by daughter of a retired Teamster – This information has not been presented to the Teamsters and is not at all affiliated with that or any union. This article is submitted in good faith to promote better driving habits near semi trucks in light of the incident July 15th, 2009 at I-75 and 9 Mile Rd in Detroit where a car collided with a tanker truck and the subsequent explosion engulfed and devoured the 9 Mile I-75 overpass.
It has been over 25 years since my Dad retired from the Teamsters. Teamsters Union requires drivers to stop at a much earlier age than any other profession: 59 years of age. My Dad did not want to retire and continued to drive cars until he was almost 80 years old and he’s still a backseat driver. This guide will be old school, so maybe newer truck drivers might scratch their heads at some of these, but I promise they will help drivers gain respect of truckers in the “long haul”.
1. Don’t pull on the tail wind, it’s dangerous and you can be sucked up like the undertow in the ocean. It’s an amazing idea when a new driver discovers they can save a smidge of gas by tailgating a semi-truck. What they may not know is that the same wind sucking their car along can suck their car under – even if they do not have clearance.
2. Tailgating is a no-no because your vehicle has little to no time to stop! You are automatically “at fault” if you rear-end another vehicle in most cases. If a semi truck is tailgating you, do your best to change lanes and let it pass. Why? It takes a LOT more to stop a semi truck than an average vehicle. I have been rear-ended by a semi and, believe me, you NEVER want to turn around and see the grill of a Mack truck in your backseat!
3. Semi-trucks can have huge blind spots! This begins in the rear when a vehicle is too close, then on either side of the truck, there are long stretches where the truck driver could not possibly see another vehicle. Do not drive “next to” a truck. You could be trapping the truck in or worse yet, the driver may not be able to see you when he/she changes lanes.
4. Passing a semi should be approached with caution. Be aware that sometimes the trailer can swing independently from the tractor and this can happen spontaneously leaving you no reaction time. To pass when lawful, hang back and take left lane. NEVER pass on the right because it greatly reduces your visibility. Speed up and pass slightly faster than you were going in order to get out from the side of the truck. Go at least one and a half car lengths ahead of the truck before using your turn signal to indicate you are coming back into that lane in front of the truck.
5. If a truck driver has assisted you and you would like to quickly say “thank you”, you can tap your brakes twice (not to stop or slow, but just so the brake lights come on) when in front of them. That has always been appreciated and is sometimes not understood now, but a courtesy that should be reinstated. Those who know the code greatly appreciate it and you may get a beaming smile!
6. When you are driving at night and have your “brights” on, you should ALWAYS click them down to normal beams as soon as you can see oncoming traffic. If you can see them, they can see you. Try to anticipate and be aware that you may blind someone to death, quite literally, if you are cavalier about this one.
7. Don’t flirt with truck drivers! That sounds a little like “don’t feed the animals” and it is meant in the same spirit – for your own protection on the road and also the protection of others including the truck driver!
8. Don’t be nervous when you’re around a semi truck. Nervous drivers have a tendency to overreact. Just hang back and either pass quickly or keep your distance so if something flies off the truck, you’ll have time to react.
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