great length of time. Pass and keep moving ahead. If something happens in front of me, my only way to avoid it may be to quickly change lanes, and if you’re in the lane right along side me, I cannot do that.

These are just a few of my pet peeves that I see daily. Many of these things can turn really badly really quickly for everyone involved. Many truck drivers, including myself, have started to install dashcams in our trucks to use as defence or just to point out things that we see. YouTube is full of dashcam videos of accidents from people doing unnecessarily dangerous manoeuvres around trucks. Obviously it is not always the other driver at fault, many times it is the so called professional driver, but if we all do our part, we can make the highways much safer.

God Bless.

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