Information About 18-Wheeler Safety & How To Avoid An Accident

by Terry Bryant

Statistics indicate that roadways across the United States can be dangerous even for the most careful driver. Regardless of how experienced a driver may be behind the wheel, how cautious a driver may be around other vehicles, and how defensive a driver’s outlook, there’s always the chance that an accident can occur due to the negligence of another driver.

Unfortunately, safety rules are sometimes weakened rather than strengthened. This is all too often done by those in power for the financial benefit of special interest groups, and at the expense of others.

In recent years, traffic safety laws aimed squarely at some of the most powerful interests on the road—18-wheeler companies—have at times been weakened rather than strengthened. Only one party benefits and it’s neither the general public nor the truck drivers themselves. Instead, these changes are often pushed by the trucking industry and other entities with vested commercial interests.

Profit over Safety

After intense lobbying pressure by the trucking industry, a variety of policies favoring profit over safety are currently being considered by Congress. Backed by shipping giants UPS and FedEx, as well as trucking industry trade association behemoth the American Trucking Associations (ATA), changes proposed as recently as 2015 would mean longer big rigs, sleepier drivers, and drivers as young as 18-years-old behind the wheel:

  • Regardless of a state’s current prohibition of such truck sizes, trucking companies would be allowed to attach two 33-foot trailers, which is a significant size increase over today’s limit of two 28-foot trailers.
  • Whittling away at what little rest drivers get today, proposals include a reduction in current rest period law requirements.
  • 18-year-olds would be allowed to drive 18-wheelers, yielding more inexperienced drivers on the road.

The Cold Reality of Trucking Fatalities and Injuries

Whether on their daily commute or enjoying a cross-country road trip, most drivers have experienced a dire sense of unease around 18-wheelers. That sense is well-founded. After all, tractor trailers are involved in a disproportionate amount of accidents on the road, with many crashes resulting in fatalities. Given the comparative size of these trucks to passenger cars, this should surprise no one.

While trucking industry groups are likely to continue pushing further for a profit-over-safety model, there are fortunately some things that a driver can do to avoid or minimize the possibility of an accident with an 18-wheeler:

  • Drive Defensively: When around 18-wheelers, keep an eye on truck behavior and maintain a significant distance from the vehicle whenever possible. If there are multiple lanes available and they are easily accessible, safely move further away from the truck. While driving defensively is wise in every circumstance, extra care should be taken around trucks. Never tailgate a semi and keep a cool head, regardless of the circumstance. By driving defensively and maintaining a safe distance, a driver is more likely to be prepared for another vehicle’s next move and with the size and weight of large trucks, this is doubly important.
  • Pass with Caution: When passing an 18-wheeler, do so with extreme caution and vigilance. Remember, it’s impossible to know the state of the driver: he or she may be fatigued, stressed, or inexperienced, for example, and if there’s no reason to take a chance, don’t do it.
  • Beware of Turns: Large trucks make wide turns. For an 18-wheeler to make a right turn, the truck driver may first need to veer to the left. Again, in this circumstance it’s wise to keep a safe distance from an 18-wheeler.
  • Avoid the Truck’s Blind Spots: As some truckers warn with stickers or other signage, trucks have blind spots. As the name implies, there are locations around a truck in which the driver cannot see other vehicles. If a trucker cannot see a vehicle, the likelihood of an accident may increase dramatically. As a result, it’s wise to avoid these spots altogether by keeping a generous distance.