Reliving The Obvious

I’ve been on the truck with my trainer now since Monday.  We’ve made it to Georgia and have been lucky enough to have fabulous weather the whole way (knock on wood).  It’s been sunshine and cool breeze (and freezing temperatures, but hey, not everything can be perfect) for days now.

As I’ve been getting my bearings being on a truck again, I’ve been reminded of a few things that you would think are obvious, but obviously aren’t to the vast majority non-commercial vehicle driving population.

TRUCKS DON’T HAVE THE ABILITY TO DO ZERO TO SIXTY IN 3.6 SECONDS

It seems like most people don’t have a simple understanding of physics.  The greater the mass and weight of a moving object, the harder it is to speed up.   Eighteen wheelers, which can weigh 80,000 lbs when fully loaded, take a while to work through all of the gears they’ve got to get up to speed.  The Freightliner Cascadia I’m driving has 8 gears.  Some trucks have as many as 13 or so.  So, when you are following behind a truck, tailgating  the truck isn’t going to give the driver a hint that you think the truck should speed up.  No, instead it shows the driver that you are impatient and likely to cause an accident when you speed around the truck at your first opportunity to pass.  The driver can only make the truck do the best it can do.  It can’t magically go faster to get up to speed.

LIKEWISE, TRUCKS CAN’T STOP ON A DIME

The greater the mass and weight of a moving object, the harder it is to slow down.  That’s why freight trains can take over a mile to fully come to a stop.  A big rig, fully loaded can take a heckuva long time to come to a stop.  That is why it is a bad idea to get into the little space bubble that responsible truck drivers try to keep in front of them.  In heavy traffic, the driver of a car may see that there is a giant space between the truck and the vehicle in front of it.  So the driver pulls into that space (often times cutting the truck driver off), which then forces the truck driver to compensate and slow down in order to get that space back.  If the truck driver doesn’t, and something causes the car driver to have to slam on the brakes, then that truck is going to run over the backside of the car before the truck can ever slow down and stop.

Most people just really don’t seem to grasp the physics of high speeds and large moving objects.

Even before I became a professional truck driver, I always gave trucks lots of space.  It just seemed like the smart thing to do.  It still is.  So I ask drivers of four wheeled vehicles:  please give trucks their space, respect following distances (both yours and theirs), and be aware of the physics behind starting and stopping big rigs.  In addition, give even MORE space during times of nasty weather and road conditions.  It’s even harder to control trucks  (heck, it’s harder for ALL vehicles) in adverse weather and road conditions.  Ice?  Rain?  Fog?  Snow?  Give trucks LOTS and LOTS of room.

SOME OF THE BIGGEST OFFENDERS ARE TRUCK DRIVERS THEMSELVES

If you witness a truck driver cutting other vehicles off, not using safe following distances, speeding, or doing some other unsafe behavior, take note of the truck number on the side of the truck (usually up on the nose) and call the 800 number that most trucks have posted on their trailers.

If you see a driver weaving all over in their lane (usually if a driver is weaving all over the place it means he or she is fatigued and fighting to stay awake at the wheel and losing that fight), I have no problem with you calling the cops.  Seriously.  This may make me unpopular with other drivers, but I would much rather that driver be made to get off the road.  I don’t know how many times in the past when I was driving before that other drivers came very near to clobbering the side of my truck with theirs as they weaved and bobbed in their lanes.  That shit will get people killed.  I don’t want to be a victim myself and you shouldn’t be a victim either.  If you see someone weaving like that, give them a LOT of room, find a place where you can safely call (unless you’ve got hands-free calling and your state allows it) and call 911.

DRIVING A TRUCK IS LIKE RIDING A BICYCLE

It seems the old cliche is true.  I’m finding the old abilities coming back, no problems at all.  I was afraid I wouldn’t remember how to back properly, and it turns out I’ve got nothing to worry about.  In fact, my trainer and I are running like a team already.  It’s been fun, though ‘I’d rather have my own truck.  We’re headed back to the west coast now, and I should be home probably inside the week.  It won’t be long before I’m out on my own and doing my own thing.  I can’t wait!

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6 thoughts on “Reliving The Obvious

  1. I’m glad you are excited to be back on the road in a truck. At the risk of offending you, however, I will do everything in my power to avoid driving behind or beside you. My most frightening driving experience ever involved being caught in the middle of a convoy, on the inside lane, in the dark and rain, visibility so low that at times I couldn’t see my hood ornament, going 70+, and not being able to get to the right hand lane so I could get the hell out of there. I had my four-ways on and was blowing my horn, but it took 20 minutes for anyone to move enough for me to extract myself.

    I know you won’t be like this, but keep folks like me in mind, okee doke?

    • Oy, sounds like you had a fun time. Convoys are actually illegal, yet I still see trucks traveling in tight packs from time to time. Those would fall under the category of drivers who are some of the biggest offenders, doing stupid things in their trucks, lol. I can feel your pain!

  2. I’m good about following, but I am sometimes the person who cuts over too soon. I’ll try to do better. 🙂

    I’ll second the recommendation of calling 911 if you see someone weaving. If it’s a car, try to get the license plate number (and make/model/color if you can) then drop back, even if you have a passenger to make the call. The more info you can give the police, the more likely they’ll be able to identify the car in question. I’ve done that and seen the patrol car come up behind the unsafe driver, follow long enough to confirm that they’re weaving, then pull them over.

    • That’s good! I’m glad. You have to be proactive about these things. Besides, wouldn’t you feel awful if you saw some truck weaving (or car), didn’t call and then later on the news saw how that vehicle got in an accident involving fatalities? I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.

  3. Holly, do they teach you the thing about flashing your lights to signal another truck that you’re leaving them room to move over? I learned about that when I was driving an RV, but very few non-truck drivers seem to know about it.

    • Yep. But these days, they discourage drivers from doing that. This is because it can even be more dangerous. If you rely on somebody flashing lights and trust them to be right, if they aren’t, you are going to be in a world of hurt (not to mention the car you clobbered that the flasher didn’t notice). In addition, if you flash your lights for someone to move over, and someone darts into that lane, or you didn’t see somebody, the person trusting your flash can then say “but she flashed it was safe” and then you are also liable for the accident. Truck companies don’t want the headache of hashing this all out in court. So they say, don’t flash. Just let the driver figure it out for him/herself.

      Nice, huh?

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