One of the most important parts of safe truck driving is in regards to how you communicate your intent. There are basic principles of communication that you need to know. They include the processes you must go through in communicating intent, as well as how to develop the skills to understand the communication of others.
Like you, other drivers do not know how to read minds. The fact remains: If you don’t properly communicate what you’re going to do, those around you won’t know your intentions. Let’s get into the basics of effective communication on the road.
The basics of proper communication are also the most obvious. They include:
- Turn signals;
- Four-way flashers;
- Brake light flashers.
Another blatantly obvious means of communication lies in altering your vehicle position, though this should be done only after you have utilized or exhausted all others. The most commonly used method of communication is done with turn signals.
Turn signals should be used to communicate your intent to change direction or lanes. If you plan to do any one of the following, you should be using your turn signals:
- Change lanes;
- Merge or pass another vehicle;
- Exit or enter an on-ramp;
- Parallel park;
- Pull into traffic.
An important thing to remember is that you should always be using your turn signal for these situations, even when there are no other vehicles on the road. Remember, you do have blind spots, and the most dangerous vehicles are the ones you don’t know are there. Better to make sure everyone is informed through your actions.
There are two basic principles of signaling that you should live by:
- Signal early: Don’t wait to the last minute to throw your signal on. You should be signaling well in advance of turning, changing lanes, or otherwise altering your vehicle’s trajectory. In city traffic that should be one-half block. On the highways make it 500 feet. A good rule of thumb is to ensure it blinks three times before you initiate the move.
- Signal all the way through: Don’t worry about the signal, just keep your hands on the wheel and safely complete the maneuver. If the signal does not shut down after you’ve completed the move, remember to cancel it.
So there are your basics of communication and signaling. Let’s now dig into some other safe communication essentials.
There may be occasions when you will need to let other drivers know your intent to slow down. Remember that other drivers may not expect you to slow down, especially when you hit a steep grade, set up for a turn or stop to load, unload or park.
The best way to alert those around you of your intent to slow is to lightly tap your brakes and cause the brake lights to flash. If you are driving very slowly or intend to completely stop, use your four-way emergency flashers.
Always remember the size of your vehicle and be cognizant of the difficulty drivers have in seeing what is going on in front of you. This is why you must communicate your intent early and clearly.
One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to try and direct traffic. Do not try to use hand signals or flash your lights to let other drivers know when it’s safe to pass. This could cause an accident, and you could very easily be found at fault if you made the signal advising someone else on the road to make a passing move.
Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed Part I of our series on effective truck driver communication. Join us in Part II of our installment, where we take a look at the different communication devices that allow you to communicate your presence and how to perceive communication from others.