Key takeaways

  • Only 20% of all accidents involving heavy vehicles are the heavy vehicles’ fault 
  • Heavy vehicles can need up to double the space a normal vehicle takes to come to a stop 
  • Heavy vehicles have much larger blind spots than normal vehicles

In 2016 the percentage of heavy vehicle involvement in the total amount of crashes in Australia was 14.7%. However, heavy vehicles made up only 3% of the total registered vehicles in the country. This tell us that heavy vehicles are involved in a disproportionately high amount of accidents taking place on Australian roads. Looking at the data, we found that 80% of crashes involving heavy vehicles were classified as multiple-vehicle, while only 10% were put down as single-vehicles crashes. Compare this with the rate of single-vehicle crashes of normal vehicles at much higher 45% and it becomes clear that heavy vehicle drivers are far less likely to be involved in a crash by themselves than normal drivers.

Not to mention that in all of the fatal crashes involving heavy vehicles, heavy vehicle drivers were only considered at fault in 20% of the collisions. So if heavy vehicle drivers are so much safer at driving, why is there such a high percentage of crashes involving trucks?

There are several factors contributing to the large numbers of heavy vehicle crashes, with the main one being the misconception that heavy vehicles operate in the same way normal vehicles do. Heavy vehicles have different limitations to normal cars when it comes to issues like accelerating and slowing down, turning and blind spots.

The following guide is to help understand the limitations heavy vehicles have and what other drivers around them can do to minimise the risk of an accident occurring.

Braking and accelerating

Don’t merge in front of a heavy vehicle too closely.

Trucks and other heavy vehicles need a longer period of time than normal vehicles to accelerate and decelerate. Because of the extra weight they are moving, heavy vehicles have a longer stopping distance. They can need up to twice the room it takes a normal car to come to a stop and the faster they’re going the longer it takes to stop.

This is why you’ll often see a truck leave a large distance between it and the vehicle in front of it, they are leaving themselves enough time and room to react to anything unexpected that might occur.

Turning and overtaking

Leave extra space between your vehicle and a heavy vehicle when they are turning.

Trucks and heavy vehicles also need a good deal more space to turn in different directions than normal vehicles. Some vehicles have a ‘Do Not Overtake Turning Vehicle’ sign on the back of them, meaning that they are entitled to take up more than one lane when turning at corners, intersections and roundabouts. Make sure to leave a sensible space between your vehicle and the heavy vehicle when they are turning and do not try to get past them if it is not safe to do so.

When overtaking heavy vehicles make sure there is sufficient road ahead, try to pass quickly but sensibly. Make sure the heavy vehicle driver has seen you before merging in front of them.

Blind spots

Make sure the driver of the vehicle has seen you before overtaking them.

Considering the larger size of heavy vehicles it makes sense that the blind spots on either side of the vehicle are also larger. But raised vehicles, especially those that cannot rely on reverse mirrors as a result of their trailers or the size of the vehicle also have blind spots immediately in front and behind them.

A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot see the vehicle’s mirror, the driver can’t see you. Therefore you should always take care when travelling around heavy vehicles as you cannot rely on the driver knowing you are there.

A little bit of extra care and consideration when travelling around heavy vehicles goes a long way to keeping everyone on our roads safer.

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