If you find yourself instinctively increasing your caution when you notice a commercial truck in the next lane, you have good instincts. Semi-trailer trucks present several unique dangers on the road. Knowing about them can help you stay safer.
The size and weight of a typical big rig can both contribute to causing an accident and aggravate any accident it becomes involved in. Size and mass make it harder for trucks to maneuver. Many make wide turns and can take up several lanes as they turn or merge. Their large mass also increases inertia, leading them to be slow to stop or speed up and making it more difficult for truck drivers to react to changing traffic conditions. Use heightened caution when dealing with poor visibility or icy roads. While these conditions increase risks for all drivers, a truck that goes out of control can wreak immense damage.
Commercial trucks' dimensions also decrease their drivers' ability to see other vehicles close by, creating large blind zones. One way to tell if you are entering a blind zone is to check if you can see the truck's side mirrors. If you cannot, the driver probably cannot see you.
Driving behind a large truck can be especially hazardous. If the truck stops suddenly or another vehicle hits you from behind, you risk sliding right underneath the truck and suffering serious injuries. In the case of a flatbed truck, poorly secured cargo can slip off and hit other vehicles or create a dangerous obstacle in the road.
Some trucks carry toxic or highly flammable cargo. In the event of an accident, spillage can greatly increase the severity of any injuries or property damage.
On one hand, commercial drivers often have extensive experience, which may help them avoid accidents in certain cases. On the other, their working conditions often render them vulnerable to conditions that can seriously compromise safety. Truck drivers notoriously suffer from lack of sleep. Driving long stretches can also lead to distraction. Watch out for overt signs such as erratic driving, lane drifting and failure to react to road signs or traffic lights.