Sharing the road with heavy vehicles

Driving next to heavy vehicles (trucks and buses) can be a little intimidating and even nerve-wracking.  At RYDA, our students learn about some of the special challenges faced by the drivers of these road giants as well as getting some tips on sharing the road with heavy vehicles.

While heavy vehicle drivers learn to predict the actions of others and respond quickly to protect lives, they face big limitations created by the vehicle itself – from blind spots to an inability to stop quickly due to their weight.  RYDA students, as they become aware of these challenges, learn how to predict the needs of the heavy vehicle drivers and accommodate through their actions.  Here are some of the challenges and strategies our RYDA students discuss as they learn to drive safely around trucks and buses:

Stay out of blind spots

  • CHALLENGE: Trucks and buses have large blind spots in front, behind and to their sides.  This can make it particularly difficult for them to see pedestrians, cyclists and motorbikes as well as cars merging around and near them.  If you can’t see the driver in the truck’s side mirror, there’s a good chance that that the driver can’t see you.
  • STRATEGY: Stay visible to the driver by not positioning yourself in a blind spot.  Tailgaiting will usually land you in a blind spot behind the vehicle and also make you vulnerable if you’re stopped too closely as a truck might roll back as it starts up again.

The video below illustrates just how hard it is to be seen from the cab of a truck.

Given them room to turn

  • CHALLENGE: Trucks and buses need more turning room which sometimes means they need to start their turn from the middle or right lane.  As they turn, the cab may swing wide, while the trailer will swing tight into the corner, taking up two lanes.
  • STRATEGY: Watch for turn signals and sit back to give them the space they need.  Never try to squeeze by or get in between the vehicle and the curb.


Don’t cut into their safe following gap

  • CHALLENGE: All that extra weight means that heavy vehicles cannot stop quickly so drivers will generally leave themselves a nice big, safe folllowing gap.
  • STRATEGY: Don’t cut in front of a truck or bus, particularly on approach to a stop sign or red traffic light.  They’ve left that space for a reason and they may not be able to stop in time to avoid a crash if the gap is reduced.


Pass them by and let them pass you by safely

  • CHALLENGE: Like all vehicles, trucks and buses will sometimes need to reposition on the road if they see a hazard ahead.  Buses often drop passengers off on the left and need to make a right turn shortly after.  They need space to quickly change lanes as, unlike smaller vehicles, they can’t duck into small gaps in traffic.  Heavy vehicles will experience significant speed variables around hills so passing them by needs to be done swiftly and safely.
  • BONUS MATHS: At 90km/h if you are passing a truck going at 85km/h, with a b-double truck coming in at 26 metres it will take 36 seconds to pass just the length of the truck (relative speed being 5km/h, so travelling at just under 1.4 metres per second), which is a long time to be beside a truck. Even a smaller, 6-wheel Boral Concrete Agitator truck will take 11 seconds to pass, plus more behind and in front of the truck before changing lanes. 
    • Make sure you can see the driver in their side mirror before passing.  Flick on your blinker, move to the right lane and accelerate (within the speed limit) so that you can pass promptly, without lingering in a blind spot.  Make sure you can see the truck or bus in your rear view mirror before you pull in front, leaving a comfortable gap behind you.
    • If you’ve read the maths, you’ll know it will take some time to pass the truck safely so stay calm and focussed so you’re not tempted to drive above the speed limit in an effort to remove yourself from the ‘danger zone’ more quickly.
    • Avoid passing trucks and buses as they go down a slope or hill as they will tend to be picking up speed.
    • If a heavy vehicle needs to pass you, drive to the left and slow down if necessary so the driver can move you out of their blind spot as quickly as possible.
sharing the road with heavy vehicles

Be patient

Trucks and buses have operating limitations.  Their drivers spend long days on the road, keeping alert and responding to the challenges they face.  Statistics tell us that the large majority of people killed in collissions with heavy vehicles are occupants of light vehicles or vulnerable road users (78% in Australia and 87% in New Zealand).  Further, in the overwhelming majority of fatal multiple-vehicle crashes involving heavy trucks (70% according to Australian research), the driver of the truck is not deemed to be at fault.

Let’s remember, the road is a shared space and everyone on it expects to arrive home safely to their families.  If we work together, we can make that happen.


Thanks to our friends from Boral who share their expertise in this area to help create a generation of safer drivers.