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Beware of Heavy Truck No Zones

Friday, May 1st, 2015

I first wrote about drivers whose behaviour in the “no zone” around heavy trucks left much to be desired back in 2004. Little seems to have changed since then as when I listen to the trucking radio channels the most common complaint involves drivers who jam themselves in front of a truck and then slow down. There are many possible outcomes to this scenario when it goes wrong; the trucker is able to swerve out of the way and nothing happens, the trucker swerves out of the way and harms themselves or perhaps the trucker chooses to maintain course and harms the foolish driver.

A heavy commercial truck may have as little as 60% of the braking capacity of a car or pickup truck. This essentially means that once the brakes are applied, the big truck takes twice as long to stop as you do. Air brake systems can take more time between pressing the brake pedal and the braking components starting to do their job than your hydraulic brakes. You can extend the stopping distance even further if all of the heavy trucks brakes are overheated, not in good condition or properly adjusted.

Do you still think that it’s a good idea to get close to the front bumper of a big truck and hit your brakes? Self preservation might dictate that you slow down, lane change behind the truck and then make your right turn or use the exit. If you are continuing straight ahead check traffic conditions ahead before you change lanes and either avoid having to brake or have a light vehicle behind you instead.

While we’re on the topic of the No Zone, there are many other bad places to be as you cruise alongside or behind a large commercial vehicle. If you cannot see the driver in his mirrors or through any of his windows, he cannot see you! Being invisible to a trucker is definitely not what you want to be. A fender bender for the truck could be a catastrophe for you.

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Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web site