Every owner operator knows tailgating is a bad idea and can increase the risk of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. However, many truck drivers fail to allow themselves the appropriate following distance based on their vehicle, road conditions and weather conditions. Check out the five following facts about safe following distances that truck drivers should familiarize themselves with to improve trucking safety.
- Avoiding tailgating isn’t the same thing as a safe driving distance. The general rule of thumb is that for every 10 mph the commercial vehicle travels, the driver needs to add their truck’s length in following distance. For example, truck drivers traveling 50 mph will need to leave five of their trucks’ lengths between them and the vehicle in front of them. However, factors such as the tire quality, breaks and terrain can affect this ratio.
- Outside factors affect safe driving distance. As mentioned above, other elements influence safe stopping distance. Truck driver speed, the weather, vehicle condition, construction, traffic and road obstacles all influence how much space drivers need for a safe stop. Adverse weather, aging equipment, and increased congestion all warrant a greater following distance.
- Hill speed can cause accidental tailgating. Some drivers try to max their speed while going downhill to reduce the speed loss they’ll experience going uphill. However, this can lead to surprises when the driver discovers a passenger vehicle much closer than anticipated when they crest a hill. This excess speed can force drivers into an unwanted tailgating situation.
- It’s harder to maintain a safe following distance than many drivers realize. It’s fairly easy to sustain safe following distances on open roads. However, in metropolitan areas or well-traveled highways, things get trickier. Drivers should pick a lane and stick with it to allow passenger vehicles to maneuver around the commercial vehicle. Yet this is often insufficient in many busy areas, requiring truck drivers to maintain slower than normal speeds to create the necessary distance for maximum safety.
- Insufficient following distance can lead to jackknifing. Sudden braking can lead to a jackknife scenario where the weight of the trailer adversely impacts the tractor. Jackknifing is one of the most dangerous situations for truck drivers.
Owner operators must maintain constant vigilance to ensure safe following distances. Passenger vehicles are often unaware how much space trucks need to operate safely on the road. Allowing these drivers to pass without impacting following distance is a challenge that truck drivers need to overcome to ensure the safety of themselves and their vehicles. Learn more about reducing risk and improving owner operator truck safety, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.