Recently I had agreed to do a ride-along with Willy’s Trucking Service’s HSSE personnel, Carol, in order to learn a bit more about the trucks they use and to see a day-in-the-life of a delivery driver.
What I thought I was going to be paying attention to the whole day, and what actually ended up happening, were two different things.
Yes, I did get a chance to pull on the air horn (which, by the way, everyone should do at least once in their lives) but the real eye opener was realizing that I am not as safe of a driver as I thought I was.
Not only does a semi-truck driver need to be pro-active by knowing exactly when to shift one of the many, many gears to slow or speed up the truck, but the reactionary vision they need to have due to ignorant car drivers was made clear to me that day.
- BLIND SPOTS- We have all seen the stickers, ”If my mirrors can’t see you, I can’t see you!” stuck nicely to the back, side, front, all over the truck. There’s a reason for that. It is really difficult to see everything happening around your massive 50 foot long box trailer. If you thought it was tricky to see what is in the next lane when your ironed, collared shirt is hanging in the backseat, well, this is a whole new ball game. So, don’t ride along in a truckers blind spots. Be wary of a truck making a right turn as well, as they need those two lanes to maneuver and don’t need you trying to squeeze past them just to crush your Civic.
- BRAKING- that sweet spot in front of the semi truck that is empty enough to slip your BMW in front of because you sped up and were enjoying swerving in and out of lanes too much to actually get in BEHIND the truck like you should of, but cut off the trucker instead? Yeah..that. Don’t do that. They need ample time to shift down to come to a safe stop and they need ALL that space they leave in between themselves and the car in front of them. Don’t worry, you’ll still get there even if you have to slow down a bit to safely merge in behind or when it’s safer.
- SHIFTING – have you been in a semi-truck? Have you seen that gear shift? 18 gears. Ok? Not just “Drive” and “Park” but basically they become “one” with their engine. Listening to the sound of the RPM’s rising and lowering, watching the gauges, working the pedals, shifting from one little rectangle box to another. It’s an art. One of which I will enjoy being the spectator of!
- ICY ROADS + EMPTY LOADS= SLIPPING – Of course you can’t know if there’s a full load in that van or not, but, just be extra careful on icy roads. I was being driven by a very capable, seasoned driver but knowing how easily the truck could slide and jack-knife with an empty van was enough to make me stop breathing every time a car would cut in front then slam on their brakes or swerve in front etc. I can’t stress this enough… Try your best to give truck drivers plenty of space in between your car and them. Everyone can breathe easier that way!
- TRUCKERS CARE – they care! These are people that operate big machinery every day and do their utmost best to make sure everything is delivered on time but most importantly, safely. These are the people that will pull over on a snowy, dark highway when they see someone in distress to help you change a tire or put chains on (I have experienced this first hand!) They work long, strange hours and are away from their families that want them home safe and sound.
Thank-you to Willy’s Trucking Service’s for the experience.
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Written by Melody Mills