For many drivers on Australian roads, driving around trucks, buses and other heavy vehicles can be stressful, elevating your anxiety levels and causing you to take a big, deep breath. But drivers of heavy vehicles often also find sharing the street with other motorists to be just as nerve-racking, especially in heavy traffic.
As many of us drive regularly, and some of us drive for a living, driving should not be a stressful experience. Here are five tips to help you and other drivers stay safe when driving around heavy vehicles
1. Leave a safe distance
Trucks and buses are much heavier than most other vehicles and as a result, they take longer to slow down and stop. This means cutting in front of a truck or bus, which causes them to brake suddenly or minimises the distance between them and the vehicle ahead, can be dangerous. If you take up that space by cutting in front of them, this can be very risky – especially if you can’t see what’s ahead.
Heavy vehicle drivers generally leave a large space in front of their vehicles so they have the distance they need to comfortably stop suddenly and you should too. By providing buses, trucks and heavy vehicles with the distance they need to come to a safe stop, you also have more time to stop safely.
2. Watch out for their blind spots
Larger vehicles often have multiple large blind spots. If you happen to be in a blind spot, the driver of the heavy vehicle probably won’t be able to see you, so it’s safest not to travel in a blind spot.
For trucks, especially trucks with multiple trailers, it’s important to be aware of where these blind spots are located. Common blind spots include:
along the entire passenger side of the vehicle
directly behind the vehicle
at the front of the vehicle
beside the driver’s door
3. Give them room to move
To clear corners and other obstacles, heavy and large vehicles generally need more space to manoeuver than smaller vehicles. This can often involve moving into an adjacent lane.
You will likely have seen the “Do Not Overtake Turning Vehicle” warning on the rear of most trucks and buses, which is precisely why it’s unsafe to do so. As heavy vehicles often need to move outside of their lane, if you happen to be in the driver’s blind spot they probably won’t know you’re there
4. Don’t follow too closely
Driving behind a heavy vehicle obstructs your view of the lane ahead, so even if you are travelling a safe distance behind, to some degree you’re driving blind in relation to any oncoming obstacles. This means the more distance you leave behind a heavy vehicle, the better your view of the road ahead.
Another reason to keep your distance and not follow too closely when driving behind a truck is debris – some trucks shed dirt, stones and other hazards as they move along the road. Dust can impede your vision and ability to see clearly, and even a small stone can chip or crack a windscreen.
5. Be courteous and polite
Driving can be stressful, especially if you’re trekking through heavy traffic. For drivers of buses and trucks, along with the usual stress of heavy traffic we all experience, there is also often the extra hassle of cars not letting them merge or change lanes in fear of the heavy vehicle slowing their path.
As road users, we should all be courteous and polite by allowing other drivers, including heavy vehicle drivers, into our lane when it is safe to do so. Wouldn’t we expect the same of them?
What’s more, the law requires that you give way to buses as they leave a bus stop and merge back into traffic – failing to do so could see you cop a fine of $240 and three demerit points.