Sharing the Road With Big Rigs and Small Cars
Ask a professional big-rig truck driver his or her opinion of drivers of cars and smaller trucks, the answer is not likely to be complimentary.
They’ll tell you stories about drivers who pass, cut in close in front, then hit the brakes for no apparent reason, and drivers who follow so closely behind they can’t be seen in the mirrors, or who turn out in front from a side road with no concept of a big rig’s stopping distance.
Driving a Prevost motorhome conversion, you’re somewhere between, but probably closer to the big rig in terms of the weight and momentum you’re managing. Your Prevost may drive like a luxury car but like any good driver, you should be aware of the capabilities and limitations of all the vehicles around you on the road, anticipate situations and possible dangers as they develop, and plan ahead.
Unfortunately – and we’re sure most of you have observed this – many drivers seem oblivious to what’s going on around them (hence applying the brakes with a big rig close behind) so are ill-prepared to react to situations as they develop. And cell phone use has made it worse.
So how do you, the driver of a Prevost motorhome conversion, deal safely with this highly varied spectrum of other vehicles on the highways? Here are some common sense reminders.
Lots of space is good
There’s a reason why rear-end collisions are the most common form of car crash. It’s because tailgating is the most common driver error.
Driving a Prevost motorhome, you know you can’t stop in as short a distance as most cars, so you have to leave extra space between you and the car ahead to give yourself the reaction time and stopping distance you need. A system like Prevost Aware Adaptive Cruise Braking helps, because it maintains an adequate gap for you while cruise control is set.
What do you do about a car that tucks in too close behind you? On a multi-lane highway you could try slowing down a bit to encourage the driver to pass, but most important, you have to leave even more space to the vehicle ahead, so you can slow down and brake gradually if the unexpected happens.
Other drivers should give the big rigs (and you) space to the sides as well, especially in hot weather. If one of those big tires blows, flying rubber shrapnel can cause a lot of damage, so smart drivers won’t spend much time cruising alongside.
Here’s good courtesy guideline for safe driving: Avoid letting your driving interfere with what other vehicles on the road are doing. In other words, your driving actions should not force other drivers to slow down, brake, swerve, speed up, etc. Smooth traffic flow is safe traffic flow, and interfering with the flow can cause problems and dangerous situations.
As a Prevost driver, you know the importance of using your turn signals, including for lane changes and merging. It’s courteous, and more, because when you’re moving over in a 45-foot Prevost, the vehicles around you need plenty of warning (and if they’re courteous, give plenty of space).
See and be seen
In a vehicle the size of a Prevost motorhome, being seen isn’t usually an issue, and you have a higher point of view than cars and most smaller trucks. But a big rig’s blind spots are especially large, and if you’re too close behind, not only will all or most of your vehicle be hidden, you also won’t have any view of what’s going on ahead beyond the truck’s back end, therefore unable to anticipate situations and plan actions.
Another safety issue to be extremely cautious about is the apparent inability of regular drivers to merge, especially from on-ramps onto an expressway – they just can’t seem to catch on to how to adjust their speed and time their entry without seriously inconveniencing or endangering others on the ramp or the highway. The technique is simple in theory, you have to match the pace of the highway’s flow and time your entry between two vehicles. Of course, the vehicles on the expressway have to do their part, too, by leaving plenty of space for another to merge.
In theory, sharing the road safely no matter the size of your vehicle isn’t too difficult. It’s just a matter of space, courtesy, common sense, and concentration on tracking the situation around you all the time. But in practice, it’s too often a lost art. However, if more people start doing it right, maybe it will catch on.