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How to share the road with trucks

Jan. 2, 2020

A semi driving by a stopped state patrol squad car on a highway

A lot of us had trouble with math and physics in school. Some of us didn’t even take physics in the first place. So we wouldn’t necessarily know that, in ideal conditions, an 80,000-pound vehicle traveling at 55 miles per hour needs 335 feet (that’s more than a football field) to stop. Crank the speed up to 65 miles per hour and that truck will need 525 feet to stop. But knowing that can save lives.

Why? Because if you pull out in front of that semi on, say, a county highway without giving it enough room, it doesn’t matter how alert that driver is. It doesn’t matter how quick their reflexes are or how recently their brakes were replaced. If they don’t have enough room to stop, there’s going to be a crash. In fact, statistics for Minnesota in 2018 show that in about half of crashes involving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and a passenger vehicle, the passenger vehicle driver was at fault; in the other half, the CMV driver was at fault.

Minnesota’s definition of a CMV includes vehicles that either weigh or are rated to carry at least 10,000 pounds. Knowing this, it’s not really surprising to learn that in a crash between a CMV and a passenger vehicle, the passenger vehicle will almost always come out worse. Of the 44 people killed in multiple-vehicle fatal crashes involving a CMV that happened in 2018 here in Minnesota, only four were in the CMV.

The trucking industry and law enforcement alike are working on making sure CMV drivers take steps to cut down on fatigue, put away distractions, and obey laws on speed and impairment. Our part is to make sure we give them plenty of room, whether we’re turning in front of them or changing lanes ahead of them. We also need to remember that they can’t see us half as well as we can see them. That means paying very careful attention when we’re around CMVs and, again, giving them lots of room.

Considering that CMV traffic is predicted to increase significantly over the next 10 years, those of us who drive passenger vehicles won’t avoid a crash with a CMV by just hoping they’ll go away. They won’t. CMVs are going to continue to bring food to our grocery stores, carry families’ belongings for cross-country moves, and perform hundreds of other functions that we may not think about but are essential to the function of our society. Best to learn how to share the road with them.