West Virginians are used to seeing 18-wheelers on the road, but motorists are not always comfortable being in close proximity to them. Because of their size and weight, big rigs have the potential for causing severe injuries in the event of a collision, which is why good training and driving skills are so important to truckers.
Becoming a truck driver
Professional truck drivers must have a commercial driver’s license if they operate vehicles that have a certain Gross Vehicle Weight. To obtain a CDL, the applicant must pass both a skills test and a general knowledge test. The prospective driver must demonstrate stopping, driving on both city and highway roads, backing up, making turns and more skills.
The safe space
Truck drivers learn how to create a cushion of space around their vehicles so that they are not too close to other moving or stationary objects. This includes allowing for the proper following distance and space for turning the vehicle as well as allowing for sufficient space on both sides of the truck.
Speed and braking
Experienced professionals do not drive faster than they can safely stop. Braking takes longer in a big rig than it does in a passenger vehicle. The time required for stopping and the pressure a driver exerts on the brakes will be increased if there is a heavy load. This is especially true if the truck is overloaded and there is a possibility of shifting cargo. Certain conditions require greater stopping distance, such as curved roads, hilly terrain and weather problems, including rain, snow and fog.
In a typical year, statistics show that tractor-trailers are involved in more than 10 percent of all highway deaths. Being careful around big trucks is something every driver needs to do. However, being careful is a two-way street in terms of sharing the road with big rigs, and safety often depends on truck driver skill and training.