Sharing the Road With Big Rigs

My father was a truck driver for as long as I can remember. It was in the days when there were virtually no creature comforts in the cabs of the trucks. I donít think he ever drove a truck with air-conditioning, and there were certainly no CD players, video monitors, or CB radios. One night during the summer, around 10 PM, he was driving between Dallas and San Antonio and fell asleep while driving. He woke up too late to navigate a turn in the highway and turned the big rig on its side, spilling 40,000 gallons of paint in pop-top cans. It was a mess, but nobody was killed.

Without truckers, there would be no gas, grocery store shelves would be empty, and the economy would crater. The 18-wheelers you see today carry heavier loads than ever before, and will go faster than in years past. I was proud of what my Dad did for a living, but as someone who drives a lot, I see a lot of truckers these days who drive too fast, drive too aggressively, seem to have trouble staying in their lane, and I often see them bully their way into traffic.

The stats would seem to agree, take a look at the IIHS statistics from 2018, the most current available:

  • A total of 4,136 people died in large truck crashes in 2018.†Sixteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 67 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, and 15 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists.
  • Ninety-six percent of vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a passenger vehicle and a large truck in 2018 were occupants of the passenger vehicles.
  • Seventy-four percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2018 were in crashes involving tractor-trailers and 27 percent were in crashes involving single-unit trucks. Some crashes involved both a tractor-trailer and a single-unit truck.
  • Sixty-two percent of large truck occupants killed in multiple-vehicle crashes in 2018 occurred in collisions involving another large truck.
  • Fifty-two percent of deaths in large truck crashes in 2018 occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, 33 percent occurred on interstates and freeways, and 14 percent occurred on minor roads.
  • Forty-five percent of large truck occupant deaths in 2018 occurred in crashes in which their vehicles rolled over. This was slightly higher than the percentage of SUV occupant deaths and pickup occupant deaths that occurred in rollover crashes and much higher than the percentage of occupant deaths in cars (20 percent) involving rollovers.

  • People are going to continue to drive, and products must be moved from factories to merchants, so how do we co-exist? If you do battle with an 80,000-pound object traveling at over 60-miles per hour, the odds of winning are not good. So, here is a list of doníts to be conscious of while traveling the American road:

    • Donít travel next to a big truck. Slow down or speed up, but donít linger there. The trucker may not be able to see you and he or she has a much better view of the road ahead and may have to make an emergency lane change. There is also the chance the truck will blow a tire, causing a loss of control. What it says on the back of many trucks is trueÖif you canít see the driverís eyes in the side mirrors, he or she canít see you either.
    • Donít get in a truckerís way. Most truckers like the middle lane on a three-lane or wider road. It gives them more options and they donít like merging traffic. It takes a loaded truck as much as a football field and a half to stop, you donít want to cut in front of them.
    • Donít tailgate them either. When following closely to a semi, you cannot see anything in front of you except the trailer and have no idea what is happening down the road. If the trucker has to make an emergency stop, it wonít likely end well for you.
    • Donít get distracted when an 18-wheeler is around you. Truckers tend to be very good at using their blinkers. If you see a turn signal come on, be extra cautious and never get on the right side of trucker when his or her right blinker is on. Trucks need a lot of extra room to navigate turns.
    • Donít get into a road rage incident with a trucker. Be patient when a big rig is passing another truck or even a car. Acceleration is not quick in these rigs. Iíve actually seen ignorant people get mad at a trucker, cut in front of them, and slam on the brakes. That is a death wish.

    We can all safely co-exist on the highways and byways of our wonderful country, but it takes patience, skills, and a healthy respect for a vehicle that is way bigger than yours.

    Photo Credit: Carolyn Franks/
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    Jimmy B
    It seems to me truckers and smaller vehicle drivers are a lot less considerate nowadays. I used to go with my parents to Tennessee mostly on Route 66 in the '50s and the truckers were absolutely the most considerate drivers on the highway. I long for the good old days on the road.
    The Car Pro
    Thanks Jimmy. I agree, my Dad was a VERY courteous trucker for sure and most at the time were. Not sure what changed, Iím sure schedules are harder to keep now and the trucks run faster. I think the truckerís have more distractions in the cab, too.

    THANKS for being in the family!

    Jerry Reynolds
    Jerry, there is so much more to it these days. I drove 18 wheelers for a living for a long time, my dad also drove them for as long as I can remember back. I still drive for a living, but not 18 wheelers anymore, I drive my pickup hauling new RV trailers to the dealers. These days, everyone out on the highway seems to be an aggressive driver, cars, pickups and 18 wheelers alike, nobody has any patience, everyone only drives for themselves, no consideration for others out there. Driving the highways has become one of the most dangerous things people do, and even more so for those of us who drive for a living because we are out there so much more than the average person, so many more chances of being involved in a disastrous situation. There is too much traffic for the roads, they were not designed for the volume of traffic out there, and it only gets worse every day. As to the 18 wheeler drivers, they will give a CDL to anyone these days. Back when I first got my license, you had to go through so much more training than you do today. Today, after about three weeks of "Truck Driving School" they issue new drivers a CDL and turn them loose. Back when I first started driving professionally, everyone on the road was so much more courteous and considerate, especially the professional drivers. I don't know what the ultimate answer to this issue is, but as I said, the situation only gets worse as time goes on.
    The Car Pro
    Thanks for the thoughts, I appreciate them and agree, itís more dangerous and the truck drivers are not nearly as skilled as they once were. I appreciate you joining us!

    Jerry Reynolds