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Sharing the Road with Large Vehicles: Tips from Your Fellow Pennsylvanians

July 13, 2022 12:00 PM
By: Devin Luker, Jill Harry

​Pennsylvania allows for licensed vehicles of various sizes to use state-owned roadway. From large, oversized loads down to bicycles, each vehicle presents a different set of challenges when it comes to sharing the roadway safely. And as we recently discovered through the Safety Citizens program, it is a popular topic among many of our Facebook followers.

Safety Citizens is PennDOT's public outreach program that gives residents and motorists an outlet to encourage others to practice safe behaviors on the road. Every other month, the program presents a question for participants to creatively answer through different medium such videos, poems, drawings and color sheets. Selected responses are shared on PennDOT's social media platforms.

Since its inception in 2020, the program has garnered varying levels of response based on the topic covered. The recent inquiry regarding larger vehicles received the highest amount of social media comments of any questions posed yet – more than 400 under a single Facebook post.

What's your advice for sharing the road with large trucks or buses?

While there was some conversation about certain safety opinions included within the comments, there was also a theme among the tips submitted. The most common advice – remember large vehicles often have large loads, which means large amounts of weight that cannot stop moving as fast as a passenger car or truck.

Here are some of the top tips from our Safety Citizens:

Michelle D.  If a truck is leaving a large enough space between them and the vehicle in front of them to allow a safe stopping distance, that is not an invitation for you to squeeze into that space…You can't stop a loaded truck or school bus on a dime.

James T. Stay out of their blind spots. When they have their blinker on they need to change lanes. Back off and let them over vs speeding up to try and pass them.

Quentin L.  As a trucker myself I'll be very honest there's more safe [truck] drivers on the road then cars. I can't tell you how many times a day I have to break because a car doesn't understand yield, how many times I have to hit breaks cause they want to move over right in front of me, or how many times they are on their phone swerving back and forth. I can get how it's frustrating to be behind a truck, we have 80,000 lbs behind us and can't always go fast especially up hills, we also have to be careful not to miss turns and deal with things a car doesn't have to deal with. Be patient with us that's all we ask. Don't take your frustrations out on us, we are the ones keeping your shelves stocked and making sacrifices everyday so you can live in comfort. Holidays always from family and being gone constantly from friends and loved one. Just some food for thought. Please be safe and careful.

Daniel Z. – When approaching your right-hand exit get into that right-hand lane 1/2 mile or more before the exit. And it won't hurt to slow down and be behind a slower vehicle for half a minute.

Lizz C. – Give them SPACE. also, it takes them a heck of a lot longer to STOP. Don't ever cut off a truck.

Earl M. – To keep it simple. Please when possible either pass the truck or slow down and follow the truck at a safe distance. Never ride for great lengths next to a truck.

Amanda M. Be respectful and considerate of each other on the road - that goes both ways.

Imelda F. – Make sure you can see them in your rear mirror before pulling in front of them. I hate when cars pull in front of them and they have to slam on their breaks. Be mindful of the weight they are carrying, it's harder for them to stop on a dime.

Bobbi K. – Stop trying to outrun larger vehicles at merge areas and on/off ramps. Stop passing on the left to then cut off the trucks and buses to get off at an exit on the right.

Megan R. – When passing a semi or bus I wait until I can see BOTH headlamps in my rearview mirror before merging back into the right-hand lane and signal, signal, signal.

Suvean K. – Stay two to three car lengths behind them. They can't stop too fast. Don't cut in front of them. Don't play game with them. They can't see you if you're too close.

Kenneth G. – Too many people cut us off, brake check us and aggressively pass on the right creating extremely unsafe situations.

Candace W. – Do not pull out in front of tractor trailers and stay back when around motorcycles

Michelle P. – Don't tailgate a big rig, don't hang out beside the trailer, don't cut them off and give them plenty of room to swing for their turn. If you stop suddenly in front of a big rig they can't stop that fast and if it's a tanker of liquid it will be even harder to stop. The truck drivers need to not cut people off either. Courtesy in all vehicles will decrease the amount of accidents.

Bernie K. – Give them space. It takes a football field to stop them (this goes for and RV also) Don't pass then cut in front of them.

Kristi A. – Don't ride alongside a truck, riding behind someone else passing it. Wait until the car in front of you passes the truck, then pass it. Then if something happens in either lane, or the truck blows a tire, you both have room to dodge. You won't get past it faster riding the person in front of you.

Trevor C. – Don't merge in front of big trucks to fill the gap. If they leave a gap between a vehicle it's for a safety reason to get stopped in case of an emergency. Don't tailgate and turn your lights on in the rain!

Bassam Z. – Use your turn signals before you hit the break so your turn signals use makes sense.

Ken M. – People can use turn signals and put their phones down instead of texting and driving

Velma B. – Respect their size.

Shawn P. – Understand that truck drivers aren't your arch enemy or nemesis, they are out there working to make sure the public has supplies and are bringing in many cases, vital essentials. That truck you are annoyed with has probably already driven hours and dealt with city traffic construction, etc. and your 15-minute ride up the street could be helpful and less stressful to both of you if you gave that driver a little less to worry about. Yinz stay safe

Dan J. – If you are in high winds or coming out of a tunnel, don't try to pass as the higher center of gravity can make them roll easier.

PennDOT reminds all drivers that they can improve safety when sharing the road with commercial vehicles by following these safety tips:

  • Avoid aggressive driving behaviors, such as tailgating, racing to beat a red light, and illegally passing on the right.
  • Give commercial vehicles enough room to slow down as it takes them almost double the amount of time for a to stop as a passenger vehicle.
  • Stay out of the no-zone, which are blind spots where the driver cannot see other vehicles. A good rule of thumb is if you can see the driver in their side mirror, they can see you.
  • Do not pass a commercial vehicle driving slowly if you cannot see clearly in front of you because of curves in the road, if you are within a "No Passing Zone", or if you are within 100 feet of any intersection.
  • Provide extra space for commercial vehicles to make turns, that's why the stop bars are there.
  • Be aware that when approaching railroad crossings all commercial vehicles are required to stop.

Visit our website for more information about PennDOT's Safety Citizens program and submit content for the next topic – Seat Belt Safety.

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