Ask an experienced truck driver what they think is the #1 cause of trucking accidents, and they’ll probably point to improper merging on the part of the smaller vehicle. That’s not surprising. Many drivers treat trucks like any other vehicle, not realizing that semis have restricted visibility and need more time to speed up and slow down.
To help drivers prevent future accidents and stay safe on the highway, we’ve put together this guide to help you understand how to pass a semi-truck.
Highway trucks are largely predictable. You wouldn’t expect a truck to weave in and out of traffic, for example; they’re too cumbersome for that. If a truck is in the slow lane, there’s a good chance they’re going to stay there and that they’re driving slightly slower than the speed limit. That means you’ll need to pass them or stay behind them until they exit.
As you gain on a truck, try to change lanes as soon as it is safe to do so. Trucks have limited visibility, and drivers are trained to anticipate obstacles at a great distance. The earlier you merge into the passing lane, the more time the truck driver has to see you and keep track of your position.
Ideally, you should provide at least 3-4 car lengths before you change lanes. If you change lanes when you’re too close, you’ll be in the driver’s no-zone. In that cases, there’s a good chance they won’t see you as you pull alongside them.
If you find yourself right behind a truck and you want to change lanes, slow down a little until you’ve established good spacing.
Once you decide to pass a truck, you need to commit. Once you’re in the passing lane, your goal should be to overtake the truck and then safely merge back into the travel lane. Remember that a truck’s blind spots extend to its sides. If you linger next to the trailer or if you drive alongside the cab without completely passing it, you might be in the truck driver’s blind spot.
For this reason, you should never pass a truck on the right. Remember, the passenger-side blind spots are much wider. That means the truck driver is unlikely to see a car driving alongside them without specialized mirrors.
If the truck driver is in the passing lane and wants to merge back into the travel lane, they may not see a small vehicle alongside them. In some cases, this can cause a truck driver to force a smaller vehicle off the road.
If you ever see the front of a truck drift toward the dotted line while you’re alongside them, it may be because the driver doesn’t see you. If this happens, honk your horn to alert the driver to your presence.
Once you’ve pulled ahead of the truck, you still need to complete the pass. Again, be cognizant of the truck’s blind spot and remember that most truckers cannot see anything directly in front of their vehicle. For this reason, you should never merge in front of a truck immediately after passing or attempt to slip into a narrow spot directly ahead of them.
When you’re too close to the front of a truck, the driver is unable to see you or your brake lights. If you slow down, even slightly, the truck driver may not realize they also need to brake.
Visibility isn’t the only issue. Trucks are larger and heavier, meaning they need more time to slow down. A fully-loaded truck is not as responsive as a smaller vehicle. Even if you’re at a safe distance, the truck driver may not react fast enough if you suddenly brake.
A good rule when merging in front of trucks is to check your mirrors. If you can see the entire truck and their cab, it’s probably safe to change lanes. If you can only see part of the truck, you may be too close to merge.
If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries or wrongful death in a trucking accident, we are here for you. To discuss your crash with an experienced Kansas City Truck accident attorney from Shamberg, Johnson & Bergman, send us an email or call us at (816) 542-5999 for a free consultation.