I love the big rigs. The more chrome and clearance lights the better. At night, rolling down the highway or tooling around a truck stop, they are more brilliant than a Christmas tree. I love to listen to the raw power of a 500 or 600 horsepower motor. I even like the noisy engine brakes because they are one of the greatest safety inventions ever on big rigs.
Big rigs provide instant metrics on the health of the economy. The higher the number of big rigs on the road, the healthier the economy is because they deliver goods, including food, the “last mile” from the port, warehouse or railroad siding to the store. Without them store shelves would be empty. So when I inhale a lungful of diesel exhaust fumes from a big rig, I smile because I know the economy is humming along.
Despite their importance, I often hear people denigrating big rigs and their drivers. Trucks are deemed to be a dangerous nuisance on the highways and their drivers are stigmatized as uneducated bumpkins too stupid to get a “real” job. But most drivers are hard-working men (and a few women) who are supporting their families. I know because I’m the daughter, sister, niece, and cousin of truck drivers.
Becoming a big rig driver requires studying federal safety regulations, passing the commercial driver’s license (CDL) exam, and undergoing two years over-the-road supervised training. After that they endure a solitary life riding the nation’s highways and missing birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and their children’s school activities. Not surprisingly, is there is a growing driver shortage as fewer people enter this profession.
As to the charge that big rigs are dangerous, according to the American Trucking Associations, only 30% of highway accidents involving big rigs are caused by the truck drivers. That means 70% of the accidents are caused by the rest of us. So here are a few basic safety tips.
- If you can’t see the truck’s mirrors, the driver can’t see you. Slow down, go around, or move in your lane until you can see your vehicle in the truck’s mirror.
- Signal your intentions early and avoid sudden movements. Basic physics informs us that 80,000 pounds needs more distance to slow to a stop than a 3000 pound car or SUV. (Avoid flitting into the car-length’s space in front of the tractor.) The driver needs time to see you and prepare for what you plan to do.
- Never sit in the truck’s blind spots which include: immediately in front of the tractor (you can’t be seen over the hood); beside the fifth wheel where a trailer attaches to the tractor; beside the trailer’s rear axle; and immediately behind the trailer.
So the next time you pass a big rig on the road, join with me in paying homage to the big rigs. They keep the economy moving and their drivers are some of the hardest working people you’ll probably never meet.
Norma started her company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, to help employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.
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