Preventing Lane Change Crashes for Semi Trucks

Strong Tie Insurance March 4, 2021 Our Blog

Driving a semi-truck takes a lot of skill and precision. Because this kind of truck is so large, there’s the potential for serious crashes during a lane change. Lane change crashes are considered a critical collision, and they can cause serious damage, especially if a small car is involved. Commercial insurance can help cover any potential damages caused by your truck, so it’s an important investment.

Here are some ways to keep yourself and others on the road safe by preventing lane change crashes in a semi truck.

Be Aware of Blind Spots

A blind spot is an area outside a vehicle that isn’t visible to the driver. Semi trucks have major blind spots, because they’re long and high off the ground. There are four major blind spots to keep in mind.

Due to the size of a truck’s hood, there’s a 20-foot blind spot at the front of the truck. There’s also a 30-foot blind spot behind the trailer, and mirrors can’t reach that area. The left and right sides under the cab mirrors are also blind spots.

To address blind spots, you can watch cars as they pass by, and take note of when they’re in your blind spots. Some people also like to use the “lean and look” method. When you’re ready to change lanes, lean over in your seat and check either the left or right side to get a better view of the lane before you drive into it. 

Use Your Mirrors

It’s important for every truck driver to stay aware of his or her surroundings. Mirrors are a big part of keeping tabs on the traffic around you and determining when it’s safe to switch lanes.

To make the most of mirrors, clean them regularly so you can see things clearly. Make sure to adjust them so you have a clear, wide view of the road behind you. If you are missing any mirrors, or they’re scratched and foggy, it’s best to replace them as soon as possible.

Every truck owned by a commercial trucking company should have a good set of clean, working mirrors.

Avoid Frequent Lane Changes

Operating a truck tends to require careful, strategic driving methods. One of the best ways to lane change crashes is by reducing the amount of lane changes you make. You can avoid unnecessary lane changes by knowing your path and only changing lanes when necessary.

Always prepare for your next exit on the highway, and give yourself plenty of time to get to the right lane so you can exit without any stress or last-minute lane changes.

Stay Vigilant During Bad Weather

Rain, ice and snow can decrease visibility and make it harder to see other cars on the road with you. Take extra time to watch the lanes around you before switching lanes during adverse weather.

Another effect of weather conditions is the slickness of the road, which means you have an increased amount of time before your brakes take full effect. It also decreases your traction on the road, making it harder to control your truck the way you usually would.

Many truck insurance claims are related to accidents that occur in bad weather, so make sure to pay extra attention when the weather becomes a concern. 

Maintain Enough Distance

Due to their large size, semi-trucks need to keep a certain amount of distance between themselves and other vehicles for safe driving. Commercial trucks need about 600 feet to come to a complete stop, and that’s twice the distance the average car needs.

The total stopping distance includes the perception, reaction, and braking distance. Perception time factors in the amount of time it takes to register a hazard that warrants a stop.

It takes most drivers somewhere between half a second and a full second to react to their surroundings, and that’s the reaction time. Braking distance can vary according to road conditions and the quality of your brakes, but in ideal conditions, it’s about 216 feet.

Remember these estimates when you switch lanes, so you can leave an appropriate amount of distance ahead of and behind you. 

Check Your Brakes

Unlike most vehicles, trucks use air brakes. These take longer to go into effect than the hydraulic brakes found on most cars. Air brakes rely on air pressure instead of hydraulic fluid, and there are many advantages to using air instead. Advantages include the unlimited supply of air, the brakes can still function even with small leaks, and they are easier to service.

Your brakes are an important player, and regular brake maintenance will make sure you can rely on them when you need them. Get them serviced as often as possible. Some people even recommend getting them checked whenever you change your oil.

Well-maintained brakes are a good way to help prevent accidents of all kinds, including lane-change accidents.

Keep Up With Truck Maintenance

Personal vigilance is a big part of preventing crashes, but another component is truck performance. As mentioned above, mirrors are key to visibility during lane changes, and they help you stay clear of other vehicles as you change lanes.

Windshield wipers are another part of your truck that keep your view of the road clear. In hot, sunny climates, your wipers can dry out and become ineffective fairly quickly. If you notice your windshield wipers scraping and dragging against your window, it’s time to replace them.

Finally, make sure your tires are in good condition. Check your tires for good traction and the right air pressure. Rotate your tires to extend their lives and make sure they wear out evenly.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation is closely associated with car accidents. Getting 6 hours of sleep or less can increase your chances of getting into an accident by up to 33%. Lack of sleep can slow down your reaction time and make your vision less focused. All of these factors make it harder to make safe lane changes.

Prepare for a day on the road by getting as much sleep as possible, to keep yourself and others safe.

Strong Tie Insurance offers affordable insurance for semi trucks, including general liability insurance for truckers. Contact us today to learn more about our insurance policies for semi trucks, covering everything from cargo to physical damage.