Risk Zone: Close Behind My Truck but in the Right Lane Next to Mine, Where I Can See You in My Large Right Mirror

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

Risk Zone Pluses and Minuses

As a general rule, risk zones on my right side are more hazardous than the corresponding positions on my left.  Optics are more restrictive–the distance between me and my right side mirrors narrows my field of vision on that side, and darkness further diminishes visual clarity.  These limitations are very relevant when you are close behind my truck on the right.

On multi-lane highways or streets, if I am not in the rightmost lane, drivers may settle in the lane to my right with the front of their personal vehicles even with, or only one or two car lengths behind my trailer tail.  My ability to see them and determine our relative positions and speeds is even more limited than for left lane “close followers.”  My trailer tandem position and tail spoiler and dashed lane lines are still factors in avoiding collisions but more difficult to apply.  This is why at night truck drivers typically flash their lights when it is safe for passing trucks to return to the lane in front of them.

Drivers entering this risk zone typically do so under different circumstances than those for left lane settlers.  They may have just merged onto the highway or street from an entrance ramp after I have moved left to assist them.  Then once in the lane to my right, they may be waiting for me to return to the right in front of them, thinking they have allowed enough following distance.  Or they may be preparing to take an exit ramp from that lane or to pass me on the right.  In the last case they may be hesitating to “present” their vehicle to me to make sure I see it prior to passing me.

Sometimes when I initiate a pass on the left, drivers speed up slightly.  Since my truck’s maximum cruising speed is governed at 65 miles per hour, they can prevent me from completing the pass.  I’m not sure of all their reasons for staying in this zone but I believe a major one is that they can see ahead of them at a speed they are comfortable with—they don’t have to speed up to pass me.  From their point of view, it certainly beats driving directly behind my truck.  Or they may be preoccupied and not observing and acknowledging my truck’s position next to them (see the Awareness Tip in the Personal Habits Chapter).

This position keeps them out of the path of much of the debris from my truck’s tires that don’t get blocked by the mud flaps.  However in wet or snowy weather their vehicles may still be hit by water or snow thrown sideways and blown back from my trailer tandems and my truck wheels.  This may obscure their view of the road ahead and my view of them.

Whatever their reason(s), in good weather and road conditions they can see what is ahead in their lane (except on stretches of road curving to the left), but they often miss or ignore situations in which I need to move into their lane.

Changing Lanes to My Right

The one benefit to me is that they block other drivers from settling alongside my truck before I can change lanes to the right.  Sometimes they stay too close for an extended period of time, and I have to signal a right lane change for a considerable time before it gets their attention.  Then they may either speed up and pass on the right or slow down for me.  But such a delayed response is obviously a hazard when there is an emergency that forces me to a right lane or even the right shoulder.  If I have to brake hard it may be too late for them to stop short of me or speed by me.

In a routine lane change, having to slow down wastes time and fuel and holds up drivers directly behind me.  You can help by remaining a good distance back of me, or by backing off if you get caught closer.  Some drivers even blink me over.

The following request is as valid for this risk zone as for the corresponding zone on my left:  In a real emergency, such as one demanding a sudden lane change to avoid a potentially fatal collision, I will not have time to clear you (be sure of your vehicle’s relative position and speed).  I will have to gamble that you will be able to maneuver out of my way.  This is of course the most compelling reason to stay out of this risk zone.  Ideally you would be wise to follow the one second minimum following distance guideline or even the preferable two seconds following distance guideline described in the Risk Zone:  Close and Directly Behind My Truck tip in this chapter.  Failing that, please stay at least three or four car lengths behind my trailer tail unless and until you pass me safely and lawfully.

Takeaways

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

Especially at night or in other low visibility conditions, it is difficult for a truck driver to clear your vehicle (be sure of its relative position and speed) when it is in this risk zone.

When you’re behind a truck in the lane to its right, stay at least one second of travel behind its trailer tail unless you’re going to pass on the right.

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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