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!