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

Charlen Raymond
Post a comment 0
 NO SUDDEN BRAKING: Trucks have a hard time stopping in as short a distance as possible. Image: iStock ~ iStock

Cape Town - With the festive already in full swing, road users will be making their way to the various holiday destinations across South Africa.

But one of the biggest concerns law enforcers and road safety activists have is that motorists tend to become impatient when driving. The rush and haste to get to the destination is not helped much by slow drivers not making use of the correct lane and/or trucks struggling to make it up a steep incline.

Truckers can't help it

When trucks make their way up an incline at a slow speed, it is important to remember that the weight that 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.

But when the truck clears the crest of the hill, motorists will often take the chance to overtake the truck just to not be caught behind it again.

WATCH: The Western Cape made a shocking road safety ad and it worked

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

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.

Stopping distances differ

Image: Arrive Alive

The above infographic explains quite clearly how difficult it is for truck drivers to stop their haulers when at speed. The graphic shows that a 56 ton truck with fully loaded trailer weighs 20 times more than an average car.

And even with trucks benefiting from the same braking technologies as cars, ie. ABS, EBD, etc., the weight still forces the truck forward.

When a car and truck travel at 48km/h and both hit their respective brakes, the car will take just under 50m to both react and execute the brake. The truck driver would need almost 10m more to stop his vehicle.

READ: Blind spots and road safety

However, when the speed is increased to 88km/h and the same experiment is tried again, the car needs only 100m to both react and bring the car to a full stop. The truck driver needs more than 140m to do the same.

In short, if the 88km/h brake test had to be done with the car in front of the truck, the latter would have demolished the car. Or worse: the car's passengers could have been killed.

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

  • When a truck passes you, stay left and slow down to allow him to pass.
  • If a truck is signalling to change lanes, give it room. The driver may be trying to avoid another vehicle.

Avoid tailgating

  • Unlike cars, trucks have a huge danger zone directly behind them. If you are tailgating a truck, the driver can’t see your car and you can’t see what is going on ahead of you.
  • Stay well behind any big truck to avoid a rear-end collision.
  • Truck wheels may throw up rocks - and certainly do throw up water when it’s raining.
  • If a truck in front of you starts to slow down, there may be trouble ahead. Take the hint and slow down too.

Don’t cut in front

  • Don’t cut in front of trucks - they need a lot more time and space to stop than cars.
  • Loaded trucks can weigh up to 56 tons and take the length of a football field to stop.
  • When entering traffic on a highway or when passing, don’t cut in front of trucks or force them to attempt a sudden stop - they could jack-knife

For more safety tips on sharing the road with trucks, visit Arrive Alive here.