Considering you are operating a huge commercial motor vehicle, having a good spacial awareness in and around it is hugely important to keeping yourself and those around you safe. In our last look at a visual search, we examined the front and the sides of the vehicle.
This week we are going to take a deeper look at how you use your mirrors when conducting a visual search. The fact is, mirrors provide your only view of the rear of the vehicle.
You must always check your mirrors before you change speed or position in traffic. Get into the habit of glancing in your mirrors every 4 – 6 seconds. Most tractor-trailers are equipped with two types of mirrors, plane or west coast and convex.
Plane or West Coast Mirrors
A plane or west coast mirror serves to help you see down the sides and towards the rear of your vehicle. It doesn’t provide as wide a view to the sides as a convex mirror does, but it does provide better visibility down the length of the trailer.
Since the left mirror is closer and reflects a larger image, you should have a greater field of view out of that mirror. Still, remember that a mirror doesn’t reveal everything. You still have blind spots on both sides of your vehicle.
When using plane mirrors, you must make sure to adjust your speed to compensate for distance of overtaking vehicles and other objects. This is mainly because images in your side mirror will appear to be similar to those when you are in a passenger vehicle.
Convex mirrors are designed with an outward curvature that provides a significant wide-angle view of everything outside the vehicle. These mirrors generally give a much broader view and, when adjusted properly, can eliminate blind spots created from plane mirrors.
These mirrors provide the best close-up view of each side of your vehicle. While plane mirrors provide good insight height-wise, convex mirrors have depth covered.
That doesn’t mean convex mirrors have no negatives. They do show a distorted image. Overtaking vehicles also appear to be smaller and farther away than they actually are.
The best idea is to use a combination of plane and convex mirrors. This way you have maximum side, rear and height coverage. While the combination can be a bit confusing at first, practice makes perfect.
Some vehicles also make use of fender mirrors, which you can find mounted on the right and left corners of the front fenders. Today, even cameras and sensors are combining with advanced telematics to create a picture around a vehicle that truck drivers could only dream of a decade ago.
When it comes to using your mirrors correctly, they need to be properly adjusted. On your left plane or convex mirrors, make sure the trailer body is clearly in view. Your point of view should rest around 35 feet away and along the bottom of your field of view.
For right side plane and convex mirrors, you should be able to see the top horizontal edge of your field of view all the way to 60 feet out. Don’t hesitate to make adjustments if you are having problems with your field of view.
Seeing to the Rear
Always make sure you are continually using your mirrors to monitor the rear and sides of your vehicle. Check your load and make sure your cargo is secure.
Use your mirrors at all times to check for vehicles beside your tractor or trailer. Use spacial awareness techniques to have a full picture of what is always going on. Use your mirrors before you change lanes, after you signal, before you begin a lane change and after you complete it. You need to know what is going on around you throughout the entire process.
When you approach alleys and intersections, the use of mirrors is quite important. When there are traffic problems or if you are traversing unfamiliar road, using your mirrors and watching to the rear and sides can be the key to keeping you safe.