To the average car driver, the presence of trucks on the road generates, at best, one big eye-roll, often perceived as dangerous and foreboding. At the same time, they fail to understand just what it takes to handle these engineered marvels.
Sitting behind the wheel of a heavy vehicle is not like driving a sedan or a ute. Trucks require confidence, experience and skill to operate even in the best conditions. When people are recklessly weaving in and out of lanes and hiding in blind spots, it creates a lot of unnecessary danger for everyone on the road.
Whether it’s fuelled by poor driving habits or a lack of understanding, here are the top five pet peeves car drivers do that drive truckies crazy.
Pulling Out In-front
The average truck’s vast size and weight means stopping is not as simple as hitting the brakes. Cars react quickly to traffic changes, but trucks require a gradual slow-down in anticipation of a change, even during a green light. By the time that they’ve reached the light, which is now amber, they’re travelling at a speed that is safe to stop. Pulling in front of trucks prevents that safe braking distance and puts your life, the truck driver and the surrounding traffic in danger. The driver must brake suddenly at an inappropriate speed to avoid hitting you and considering the vast weight and force of motion these vehicles have, stopping is not easy.
This harsh braking also puts stress on the truck’s internals, reducing the lifespan of tyres, potentially causing damage and burns more fuel. If the vehicle is equipped with vehicle tracking, the harsh braking then continues to trigger an alert, meaning drivers take the blame for situations often beyond their control. Public road users must be cautious of suddenly veering around larger vehicles for not only their own safety, but for the peace of mind for the truck driver behind the wheel.
Fluctuating Speeds on the Highway
Many car owners don’t realise just how much fuel a truck can use from trying to stay out of their way. Fleet managers need consider not only speed limiting but how best to coach their drivers on maintaining a consistent speed as much as possible. For this reason, many fleet managers install fleet management software as a way of keeping track of excessive fuel use.
As drivers transport goods across long distances, they need to anticipate the behaviour of other drivers on the road, so they can minimise changes in speed. Yet reading minds is easier said than done when sharing the roads with cars that can unexpectedly speed up or slow down while they converse with passengers or have a lapse in concentration. Having to constantly adjust speed and travel distance can make simple highway driving very stressful – a truck can’t react as quickly as a passenger vehicle to prevent an unexpected change in traffic.
Parking Too Close
Have you ever tried reversing a car with a trailer? That’s difficult enough, let alone reversing in a truck, which can be sometimes, up to 36.6 metres in length and have a more limited turning circle – some combinations can even reach 53.5 metres! Combined with parked cars blocking your line of sight and it becomes nearly impossible. When reversing in a car, you worry you might graze a nearby car and scratch up your paintwork. A truck driver has much more to worry about, especially considering their size.
During a delivery where a heavy vehicle must reverse into a loading area, having enough room and getting the precise angle is imperative. Yet with smaller vehicles scattered around the entrance, it increases the risk of collision. Sure, finding a park is tough, but when car owners are parking around areas that are frequented by heavy vehicles, sometimes in make-shift spots, that need to safely and quickly get in and out of loading bays, it’s a recipe for disaster. Even simple 90 degree turns for a truck aren’t as simple – it can require the heavy-vehicle to cross lanes. Obeying the ‘Do not overtake turning vehicle’ signs on vehicles is important, regardless if they’re turning to park or turning onto a highway.
Diagram from the Government of South Australia driver's handbook website.
Hiding in blind spots
Those warnings on the back of trucks saying, “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you” are self-explanatory, yet that doesn’t stop some people. Driving up behind trucks and tucking yourself away into blind spots exposes you to potential harm. If a truck needs to brake suddenly or just change lanes, a smaller vehicle that was driving too close can easily be hit and the damage can be devastating. When driving in heavy congestion it’s easy to forget safe driving distance, yet getting up-close and personal with a truck leaves drivers truly blind. The diagram below displays the blind-spots of a heavy vehicle in yellow.
Diagram from the Australian Trucking Association Road Ahead website.
Understanding the pressure
To a truck driver, a car licence can feel like something that came out of a cereal box. The level of skill required to handle a truck compared a standard vehicle just doesn’t compare. Heavy vehicles require a specialised license for a reason that ranges in levels based on the vehicle configuration required to drive. It’s a highly skilled job with a lot of pressure. If an incident occurs, it’s the truck driver that tends to get blamed for being negligent when more often than not, it was due to the behaviour of other drivers. Considering the Chain of Responsibility laws have vastly changed this, it’s still on the driver’s conscience.
Trucks require other drivers to give them enough space and respect so they can get to their destinations effectively and safely. Staying compliant and mindful of everything else on the road is a constant struggle. Car drivers need to realise that actions that are second nature, like braking or turning suddenly, isn’t as straightforward in a truck. Safety and driver behaviour needs to be at the forefront for everyone.