Ask any professional truck driver and they’ll tell you how important space management is when operating a commercial motor vehicle. Proper space management means maintaining enough space around your vehicle to operate it safely.
The fact is, space management when operating a tractor-trailer requires a number of different observational skills, the most important of which is knowing how large and where your space cushion is.
Your space cushion includes all of the space ahead, behind, above, below and to the sides of your vehicle. You must always allow enough space so that if you need to adjust to rapidly changing traffic condition, you can safely do so.
Space Cushion Awareness – AHEAD
The space ahead of your vehicle is quite possibly one of the most important, but also one of the easiest to monitor and adjust as you travel. In the end, the amount of space needed will depend on the road conditions at the time.
One good rule of thumb to follow involves allowing at least one second for each 10 feet of vehicle length when you are traveling at speeds below 40 miles per hour. At greater speeds, add an additional second. In poor driving conditions – such as fog, snow or heavy rain – allow for an even greater stopping distance.
In order to determine how much space you have, wait until the vehicle ahead of you passes a clearly defined landmark such as a pavement marker or road sign, then count off the seconds until you reach the same marker or sign or whatever else you use. Compare your count with the rule of one second for every 10 feet of length, with one additional second for each 10 miles per hour over 40 miles per hour.
One example would be if you are driving a 60 foot vehicle around 55 miles per hour in good weather. If you count only three seconds between you and the forward vehicle, you are following too closely. At this speed you should have at least seven seconds of space.
Space Cushion Awareness – BEHIND
It is nearly impossible to keep other drivers from following you too closely without engaging in any dangerous or punitive maneuvers, but there are steps you can take to help mitigate the problem and increase your operational safety scores.
First, always stay to the right, slow down and give the person tailgating you plenty of opportunity to pass you. If you find you are being tailgated to a point where it seems like it might be unsafe, consider the following:
- Avoid quick lane changes. If you have to slow down or turn, signal early and gradually depending on your vehicle’s speed.
- Give yourself greater following distance. If you open up room in front of you, it will help avoid a surprise if there are sudden speed or lane changes. It also makes it easier for the person tailgating you to get around you, if need be.
- Keep your speed low. When you are being tailgated, it is always safer to allow it at a lower speed than at a higher speed.
- Avoid signaling measures. Do not turn on your taillights or flash your brake lights, as this may be more distracting to the person following you and cause an unsafe situation.
Space Cushion Awareness – TO THE SIDES
It’s no secret: Commercial motor vehicles generally take up most of whatever lane they happen to be in. Fortunately, there are several things you can avoid to ensure you have enough space between your truck and those around you:
- Avoid hugging the center line. If you don’t hug the center line, you are less susceptible to drifting over it and into oncoming traffic.
- Avoid hugging the right side of the road. If you are hugging the right side of the road, you could run into a soft shoulder, which could cause problems.
- Avoid traveling alongside other vehicles. Since another driver may change lanes quite suddenly, if you don’t have space beside you, your vehicle may be trapped between the shoulder and the other vehicle. Also try to avoid following to closely next to the vehicles lest a big gust of wind blow them or you into each other.
Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed this first look into ensuring proper space around your vehicle. Join us in Part II of our series when we dive into space above, below, turning space and cross-traffic spacing.