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6 Safe Ways Motorcyclists Can Share the Road with Trucks

Lower truck speed limit trialled on the Monash Freeway Autobahn
Trucks use the "slow" lane on the autobahn

(Share the Road sponsored post for our North American readers)

The US Motorcycle Safety Foundation states that more than half of fatal motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. A couple of months ago, a semi-truck collided with a large group of motorcyclists in New Hampshire killing 7 of the group’s riders. In the United States, the number of vehicle and motorcycle crashes have reminded us how dangerous the road is for motorcycles, especially when it’s shared with huge commercial trucks.

Both motorcyclists and truck drivers need to practice defensive and smart driving techniques when sharing the roadways. Here are a few simple safety tips motorcycle riders can keep in mind to help prevent mistakes and accidents that end up in serious or fatal crashes. Some of these tips can apply to other drivers too.

1.Keep a Bigger Following Distance

Motorbikes are a light weight vehicle, but the stopping time is just about the same for any average-sized car. Motorcycles cannot stop on a dime. Semi-trucks are way larger and heavier, which logically makes them harder to stop. For both motorcycles and trucks, a larger distance is going to give more time to react. A four-second distance is a good rule of thumb.

2. Make Yourself Visible

Due to the small size, a motor bike may seem further than it really is a truck driver’s mirror. Motorcyclists are more prone to get lost in blind spots and blend in with the background of the environment. Riders should make themselves as visible as they can. Make yourself more visible by either wearing bright clothing or with strategic riding. 

Adam from Mechanic Guides says “As a truck driver I absolutely recommend high vis. clothing. Truck drivers and motorcyclists can definitely share the road together in harmony but it works two-way. A lot of accidents that happen can be prevented just from taking the correct safety precautions.”

Trucks reversed image lane filtering blind spot
All the bikes in this photo are in a truck’s blind spots

3. Use Your Brakes

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation says that most motorcyclist choose to slow down by either easing off the throttle or downshifting, depending on the situation. To avoid a potential rear end accident, it’s better to slow down with your brake, thus creating an indicator for larger vehicles with less stopping time.

4. Stay Awake and Alert

Operating a motorcycle requires more attention, physical strength and cognitive focus. Before riding, always make sure you are in the best condition to operate a motor vehicle efficiently and safely. Never ride when you are feeling drowsy, tired, fatigued or ill. Never ever ride a motorcycle after having a few drinks.

The same energy demand and focus applies for commercial truck drivers. According to Chris Simon, an Atlanta injury attorney, commercial drivers must follow strict regulations regarding their time spent driving.  “Under the Federal Hours of Service Regulations, drivers are limited to 60-70 hours of duty in a period of seven or eight days.” A semi-truck driver can pose a great danger on the road if they are fatigued or exhausted from driving over the Federal limit of on duty hours.

5. Use Extra Caution at Night

Like we said before, motorcycles are difficult for other larger vehicles to see. That difficulty is practically doubled during the night time or during low light conditions. Riders should operate their bikes with extra caution in these situations. Slow down, wear visible gear, and refrain from passing as much as you can.

6. Stay Out of Truck’s “No Zones”

All motor vehicles have “blind spots”. For semi-trucks these areas are larger. Truck drivers have to rely mostly on their mirrors to check for any oncoming vehicles. Drivers also have difficulty seeing what’s within 20ft of the front. These semi-truck blind spots are known as “No-Zones”. When passing, try to pass as safely and as quickly as you can, and refrain from passing on the truck’s left side. This side has a bigger blind spot.   

Both motorcycle riders and truck drivers must practice extra caution while sharing the road. Semi-truck accidents that involve motorbikes have a high chance of ending in serious damage or death.