[Elist] sharing the road with trucks

John Del Santo mcbwaycool at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 6 17:11:44 PDT 2011

                                 BIG  WHEELS  ROLLING
by John Del Santo
 Sharing the road with big trucks can be an advantage because most truckers are better trained and more experienced than the other drivers around us.  A large percentage of truckers are also motorcycle riders, and are  more conscious and considerate of bikes around them in traffic.  To keep from becoming a hood ornament on a Peterbilt though,  we need to show the proper respect for the vehicles length, width, and weight. 
 A Semi, bus, or RV  traveling at any speed is creating big changes in the air around it….the vehicle is pushing a wave of pressurized air out in front of it, like a bow-wave in front of a boat;    there is accelerated air lifting along the sides (the same effect that causes lift on an airplane wing);   and  there is a vacuum swirling and filling behind it. When you pass a Semi going in the opposite direction at highway speeds, there will be a big rush of tumbling air following the truck about two seconds behind it.  If there are heavy crosswinds blowing, the crosswind will be blocked by a passing truck and will hit you again at the other end…be ready for it.
Size creates an optical illusion that distorts sense of speed and distance…Expect that truck coming at you to be moving faster than it appears, and expect the one you are approaching from the rear to be going slower.  Don’t attempt sharing a lane with a vehicle that already fills the whole lane.
Construction trucks drive off the paved road and can pick up rocks in their tires.  When they get back up to speed on the highway, those rocks can shoot loose and zero in on you like a duck in a shooting gallery.  Don’t hang out behind open-topped rigs…Full or empty,  the high speed airflow will sweep almost anything out in your direction.  If you’re following a truck and a small piece of tire tread seems to fly out from the wheels….Back Off !    There’s more, and bigger, pieces on the way !    
 Keep an eye on their turn signals.  Tractor Trailers need a lot of room to make a turn;  The back of the truck will cut in closer to the curb,  and the driver cannot see the area by the back wheels in the mirror.  There are many blind spots around a Semi.  The worst are… a blind spot a hundred feet long behind the truck,  and another big one just off the right-front side…..If I can’t see the drivers face in the mirror…The driver can’t see me ! ! 
The massive weight and velocity of a truck creates the need for the driver to keep a HUGE following distance.   If the driver loses his or her following distance,  and is forced to lock up the brakes,  the rig can jackknife across four lanes of traffic…..So if I cut in front of a truck and steal their following distance,  I am digging my own grave and probably putting other drivers in serious jeopardy.  
 So let’s share the road properly with the Big Rigs.  The old (and incorrect ) saying is “those airbrakes can stop on a dime.”   We need to Ride Smart so the dime they stop on is NOT  the one in the pocket of our jeans. 
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