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With 10 gears, 500 horsepower and an average cruising speed of 65 miles per hour, today’s commercial vehicles were built with the long-haul in mind. But if you’ve ever gotten stuck behind an 18-wheeler in the city, you are all too aware of how slow and clumsy these big rigs can be off the highway.

Getting Up To Speed

Never pass or maneuver around a commercial vehicle – truck or bus – illegally, even if it means tacking a  few more minutes onto to your commute. Although you may think you can zip around and in front of that trucker, keep in mind that most passenger car/tractor trailer accidents are much more than fender benders.

Safe in the Zone

Most professional truck and bus drivers try to leave a safe distance between themselves and the vehicle in front of them. This cushion of space is known as the “safety zone”. Yet, the safety zone is often invaded by risky drivers trying to better their position on the road.

Never zoom around a truck or bus only to pull directly in front of them. Stay out of the safety zone! As a rule when you pass a commercial truck or bus, allow 50 feet (five car lengths) between you and the big guy before merging back in front of him. If you enter the zone in front of a big rig and need to apply your brakes, the 18-wheeler on your tail may not be able to stop in time and will result in a rear end collision.

Is He Making a Pass?

When you make the decision to pass, always be sure you can complete your pass quickly. As you’re approaching a big rig from the rear, anticipate what your passing speed needs to be and be sure you can get by without getting stuck behind another passing vehicle – you might be in one of the truck’s blind spots. Better to wait to start your pass after the one ahead of you has completed its maneuver and is clear of the trucks safety zone.

Peek-A-Boo

If you can’t see a truck’s mirrors, you’re in the truck’s blind spot and the trucker can’t see you. Keep this in mind as you select your road position behind or alongside a truck or bus. Always make sure you can be seen. When passing, keep in mind that the truck driver has a big blind spot to his left just behind his cab. If you get caught in that blind spot the truck might start a passing maneuver of its own and squeeze you off the road or into oncoming traffic, or worse yet, collide with you.