When you’re in the right lane next to mine 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) or in heavier traffic, I may be passing you or you may be passing me. While passing on the left is the safer option, many drivers pull up on my right side, either to pass or to prepare to exit the highway.
When you have advanced on the right from alongside the rear of my trailer to the trailer midships (middle) section, then to the front of my trailer and finally alongside my tractor, your vehicle’s image has exited my large right mirror completely through its outer (right) edge while remaining in the small convex mirror below it and in the small convex mirror over my tractor’s right front fender, then finally has almost entirely exited through its outer (right) edge the small convex mirror below my large right mirror while remaining in my tractor’s right fender mirror. Once primarily in the right fender mirror alone, the image has diminished significantly (stands out less well) within my total mirrored field of vision.
By the time you reach the rear of my tractor, your vehicle’s image has begun to leave the convex mirror below my large right mirror and has left almost completely when you’re alongside my tractor. The right fender mirror becomes very important because I can’t see much, if any of your vehicle directly out my right side window.
On my blind (right) side I have a limited direct view below the level of the side window because so much of the tractor’s interior and hood is in the way. I can usually see the top of a standard or large size sedan, SUV or pickup. But if you’re driving a sports car or other low, small vehicle you virtually disappear from direct view. So unlike its left side counterpart, this zone is one of the more risky ones if you are passing on the right or if you have settled in it. This is in spite of the shorter relative distances our vehicles have to travel to enable me to move right into your lane.
In the event that my speed is greater than yours and I overtake you from behind, I will of course first see your vehicle directly out my windshield. Once you slide back by the front of my tractor and then alongside its middle, I rely on my right fender mirror to keep track of you. Due to my visibility limitations, it’s not a good idea to increase your speed as some drivers do and settle alongside my tractor for any length of time. I can’t devote all my attention to you as we drive along. Minding the road ahead and all other conditions in and around the truck, I may have lost my “fix” on you (sense of where you are) if we encounter an emergency requiring a fast move to your lane.
With my truck’s speed limitation, I can’t pass you in any timely fashion unless your speed is noticeably slower than mine. Many drivers, unconsciously or not, speed up when they see me swing out to pass them on their left. Then some ease off after a while to let me complete the pass while others continue on ahead of me. So I may or may not be able to return to the right lane ahead of you. If our speeds are relatively equal I may slow down to let you by me. Again, because of these maneuvering limitations, it’s best for you not to settle in this zone.
This zone poses other risks. True, you are able to see the road ahead of my truck. However, in wet or snowy weather your vehicle may still be hit by water or snow thrown sideways from my truck’s steer (right front) tire, which could obscure your view of the road ahead and my view of you. If my tractor should have a steer tire blowout, your vehicle may be hit by shrapnel and you are at risk from tractor control problems as I bring the truck to a stop (preferably on the road’s right shoulder).
Your vehicle will be alongside my tractor’s turn signal/emergency flasher light in front of the right cab door, but that light may or may not be in your direct or mirrored line of sight and the ambient (scattered) light from it is not very noticeable in daylight. The turn signal/emergency flasher light in the right headlight cluster is also not very noticeable in daylight in this risk zone.
Changing Lanes to My Right
For routine returns to the right after moving left for situations such as emergency vehicles or highway maintenance equipment and personnel or other vehicles and people on the right shoulder, I should be able to get behind you by slowing down while you continue ahead. (Of course, this assumes that no other drivers are alongside me and behind you.)
In an emergency in my lane or another lane to my left, I prefer that you continue ahead briskly while I brake hard to swerve to the right behind you. (There may not be time for me to signal and you to notice.) If we brake simultaneously, you will block me until you have cleared my trailer tail due to your shorter slowing/stopping distance. Then I may or may not have the time and space to swerve ahead of you. If I do, you benefit by being safely out of my truck’s slowing/stopping path.
Lane Change Surprises
Fortunately I have not had any emergencies requiring fast lane changes to the right. However I have had a few “close encounters” with vehicles in this zone when navigating urban interstates with exits unfamiliar to me. In being surprised and hurried by a required lane change to the right, I have come uncomfortably close to initiating the change before noticing a vehicle in my way. In these instances I have not been able to progress through the customary process of allowing several seconds of signaling and checking all mirrors more than once before initiating the change. In a couple of instances when unable to find a “hole” (adequate space to fit my truck into the traffic stream) to the right, I have had to abort the lane change and miss the exit.
These situations are my responsibility as a professional driver. But it certainly helps to have aware and responsive drivers who keep out of this zone as much as possible. There is always the possibility that I need to change lanes to my right and have not seen you. In this risk zone you are less likely to see my turn signal and warn me and/or move. Please, let’s not chance my initiating a lane change and being startled to discover you there or tragically, hitting you. It is generally best to move out of this and other risk zones alongside my truck as soon as it is practical, safe and lawful to do so.
Risk zones on a truck’s right side are more hazardous than those on its left.
Unlike its left side counterpart, this zone is one of the more risky ones because truck drivers have a limited direct view of your vehicle.
There are a number of other reasons not to settle in this risk zone, including the possibility that in daylight you may not instantly notice a truck’s turn signal/emergency flasher lights.
As a general rule, move out of this and all other risk zones around a truck as soon as it is practical, safe and lawful to do so.
When a truck trailing your vehicle moves into the lane to your left to pass you, let the driver complete the pass and return to your lane in front of you.