5 Tips for Driving Alongside Tractor-Trailers

5 Tips for Driving Alongside Tractor-Trailers

Two vehicles driving alongside each other always creates some inherent danger, but when one – or both – of those vehicles is a tractor-trail rig, it becomes even more dangerous. Whether you’re the driver of the tractor-trailer or the other vehicle, keep these tips in mind so that everyone arrives safely at their destination.

1. Stay out of “no” zones or blind spots.

Unsafe driving around big rigs with tractor trailers often starts with the “other” driver being in a trucker’s blind spot. Remember that large trucks – and buses – have four blind spots. These blind spots are on all four sides of the truck and are much larger than with a passenger car. Good rule of thumb: As a passenger car driver, if you can’t see the driver in his/her side view mirror, assume they can’t see you, and slow down or speed up slightly to get out of that “no” zone. Many car vs. semi-truck collisions can be attributed to this factor. As a truck driver, double check for cars before changing lanes.

2. Pass safely.

Use these steps to ensure safe passing:

· Signal the turn.

· Give it a bit of time and then begin to pass.

· Maintain a constant speed or accelerate slightly to get around as quickly as possible.

· Get out of the lane next to the big rig as soon as possible after passing but wait until you can see both of the vehicle’s headlights in your rearview mirror before pulling in front.

· Don’t pass on a downgrade where trucks tend to naturally pick up speed.

· Never pass from the right lane.

· When you’re the vehicle being passed, stay to the right and ease up a bit on the accelerator. Don’t make it harder for the other vehicle to pass.

3. Anticipate wide turns.

Tractor-trailers need extra room to make turns. They may swing wide because of a larger turning radius or make the turn from a middle lane. Tractors and trailers have a turning radius of about 55 feet. Never try to “squeeze” between a turning rig and the curb. “Anticipating the amount of space a big rig driver is going to need to turn can help you to position your vehicle at a safe distance.”

4. Be patient.

Getting impatient rarely gets you to where you want to go any faster, and often has the opposite result. Remember that big trucks need extra time to accelerate and to stop and they may use technology to set and monitor their speeds. Loaded semi-trucks take 20-40% longer to stop than the average passenger car. Allow a larger amount of space from the front of a big rig. Honking, aggressive driving, or weaving in and out of traffic only serve to create potentially dangerous situations resulting in accidents.

5. Do your best driving when you’re at you’re best.

All drivers always have the responsibility to drive safely – whether you’re the trucker or the “other” driver. Understanding more about big rigs and how they operate can help keep everyone safer and help you know what to expect. Here are a few other reminders to ensure you’re at your best when you’re driving:

· Stay focused. Driving when distracted is just as dangerous as driving impaired. Stop and pull over safely if you need to do anything other than focus your full attention on driving.

· Don’t drive when you’re fatigued. Driving when sleep-impaired is also as dangerous as driving while impaired. Take breaks, trade off with another driver, or just find a safe place to rest if you feel yourself getting sleepy.

· Never drive “under the influence” – of anything! This includes alcohol and other drugs which impair judgment and slow reaction times. Prescription and over-the-counter medications may cause drowsiness, dizziness, and slow reaction time. Be sure to check for warning labels on the container.

All drivers need a few reminders from time to time about how to be the safest when on the road – whether you’re in a semi-truck or a passenger car. But even the safest drivers can have accidents. If you or your company is being sued following an accident, Murphy Legal is ready and to defend you.

If you need assistance in an emergency, call our 24-Hour Emergency Hotline at 979-209-2173. To learn more about our passion for the trucking industry, call us at 979-690-0880 or visit the Murphy Legal website. Be sure to check our Refuel blog series for additional resources and information about rig and driver safety. Click here to sign up for our newsletter covering a wide variety of topics to help protect owner-operators and trucking companies from liability in the event of an accident. Stay safe out there!


Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Tips for passenger vehicle drivers. US Department of Transportation [online]. Updated 10 May 2019 [accessed 3 Jul 2019]. https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/ourroads/tips-driving-safely-around-large-trucks-or-buses. Smith A. Safety tips for driving alongside tractor-trailers. AskTheTrucker.com [online]. [accessed 3 Jul 2019]. https://askthetrucker.com/safety-tips-for-driving-alongside-tractor-trailers

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