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Safety of Driving Trucks

Moving trucks and tractor/trailer combination vehicles are heavier, longer, and require more driving skill than regular cars. This means that drivers of moving trucks must have additional knowledge and skills.


More than half of truck driver deaths in crashes are from truck rollovers. As more cargo is stacked in the truck, the center of gravity gets higher from the road. The truck becomes easier to roll over in a crash than empty ones.

There are a couple of things the drivers can do to prevent rollovers:

  • keep the heavier cargo as close to the ground and the front of the truck as possible,
  • keep cargo centered and spread out inside the truck,
  • avoid the load from being off center to the side of the truck,
  • go slowly around turns,
  • avoid quick lane changes, especially when the truck is fully loaded.


Trucks with trailers have a dangerous "crack-the-whip" effect. When you make a quick lane change, the this effect can turn the trailer over. There are many crashes where only the trailer has overturned.

If you make a sudden movement with your steering wheel you could tip over a trailer. Follow far enough behind other vehicles (at least one second for each ten feet of vehicle length, plus another second if going over 40 mph). Look far enough down the road to avoid being surprised and having to make a sudden lane change. At night, drive slowly enough to see obstacles before it is too late to change lanes or stop gently. Slow down to a safe speed before going into a turn.


Control your speed whether fully loaded or empty. Large combination vehicles that are empty take longer to stop than when they are fully loaded. When lightly loaded, the very stiff suspension springs and strong brakes give poor traction and make it very easy to lock up the wheels. When wheels lock, the trailer can swing out and strike other vehicles or it can jackknife very quickly. Allow adequate following distance and look far enough ahead so you can brake early.


When wheels of a trailer lock up, the trailer will tend to swing around. This is more likely to happen when the trailer is empty or lightly loaded. This type of jackknife is often called a "trailer jackknife".

Recognize the skid. The earliest and best way to recognize that the trailer has started to skid is by seeing it in your mirrors. Any time you apply the brakes hard, check the mirrors to make sure the trailer is staying where it should be. Once the trailer swings out of your lane, it is very difficult to prevent a jackknife.

Stop using the brake. Release the brakes to get traction back. Do not use the trailer hand brake to straighten out the rig.

Truck Driving_001


When a vehicle goes around a corner, the rear wheels follow a different path than the front wheels. This is called offtracking. Longer vehicles will offtrack more. The rear wheels of the powered unit (truck or tractor) will offtrack some, and the rear wheels of the trailer will offtrack even more. If there is more than one trailer, the rear wheels of the last trailer will offtrack the most. Steer the front end wide enough around a corner so the rear end does not run over the curb, pedestrians, other vehicles, etc. However, keep the rear of your vehicles close to the curb. This will stop other drivers from passing you on the right. If it is hard to avoid completing your turn without entering another lane of traffic, turn wide as you complete the turn. This is better than swinging wide to the left before starting the turn because it will keep other drivers from passing you on the right.

 Truck Driving_003