OBSERVATIONS AND TIPS FOR 4-WHEELERS
FROM A FRIENDLY TRUCK DRIVER
Welcome to Tips for 4-Wheelers! These articles on how to drive safely around big trucks (18-wheelers) are primarily intended for student and novice drivers of personal vehicles. Initial basic tips should seem obvious to experienced drivers, but these drivers may find some of the finer points informative.
Large tractor trailers—“big rigs” or “18-wheelers”—are understandably viewed by many drivers of personal vehicles as nuisances—big, slow and in the way. Their relative size and weight and their maneuvering limitations also make them candidates for the label “killing machine.”
Nevertheless, trucks are a necessary and increasingly numerous user of our streets and highways. They are a vital and integral part of the economies of our nation and the world. According to industry sources such as the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and HDS Truck Driving Institute websites, tractor trailers transport about 70 percent of all U.S. freight tonnage. There are approximately 2 million heavy duty class 8 tractor trailers (and an additional 1.5 million large single unit trucks) operating in the U.S., and the numbers are growing as our population and economy grow.¹
So big trucks are not going away, indeed they are proliferating. It would seem wise for drivers of personal vehicles—“4-wheelers”—to know how best to coexist, i.e., “share the road” with them. This section of TruckerScape Inc.’s website presents a series of observations and suggestions that this truck driver has gathered over his years of driving.
I have towed 53 foot dry van and refrigerated “big box” trailers, primarily. While these trailers are the most numerous, a variety of other tractor and trailer combinations also travel our highways and streets. However, most of the observations and tips presented here generally apply. I do not claim to speak for all truck drivers, but most should agree with them.
Most tips could be deemed obvious common sense and should already be part of any experienced driver’s knowledge. As such they are primarily intended for the student and novice drivers. However, as I will detail, every day on the road I see bad practices and risky maneuvers performed by all kinds of drivers. So all drivers are welcome to review this website. Just one reminder picked up and practiced by each of you could mean an accident averted, avoiding damages and injuries and even saving the lives of you, your passengers, other drivers and their passengers, and also the life and/or career of a truck driver.
NOTE: The terms “truck,” “tractor trailer,” “big rig,” “18 wheeler” and “semi” are commonly used interchangeably in traffic contexts. “Truck” is the simplest and perhaps most frequently used term for a large tractor trailer and is the one we will use most of the time in Tips for 4-Wheelers. We will use “tractor” and “trailer” when referring specifically to those two components of the “truck.”
Relevance to Autonomous Personal Vehicles and Trucks
It seems inevitable that autonomous (self-driving) vehicles will be in widespread use in the not so distant future. Personal vehicles and trucks are already being tested in various traffic and road conditions with minimal intervention by ride-along human drivers. In fact, some automated features are already in production. Sensors, controls and artificial intelligence promise driving capabilities superior to those of humans in many respects.
However, autonomous vehicles will still be required to follow the laws and other “rules of the road” and adjust for various road and weather conditions. It will be up to us to know safe driving practices, observe and judge their performances, and override their systems if necessary. Most of the advice in Tips for 4-Wheelers should hold true and be followed by autonomous vehicles as well as humans.
How to Use Tips for 4-Wheelers
Tips for 4-Wheelers is a mobile direct access reference resource, not a narrative that must be read from start to finish. Tips are organized by chapters, with each chapter highlighting different truck characteristics and types of situations involving my truck and your personal vehicle. Brief introductions to each chapter provide background and perspective for the tips that follow. I present them in an informal, conversational manner and mainly in the present tense, as if you were riding along in my cab.
To make each tip more self-contained and self-explanatory, I often insert some content from one or more related tips. This is meant to help you comprehend each tip with minimal exposure to the rest of the website. For example, significant amounts of content are duplicated in converse tips such as those in the Passing Me and Passing You chapters. Also for your convenience I include references to other relevant tips that provide additional explanation and/or detail. Finally, at the end of each tip is a “takeaway” section highlighting key points.
In addition to tips by chapter, you can display a listing of all tips with their first two text lines. From this list you can request the full text of any tip. Also available is a function that identifies all tips containing a search word that you input.
Please feel free to explore tips in any order. One suggestion I would make to novice drivers is to begin with tips in the Personal Habits and Truck Handling Characteristics and Limitations chapters.
Big trucks are proliferating and are vital to our economy and way of life, so it’s wise to know how to drive safely around them.
Tips for 4-Wheelers can be used as a mobile reference resource for experienced as well as novice drivers.
Tips for 4-Wheelers should still be relevant and useful as we progress to autonomous (self-driving) vehicles.
We should know safe driving practices in order to effectively monitor and control autonomous vehicles.
¹www.trucking.org/News_and_Information_Reports_Industry_Data.aspx; and www.hdstruckdrivinginstitute.com/semi-trucks-numbers/