Operation Safe Driver week will happen July 11-17 throughout North America. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) and its partner state and provincial commercial vehicle agencies have announced that the primary focus will be on speeding—by both commercial vehicles and passenger cars.
How Close is SAFE in Your Truck?
Let’s start by discussing tailgating, the practice of following other vehicles too closely on the highway. It’s also a common driving behavior that enforcement officials say can lead to aggressive driving.
By Mike Hitchcock, ICSA Safety Consultant
Many truckers on the road with you today are comfortable with a 2-second following distance. Yet it takes 1.5 seconds to observe and react to an emergency. It can take another half second for your air brakes to react and apply. That’s not enough time to avoid a crash or an obstacle in the road! The more time you have to process the event, the more time you have to decide on the best action to take.
At a safe following distance, you can avoid hitting a vehicle in front of you. You have time to recognize and avoid pedestrians, animals or debris on the roadway. You can pump the brakes and potentially warn motorists behind you. Even better, you can avoid the sudden braking that can lead to a jackknife - one of the most dangerous situations for truck drivers and other motorists alike.
You may say you have never had a close call or caught yourself following too closely. If so, you are on top of your game and your biggest risk is that you could lightly “bump” another vehicle, but you would never let yourself be involved in a serious rear end collision! That’s great and probably another reason you are a member of ICSA.
But let’s talk about exaggerated injuries. In my 25+ years of investigating truck-involved accidents, I have seen exaggerated injury claims skyrocket. That light “bump” on another driver’s bumper that wouldn’t have been reported 20 years ago may now result in a back or neck injury claim, instantly moving that claim up into the $40,000-50,000+ range. Exaggerated injuries are another factor contributing to the overall increases in truck insurance premiums that ICSA’s programs are designed to address.
To protect yourself and/or your company from such claims, maintain a following distance of at least the length of your vehicle for every 10 mph you are traveling. At 50 mph, leave at least five vehicle lengths between you and the vehicle ahead. Likewise, if your truck and trailer combination totals 75 ft in overall length, then 75 ft x5 = 375 ft. of following distance. Don’t forget to also consider tire quality, brakes and terrain as factors impacting stopping distance.
Maintaining the proper following distance gives you time to make good, well-planned decisions and affords other drivers the opportunity to do the same. What is your regular following distance? Adding even one more second can be a game changer.
If you joined ICSA between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021, you should have received an email notifying you to visit our new website and click on the Renew Membership tab at the top of the page.
In the May issue of The Landing Gear, we reported on two motor carrier issues under review by FMCSA’s Medical Review Board (MRB). The first is an alternative vision standard that could make it possible for more drivers to meet vision requirements; the second is a review of the current method of assessing the impact of non-insulin treated diabetes mellitus (Non-ITDM) on a CDL driver’s physical qualification.