With so many tractor-trailers on the road, it should come as no surprise that they are involved in a significant number of highway accidents.
Conditions that cause tractor-trailer accidents
Among the most common causes of tractor-trailer collisions are:
Size and weight differences
A tractor-trailer ranges in weight from 5,400 kilograms to more than 36,000 kilograms, which is more than 25 times heavier than the average passenger vehicle. That weight discrepancy is also the reason why a tractor-trailer takes longer to stop than a car or light truck. A car travelling 88 kilometres per hour takes 80 metres to stop, while a large truck needs another 14 metres.
Truck drivers get paid by the kilometre, not by the hour. Because of this, many tractor-trailer drivers drive longer than they should. Fatigue reduces reaction time and can impair driver judgment.
Long hours on the road can cause some truck drivers to become distracted and bored. Some will talk on their cell phones or with a passenger instead of watching the road ahead.
Badly maintained roads, poor visibility and unfavourable weather can make driving more hazardous. Wet roads or dense fog can challenge a driver's ability to maintain control and stability.
Improper weight distribution
Tractor-trailers haul all different types of loads, with various densities. If a load is not properly distributed, the trailer can sway.
Passenger vehicles sometimes aggressively weave through traffic lanes and cut in front of tractor-trailers, forcing them to brake suddenly.
How to avoid tractor-trailer accidents
Here are some tips to help you avoid collisions with tractor-trailers:
Beware of blind spots
Tractor-trailers have large blind spots, called "no-zones," located at the rear of the truck, the side and the connecting point between the truck and the trailer. A good rule of thumb is: if you can't see the driver in the truck's side mirrors, the driver can't see you. If you plan to pass, make sure the truck driver can see you and knows your intention.
Don't change lanes abruptly
Any sudden motion in a truck driver's periphery can cause the vehicle to respond unpredictably.
Avoid getting squeezed
At an intersection, be aware that tractor-trailer drivers can sometimes make wide turns. Allow the truck a wide berth to avoid getting caught in the driver's blind spot.
Keep a safe distance
Maintain a following distance of 20 to 25 car lengths when you're behind any tractor-trailer.
Drive within the speed limit
Driving at a safe speed is the key to driving defensively.
Always use turn signals when passing
Give the tractor-trailer every available visual indicator of your intentions.
Adjust driving speed to climate conditions
Rain, snow and high winds can make driving behind a tractor-trailer more hazardous. Allow more distance to maximize braking capabilities.
Give the truck a wider berth uphill
If you are behind a tractor-trailer on an incline, allow more space in case the driver is struggling to shift gears and the truck starts to drift backwards.
In an emergency, pull completely off the road
If your vehicle becomes impaired, pull off the road as far as possible. Place hazard lights or flares at both ends to warn approaching traffic, then move as far away from your vehicle as you can.
Avoid road rage
If you feel that a tractor-trailer driver is acting too aggressively, don't react in kind. Road rage helps no one and only increases the probability of an accident.