Detonation; Be Safe Out There
Semitrucks, big rigs, tractor-trailers, Class 8 trucks—whatever you want to call them—are part of everyday life on U.S. highways. They help keep us and our neighbors to the north and south moving economically by transporting the goods and materials we use each day. Dump trucks, flatbeds, fuel haulers, logging trucks, box trucks, and such are elements of a complex shipping system that can get products and materials moved across town or from coast to coast quickly and efficiently.
Despite everything big trucks do to keep us supplied with goods, these haulers get a bad rap from people who complain and automatically lay blame on a truck and/or its driver when something goes wrong on the highway. As holder of a commercial driver’s license, I have had the opportunity to drive many different trucks and vehicle combinations over the years. My experiences have taught me that when you’re driving a truck, most motorists are typically oblivious to the massive vehicle you are operating. They don’t understand what it takes to maneuver and stop large vehicles (this also holds true for pickup trucks with trailers).
When driving in the proximity of a truck/trailer combination that could possibly weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, a high level of caution should be used. While something weighing that much can flatten a Toyota Prius like an aluminum can, every day on the highways in Southern California, I see people acting like these behemoths aren’t there, driving between and around the trucks as though they are able to turn and stop easily. What these drivers do not realize is that at freeway speeds, the stopping distance of a big rig is not just a few feet, it is more like the length of a football field (100 yards)—and making an abrupt turn is nearly impossible.
The evening news often gives us gruesome images of the aftermath of exactly what a big rig can do to a passenger car or pickup. It can be hard to tell what type of vehicle was in the altercation with the truck. And when trucks crash into each other, their combined masses cause serious, sometimes catastrophic damage.
There are many factors that cause accidents. Negligent drivers, bad weather, and mechanical issues are only a few examples of what can cause vehicles to unintentionally intertwine. All the things we were taught in driver’s training, like allowing for a buffer zone and making sure there is a proper amount of following distance, are a great help in avoiding problems. But I believe one of the best ways for people to avoid hitting or being hit by another vehicle is to not drive like an “idiot.” Don’t be the person who jumps from lane to lane, only to end up having to brake hard in order to avoid running into someone. It really serves no purpose other than causing the rest of the drivers on the road to make evasive maneuvers to avoid being hit or crashing.
The Nevada Highway Patrol has put together a program called “The Badge on Board Operation” to combat the increasing number of horrific crashes involving big rigs and to make the highways safer for all motorists. The NHP outfitted a semitruck with all the electronics and equipment of a regular police cruiser to patrol the motorways around Las Vegas. Using a truck driver’s vantage point gives officers a better perspective of how other cars and trucks behave around big rigs. NHP can see which drivers make improper passes, illegal lane changes, or any other maneuvers that make it dangerous for commercial vehicles and issue citations for infractions they observe. The main focus of the operation is to reduce the number of truck-related accidents by bringing greater awareness to dangers on the road, particularly around the big trucks.
The NHP is also using outdoor billboards, newspaper ads, radio spots, fuel-pump toppers, and other media to help increase the public’s awareness about the need for safer driving habits. It is good to see law enforcement being proactive, trying to gain better understanding of what it is like hauling tens of thousands of pounds while dealing with drivers who act like you’re not there. Hopefully, this program and any others like it will make highways safer for everyone. Remember, the most important thing about driving is to get where you are going safely.