Road safety: Cutting trucks off? Here's why it is extremely dangerous

Charlen Raymond
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 MIND THE TRUCK: Overtaking a truck is one thing, but there are a lot of factors to consider to do it safely. Image: iStock ~ iStock

Cape Town - Motorists and truck drivers have no choice but to share the same roads in South Africa, but sometimes tempers can flare and leave one or more parties very frustrated.

One of the things some motorists often make themselves guilty of is cutting in front of a truck. Not only can this action slow the truck's momentum, but it can also be very dangerous.

Truckers can't help it

It is important to remember that the weight the truck is carrying is often a good couple of tons. It not only slows a truck down, but it requires the driver to take extra caution when hauling it around.

What motorists don't always realise is that truck drivers have to regulate every inch of that truck.

READ: Road safety - Why motorists should consider truck drivers this festive season

Harsh braking, sudden direction changes and irregular acceleration can all influence the driveability of the truck. So imagine when a vehicle suddenly stamps on the brakes while driving in front of a truck. That trucker has to react to that while keeping the truck and the trailer stable.

And what's more, if that truck is driving at its maximum allowed speed, the possibility exists that the truck won't be stopped in time.

Overtaking a truck

Arrive Alive lists a number of important factors to consider when overtaking a truck; each one just as important as the next. These tips will ensure that all road users are safe this festive season.

1. Passing trucks:

When passing a truck, allow one car length for every 16km/h. For example, if you're travelling (at) 60km/h, leave four car lengths between you and the front of the truck before merging back over.

2. Rear-view mirror:

When passing, if you can see the entire front of the truck in your rear-view mirror, it's safe to merge back into the lane.

3. Maintaining your speed:

Once you pass a truck and return to the right lane, do not slow down. Maintain your speed and make sure there is a safe space between the truck and your car. Trucks take longer to regain their speed after being slowed down and may slow the traffic behind them.

For more tips on passing a truck safely, visit the Arrive Alive website here.

Cars and truck working together

Arrive Alive lists a number of helpful tips on how motorists and truckers can use the same road without getting in each other's way:

Avoid blind spots

  • 70% of all truck-related car fatalities are initiated by car drivers.
  • 35% of them occur in the blind spots around trucks.
  • Truck drivers can’t see anything closer than 10 metres and sometimes up to 50m behind the trailer.

Passing safely

  • The longer the truck, the more distance you will need to pass it.
  • Pass from where the driver can see you - not from directly behind the truck.
  • Never pass on the left - the blind spot is even larger on that side.
  • When passing - stay as far to the right as is deemed safe. Don’t linger in the passing.
  • It is possible to get rear-ended by a truck or bus if you cut in front too soon after passing. A truck can’t stop quickly!

Wide turns

  • Truck drivers sometimes need to swing wide either to the left or right to safely make a turn at intersections.
  • They cannot see cars squeezing in between them and the curb.
  • Watch for their signals and give them time to turn.

Help trucks get by