Truckers, who work hard at an important job, are too often misunderstood. From what it’s like to be a trucker, to how to safely share the road with a big-rig, there’s a lot that people simply do not know about truck driving. To help clear things up and spread the word about all the good in trucking, Commercial Truck Trader has put together 15 things truckers wish people knew about their job.
1. Semi-Trucks Need Lots of Space
You’d think it would be obvious, but many drivers still don’t give commercial trucks enough room on the road. Big-rigs can weigh up to 80,000 pounds and take the length of a full football field to come to a complete stop on the highway — and it can take even longer in bad weather. That’s why the first thing most truckers want other people to know is that cutting off semi-trucks isn’t just rude, it’s dangerous for everyone.
2. Trucking is Essential to the Nation’s Economy
Truckers do as much as anyone to drive our economy. According to ATA’s 2020 American Trucking Trends report, 80% of all transported freight in the U.S. is moved by trucks, generating nearly $792 billion in revenue and employing almost 8 million people, including 3.6 million drivers. Trucks also move 68% of cargo moved across the U.S.-Canada border and 83% of U.S.-Mexico trade.
3. Truckers Truly Can’t See Their Blind Spots
You might be able to twist around in your seat and see things in your mirror blind spots — truckers cannot do that. Despite strategically-placed mirrors and camera systems, truckers still have true blind spots directly behind the truck, immediately in front of the grill, and to the left and right. The old adage still holds true: if you can’t see a truck’s mirrors, the driver can’t see you.
4. A Trucking Career Has Perks — Really!
Sure, it’s hard work and may not be the perfect career for everyone, but truckers do enjoy competitive pay, a sense of freedom on the open road, opportunities to see and experience new places, and the chance to be your own boss by becoming an owner-operator. The transportation industry desperately needs more drivers; why not consider joining their ranks?
5. Wide Turns Mean You Should Follow Stop Lines
To complete a 90° right turn, a big-rig needs approximately 1.5 lanes of the street it’s turning from and 1.5 lanes of the street it’s turning into. A truck with its right blinker flashing and extra room between them and the curb is not an invitation to squeeze past them; if you try they may turn into your vehicle. Similarly, if you don’t stop behind an intersection’s stop lines, you’re not leaving enough space for a semi-truck to turn; if the truck tries to make it, it’ll either crash into you or endanger pedestrians by jumping onto the curb/sidewalk. Instead, give trucks the room they need to turn.
6. Merge Safely onto the Interstate
When taking an on-ramp onto the Interstate, you do not have the right-of-way. To safely merge with traffic, you need to be aware and adjust to the passenger vehicles and big-rigs already moving down the highway. Drivers will do what they can to slow down or move over, but both can be difficult for a trucker. It’s up to you to safely merge, and remember to never cut off a semi-truck.
7. When Driving, Truckers are On the Clock
When you’re sharing the road with a trucker, you’re in their “office.” Big-rig drivers are trained experts doing their best to accomplish important work. As such, truckers deserve to be treated with respect and professionalism from all of us who enter their “office.”
8. It’s Dangerous to Quickly Change Multiple Lanes
Zipping across multiple lanes is generally a bad idea, but it’s even more reckless to be on one side of a semi-truck, cut in front of them, then immediately shoot into the next lane. Not only do you risk being rear-ended by the big-rig, but you also have no idea what other vehicles may be approaching on the truck’s other side. It’s a fatal, multi-car pileup waiting to happen, so just don’t do it.
9. Turn Your High Beams Off
Some drivers seem to think that because truckers sit so high in their cab, they are unaffected by the high beams of passenger vehicles. Unfortunately, that’s a wrong assumption. Truck drivers visibility can be limited by bright lights, so use your low beams when driving behind or opposite semi-trucks, just like you would for any other vehicle.
10. Never Draft Behind a Truck
In terms of pure physics, following closely behind another vehicle does reduce drag and improve your miles-per-gallon, especially if you’re following a large vehicle such as a big-rig. However, “drafting” is exceptionally dangerous. You will have zero idea of what’s coming up on the road, you’ll be directly in a trucker’s blind spot, and — if he brakes suddenly — your chances of a serious accident are incredibly high. Leave drafting to professional racers on a closed-course track, and away from truckers on the highway.
11. Move Over for Trucks On the Side of the Road
If a big-rig is parked on the side of the highway, it’s likely because the driver needed to address an urgent maintenance or safety concern. When passing a pulled-over truck, move over a lane if possible in order to give the trucker safe clearance to exit their cab or move around the vehicle.
12. Let Trucks into the Passing Lane
When a trucker flips on his left-turn signal, cars in the passing lane immediately accelerate to get past the truck before it merges. This is more than an annoyance; it’s dangerous. Not only are drivers placing themselves into a truck’s blind spot, but now a trucker may be forced to crash into an upcoming obstacle, simply because there was not enough time to brake and other drivers would not let him over. Truckers try to stay to the right as much as possible, so if they’re trying to get into a passing lane, they’re not going to stay in front of you forever; they’re simply trying to pass and then get back over. Letting a semi-truck merge into your lane is much better than contributing to a crash.
13. Please Be Patient with Truckers
Big-rigs simply cannot accelerate as quickly as other vehicles. Truckers do their best to keep up with the flow of traffic, while also remaining aware and responding to all the activity around them. This is how they maintain safety for everyone sharing the road. A sudden and rude honk, shout, or hand gesture is an unwelcome distraction; what truckers deserve is our patience and our gratitude.
14. Stop Stigmatizing Truckers
Too many people wrongly assume that because trucking is manual, solitary labor, that truckers must be unintelligent, unprofessional, or even dangerous. Those stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth. Truckers are extensively trained, highly skilled specialists who know more than almost anyone about trucks and transportation. They can be some of the most courteous people you’ll ever meet (no one has more patience than a truck driver!), and truckers actually play a huge role in fighting human trafficking! If you’ve misjudged truckers, now’s the time to recognize their positive traits.
15. Put Your Phone Down
If you ask a trucker to describe passenger vehicles, they’ll tell you that they can clearly see how many drivers are on their phones. Distracted driving is an epidemic, and it’s even more unsafe when sharing the road with semi-trucks that cannot quickly maneuver or brake. Keep yourself, truckers, and everyone else on the road safe by putting down the phone while driving.
Conclusion: From learning more about the trucking life, to better understanding how to safely drive alongside big-rigs, we hope this article will help to bridge the divide between truckers and the communities they serve. And if you’re in the market for your next semi-truck or other commercial vehicle, we hope you’ll check out the nationwide selection of for-sale inventory on CommercialTruckTrader.com or on our sister site NextTruckOnline.com.