Risk Zone: Alongside the Front of My Tractor on My Right Side, Where You Do Not Show Up Well Directly out My Right Side Window or in the Convex Mirror over My Tractor’s Right Front Fender

Last Edited: April 16, 2017 // by TruckerScape, Inc.

Seeing You

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 from alongside the rear of my trailer to the trailer midships (middle) section, then to the front of my trailer, then alongside my tractor and finally alongside the front of 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 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, then has remained solely in the my tractor’s right fender mirror, and finally has almost entirely exited the fender mirror through its outer (right) edge.  Once alongside the front of my tractor on my right side, your vehicle’s image has almost totally exited my mirrored field of vision.

At this point your vehicle is forward of my tractor’s right cab door and alongside its steer (right front) tire and fender.  The relative distances our vehicles have to travel to enable me to move right into your lane are small.  However, 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.

Once the front of your vehicle is even with the front of my tractor or slightly in front of it, I can’t see much of your vehicle, especially at night or in other dim conditions.  Your headlights no longer show in the small mirror over my right fender and your taillights may be hidden from direct view.  Only a small part of your vehicle appears in the outer rim of the fender mirror and that fragment does not stand out in the darkened mirror reflection.

This is one of the riskiest zones for you and me if you are passing on the right or if you have settled in it.  In daylight I can see the top of your vehicle if it is 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.  I’ll know you’re there if I’ve seen you approaching from behind me, and in some other instances I can just sense your presence.  In congested city traffic you may be trapped beside me, but in that case we’re usually driving more slowly and I will probably have noticed you.

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 before most of it disappears.  Due to my visibility limitations, it’s not a good idea to increase your speed as some drivers do and settle alongside the front of 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.

(Full Disclosure:  At 5 feet 8 inches tall, my lines of sight out my tractor’s side window and across the interior and hood may be slightly more restricted than those of taller drivers.  However, I set my seat back almost perpendicular so I sit upright and slide my seat forward relatively close to the pedals and steering wheel.  Other (especially taller) drivers prefer a more reclined position with their seat back tilted rearward and the seat itself slid farther away from the pedals and steering wheel for more leg and arm room.  In that position, their lines of sight are probably not so much different from mine.)

Risks

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 and in wet or snowy weather, water or snow thrown sideways from my truck’s left steer tire is less likely to obscure your view of the road ahead and my view of you.  However, 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.

Sitting in the front seat of your vehicle, you will be forward of my tractor’s turn signal/emergency flasher light in front of the right cab door.  That light may or may not be in your mirrored lines of sight, and the ambient (scattered) light from it is not very noticeable in daylight.  You are more likely to see the turn signal/emergency flasher light in the right headlight cluster out your left side window, though it doesn’t stand out strongly in daylight.

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 up 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.

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.

Takeaways

Risk zones on a truck’s right side are more hazardous than those on its left.

This is one of the riskiest zones because low profile vehicles may virtually disappear from a truck driver’s direct view and if the truck has a right fender mirror, only a small part of a personal vehicle may appear in the outer rim.

Though you have a short distance to advance out of the way in an emergency, you are at risk from shrapnel and tractor control problems in the event of a steer tire blowout and 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.

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