Caution Zones Introduction

Last Edited: July 22, 2019 // by TruckerScape, Inc.

BASICS

The chapter on Risk Zones focuses on personal vehicle moves into and out of risk zones from behind and in front of trucks on the open highway (typically on interstates or major highways with two or more lanes in each direction, in sparse traffic, usually in the countryside).  This Caution Zones chapter focuses on sideway moves into and out of risk zones from two lanes away that personal vehicles and trucks make on multiple-lane highways.  Multiple-lane highways are typically city freeways with three or more lanes in each direction to handle large traffic volumes, but the number of interstate lanes may be increased in other areas such as with passing lanes on mountain pass ascents and descents.

The positions of personal vehicles two lanes away from trucks, called “caution zones,” become more significant in heavier traffic.  While not inherently risky themselves, caution zones may be sources of risky or hazardous outcomes depending on maneuvers that personal vehicles and trucks perform from them; hence their name.

There are two important reminders about caution zones for personal vehicle drivers.  First, truck drivers’ mirrors do not clearly capture images of vehicles moving beside our trucks in some of these zones that are two or more lanes to the left or right of our lane.  Our large mirrors and the small convex mirrors mounted below the large mirrors and over the tractor fenders are aimed back along the sides of our tractor and trailer at the lanes next to our trucks, and their fields of vision out to their sides are limited.  So we depend on help from personal vehicle drivers changing lanes toward our trucks to watch for our turn signals and actions and avoid a collision in case we begin to move to the same lanes at the same time.

In fact as a general rule drivers two lanes or more to the left or right of trucks should assume that their vehicles are not visible to truck drivers until they are even with, or in front of the tractors where they are in truck drivers’ direct line of sight.  This even applies to me in my newest 2017 model tractor, despite better side vision from improved convex mirrors (see the Vision tip in the Truck Handling Characteristics and Limitations chapter).

One other important non-mirror detail:  Truck drivers have a broader direct view out the left side of their cabs (tractors) than out the right side.

The second reminder is that a lane change by either driver can put a personal vehicle into a risk zone.  Fortunately this is a more common occurrence than averting a lane change collision.  Hopefully the personal vehicle driver recognizes the risk zone entered, how her image is picked up by the truck driver, and the importance of exiting all risk zones whenever practical, safe and lawful to do so.

Personal vehicle drivers are advised to stay vigilant when in the following positions around trucks.  The reasons why are clarified in this chapter’s tips.  You may be surprised to learn that all of these caution zones are “within range,” worth at least some care from you.  Possible moves from specific caution zones to corresponding risk zones are addressed, under the assumption that your vehicle’s speed is roughly the same as my truck’s speed or slightly faster.  (Situations in which personal vehicle speeds can be significantly greater than truck speeds, such as on mountain passes, are covered in the Passing chapter.)  For your convenience, the tip for each risk zone entered is noted.  Where appropriate, risk zone tips advise you on safe spacing around trucks.  Also, it may be helpful to review the Vision, Lights and Hearing tips in the Truck Handling Characteristics and Limitations chapter before continuing with the following caution zone tips:

Caution Zones

Close behind my truck and two lanes to the left of mine

Close behind my truck and two lanes to the right of mine

Even with the rear section of my trailer on my left side, and two lanes to the left of mine

Even with the rear section of my trailer on my right side, and two lanes to the right of mine

Even with the middle section of my trailer on my left side, and two lanes to the left of mine

Even with the middle section of my trailer on my right side, and two lanes to the right of mine

Even with the front of my trailer on my left side, and two lanes to the left of mine

Even with the front of my trailer on my right side, and two lanes to the right of mine

Even with my tractor on my left side, and two lanes to the left of mine

Even with my tractor on my right side, and two lanes to the right of mine

Even with the front of my tractor on my left side, and two lanes to the left of mine

Even with the front of my tractor on my right side, and two lanes to the right of mine

Close in front of my truck on my left side, and two lanes to the left of mine

Close in front of my truck on my right side, and two lanes to the right of mine

Takeaways

When in a caution zone around a truck, it is safest to assume that your vehicle is not visible to the driver until it is even with, or in front of the tractor.

When in any caution zone around a truck, remain vigilant in case it moves toward you and puts you in a risk zone.

When moving from a caution zone towards a truck, be prepared to avoid a collision if the truck driver begins to change lanes toward you at the same time.

When in a lane next to a truck, be aware of the zone you’ve entered and its risks.

As a general rule, move out of all risk zones around a truck as soon as it is practical, safe and lawful to do so.

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