Cliff’s Tips: How to Pass a Semi-Truck

Quick summary

Semi-trucks may have the “right of weight,” but navigating around them shouldn’t be a problem. Here’s a few simple tips to safely pass semis.

Thanks to his numerous jaunts around the country in our 18-wheeler for long distance moves, Cliff Wallace has racked up the miles and seen the sites. A seasoned traveller and fount of knowledge, Cliff always has something to share from his experiences. Today, he has thoughts about sharing the road with semi-trucks, particularly how to pass them.

One of the most anxiety inducing aspects of driving long distances in a car is the presence of other vehicles, particularly larger vehicles, particularly 18-wheeler semi-trucks. On nice, straight, flat roads with minimal traffic, passing such a truck may not be the scariest idea. But under any less than perfect conditions, it can be a less than perfect experience. So what’s the best way to pass a semi?

In a sentence: smoothly, with lots of distance. Ten car lengths before passing with at least three seconds of signaling. I’m not sure what the DOT recommends, and it often doesn’t matter as nothing about the DOT testing involves real world knowledge.

There are bad car drivers and there are also bad semi drivers. I know a lot of people that “hate” semi trucks. I know a few truckers who hate “four-wheelers,” as they’re called in trucker lingo. Since I’m more of a mover who occasionally drives a semi, versus a full-time truck driver, I have a fairly unique experience of switching between the two roles frequently. I think the biggest problem with car drivers’ “hatred” of semis is just a lack of perspective. Many people have no idea what it is like to sit behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound skyscraper hurtling itself 70 miles an hour down the interstate.

They don’t realize how often they’re putting themselves and their families in very real danger by cutting off a truck that requires close to half a mile or more to come to a full stop. They don’t realize how much power it can take to pass another truck while going uphill, sometimes resulting in a very slow pass, which makes some cars tailgate the truck while the truck’s accelerator is literally on the floor the whole time. Sidenote: You’re putting nobody in danger but yourself by getting close to the rear end. If something happened where we have to slam on the brakes, then you will almost certainly be decapitated and we wouldn’t even feel the impact 70 feet ahead of you.

The two big things that would make driving safer for all of us would be if cars stopped trying to pass a truck within two miles of their exit just to exit five seconds sooner than if they patiently wait behind the truck for their exit.

The other big one is a car sitting on the rear right side of the truck and not allowing space for the truck to pass. If you flash your lights at the trucker to let him pass, he’ll most likely assume you’re a truck driver in a car and be overwhelmed with gratitude at a four-wheeler participating in the friendly trucker handshake. Just remember: Everyone wants to arrive alive, even the bad drivers.

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