Our highways accommodate millions of passenger vehicles, buses trucks, and tractor-trailers. These extremely large semi trucks carry essential products, parts, livestock, and equipment for business and consumers. Economically we need these big trucks, but sharing the road with them can be very dangerous. When driving near a tractor trailer be alert and take extra safety precautions.
Know the Risks:
Most states allow extremely large trucks and tractor-trailers to travel on major highways. The following are some of the current legal standards for semi trucks, tractor-trailers, and other large trucks:
- A loaded tractor-trailer can be up to 8 1/2 feet wide — 50% wider that a passenger car. (102 inches)
- The overall length of a truck hauling a trailer can be up to 65 feet on designated truck routes.
- The length of a tractor-trailer transporting logs can be up to 70 feet, or more than 4 times the length of an average automobile.
- There is no overall limit on the length of a semi truck, if it is pulling one trailer no longer than 50 feet or two trailers no longer than 28 ½ feet each.
- The normal maximum load for a truck with a single trailer can be as much as 80,000 pounds. A few states, including Michigan, allow trailers with multiple axles and tires to haul up to 120,000. Watch for these trucks which usually carry steel, gravel, heavy equipment, asphalt, and other extremely heavy goods.
- The maximum weight of a tractor truck with two loaded trailers can be as much as 160,000 pounds, about the same weight as 50 passenger cars.
The enormous size and weight of a tractor-trailer make it a potentially dangerous vehicle, even if a skilled and careful truck driver is at the wheel.
Safety Tips for Auto Drivers Sharing the Road with Large Trucks
If you are on the highway near a tractor trailer or semi truck, you can reduce the risk of a serious accident by driving with extra care. Here are safety guidelines to help you protect yourself and your family:
- Stay out of truck blind spots. Although every truck has side mirrors, the driver still has blind spots–areas directly behind and on both sides of the truck where the driver cannot see cars. Look at the truck, if you can’t see the driver’s side view mirrors, you are in the blind spot and the driver can’t see you. If your car is next to a large truck, either drive on past or back off. If you are passing, try to drive your car on the left side where the blind spot is smaller.
- Never follow a large truck too closely. Keep 20 to 25 car lengths between the front of your vehicle and the back of a large truck. This extra distance will allow you to see in front of the truck. In case there is congested traffic or an accident up ahead, you will see it in time to stop or safely steer your car away from the danger.
- Use extra caution when passing a large truck. After you pass a large truck, do not pull your car back into its traffic lane until you can see its headlights in your rear view mirror. Leaving this extra distance gives the truck driver the time to slow down or stop if something is happening on the highway ahead.
- Always remember that a loaded tractor-trailer or semi truck needs as much as 100 yards — the length of a football field — to come to a complete stop. No matter how crowded the highway, make sure to maintain this safe distance. If the truck driver ignores this margin of safety and follows your car too closely, do not take a chance. Move your car into another traffic lane.
- Always use your turn signals when changing lanes. Drivers around you need to know what you are doing to maintain safe driving distances.