Editorial - Put yourself behind the wheel of a big rigWe’ve all experienced it – frustration when a big truck, or two, are ahead of us on the road, making it hard to get around them.
We’ve all experienced it – frustration when a big truck, or two, are ahead of us on the road, making it hard to get around them.
But have you ever considered the situation from the truck driver’s point of view? They are, after all, only trying to share the road as they get their jobs done.
This week – National Truck Driver Appreciation Week – is an ideal time to put yourself behind the wheel of a big rig and focus on how motorists and truckers can arrive at their destinations safely.
There are more than 3.5 million professional truck drivers on the road, delivering the products that we all rely on, day in, day out. Across the U.S., they travel more than 400 billion miles delivering almost nine billion tons of freight each year.
They also contribute to the economy. Trucking accounts for 7 percent of the state’s workforce and trucking industry employers contribute more than $395 million in taxes, representing 34 percent of state taxes collected each year toward Minnesota’s highway trust fund.
The Minnesota Trucking Association provided a column from Ken Leppla, owner/operator with Northern Freight Lines, who shared his perspective as a big rig driver. He offers these points to consider:
•When a car follows too closely, the truck driver cannot easily look in their rear-view mirror to see you. “We don’t have rear view mirrors,” Leppla noted. “We rely on side mirrors. If you can’t see us in those mirrors, we can’t see you.”
•Truck divers have several blind spots in the front, back and on both sides. “The best solution,” said Leppla, “is for cars to not linger next to a truck or follow too closely behind.
•Cutting off a truck on the roadway is very dangerous. “It takes time to slow down, and we generally don’t want to swerve,” Leppla said. “The ditch is out of the question. The shoulder can cause havoc, and even potentially a fatal accident. Do not cut a truck off.”
•Just because a truck has more axles and tires, it does not mean it can stop faster. “It is safe to assume that the more axles a truck and trailer have, the longer it will take them to stop,” Leppla said. He added that a truck’s air brakes don’t work like car brakes. It takes much more to stop a big rig – sometimes exceeding the length of a football field. The brakes in a car are instantaneous compared to a truck.
•The most important thing about being around a truck is visibility. “Make sure we can see you,” Leppla said. “This includes making sure your vehicle is working properly, including lights, blinkers, brake lights, and any trailer lights you may have. This is important, most of all in the dark and on wet or slick roads.
•Realize that the color of your car – such as a white or grey car on a snowy day – can make you even less visible to truck drivers. “Be aware of how much time you spend next to a truck. We simply may not be able to see you,” Leppla said.
Right now, truck-related fatalities are at a 10-year low in Minnesota – a positive sign that all drivers are doing a better job of sharing the road. Paying attention to Leppla’s pointers can help keep us moving in a positive direction.
Leppla’s final piece of advice: “Remember, understanding and respecting the physics of big trucks is the best way to say thank you during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week.”
Echo Press editorials are the position of the newspaper’s editorial board, which includes Jody Hanson, publisher; Al Edenloff, editor; and news reporter Celeste Beam.