The trucking industry has received some good news that applies to all of us, since we all share the road with trucks. According to the new study Best Practices for Truck Safety by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), the number of fatalities and injuries from heavy truck collisions continues to decline markedly. The report also examines practices for continued improvement. Surprisingly, one of its suggestions targets the driving behaviour of other drivers around trucks.
That’s right. The TIRF report suggests that the biggest opportunity for improving truck safety lies in the hands of passenger vehicle drivers, who need a better understanding of how trucks operate. Here’s why:
In BC, 57% of truck-car crashes are caused by the car driver. Truck drivers are responsible in only 19% of serious multi-vehicle crashes.
Truck crashes involving other vehicles can have horrendous consequences because trucks can weigh 40 – 50 times more than passenger vehicles.
A Michigan Transportation Research Institute study concluded that:
Head-on crashes occurred in the truck’s lane 8 times more often than in the passenger vehicle’s lane.
Passenger vehicles were 6 times more likely to sideswipe and 5 times more likely to rear-end a truck than the reverse.
For truck safety to reach the next level, safe driving behaviour around trucks has to become as common for car drivers as buckling up. Here are some basics:
Don’t tailgate a truck. Stay 20 – 25 car lengths back so you can see and react to rapidly slowing traffic, crashes or debris on the road.
When passing a truck, make sure you see the truck’s headlights in your mirror before pulling into the truck’s lane. Heavy trucks need a lot more space to stop than cars.
Pass trucks quickly and, if you can, on the left where the truck driver’s blind spot is smaller. If you can’t see the driver’s face in his or her mirror, you’re in a blind spot and the driver can’t see you.
Sharing the road with the public is both a privilege and a responsibility that most trucking companies take seriously. They demonstrate their commitment to their workers and public safety by investing heavily in driver training, vehicle maintenance and strict safety policies. Other improvements can and will come through better truck driver training programs and standards, higher driver licensing standards, taking unsafe trucks and companies off the road, adopting speed limiters for trucks, finding ways to reduce fatigue, and recognizing and rewarding safe trucking companies.
The government, ICBC, law enforcement and trucking companies are taking responsibility for initiatives like these. But safety initiatives won’t entirely succeed without the support, commitment and cooperation of all drivers on BC’s roads.