Because of the weight and size of tractor-trailer vehicles compared to passenger cars, collisions involving the two often result in very serious injuries, particularly for those traveling in smaller vehicles.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, commercial truck drivers must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Be able to control and manage their vehicles
- Meet certain physical standards
- Hold a state-issued commercial driver’s license
- Have English language skills that are adequate to meet the requirements of the job
- Be able to understand and comply with traffic laws
Commercial drivers are prohibited from operating tractor-trailers when they are too tired or ill to drive, and when they are impaired by drugs and alcohol. They are required to operate at or below the posted speed limit, and in 2011 rules that limit and /or prohibit the use of mobile devices while driving took effect. Drivers who commit specific offenses may have their driving privileges temporarily or permanently revoked, depending upon the severity and frequency of the offense.
Truck drivers and trucking companies should practice safe driving techniques, make sure their trucks are well maintained, and obey the rules of the road, but those in small vehicles and passenger cars can also do their part by driving defensively at all times, particularly when trucks are present. Some useful defensive driving techniques include:
- Avoid the trucker’s blind spots, or “no-zones”
- Don’t pass a truck on the right when the truck is turning right
- Pay close attention to a truck’s turn signals
- Use appropriate passing procedures, and don’t linger alongside a truck when passing
- Avoid follow too closely and tailgating
- Don’t cut a truck off
- Never underestimate the size and speed of an approaching tractor-trailer
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,921 people killed and 104,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks (gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds) in the U.S. in 2012, and 333,000 large trucks were involved in traffic crashes.