Trucks are an essential part of the BC economy and of our daily lives. Businesses, industries and individuals all depend on large commercial trucks to transport and deliver raw materials and finished goods – and everything in between.
Most truck trips occur safely and without incident. But on those few occasions where something goes wrong, the consequences can be devastating for everyone involved.
The average passenger car weighs about 1,800 kilograms whereas a fully loaded truck can weigh as much as 63,500 kilograms. In a serious crash involving a passenger car and a large truck, the occupants of the passenger vehicle are at least four times more likely to be killed than the driver of the truck, according to US-based stats. And, studies show, in fatal crashes involving cars and large trucks, the driver of the passenger vehicle is at fault at least two-thirds of the time.
These facts brought B.C.’s road safety stakeholders together to form the Be Truck Aware Alliance and launch a campaign aimed at reducing car-truck crashes by educating all drivers on how to share the road safely – and enforcing those driving behaviours.
“Far too often, drivers who are involved in crashes with large trucks are distracted or make bad decisions regarding passing and fail to yield the right of way,” said Superintendent Davis Wendell, Officer in Charge of E Division Traffic Services for the RCMP. “As police officers, we see the heartbreaking effects that result from bad driving behaviours, and we know how easily they can be prevented.”
The Be Truck Aware campaign encourages drivers to always think and act responsibly when driving around trucks, and take the following precautions:
- Leave space – large trucks need extra room to stop and to turn. Don’t take away their turning or braking room.
- Don’t merge too soon – when passing a truck make sure you can see both its headlights in your rearview mirror before merging.
- Be visible – either slow down or move well ahead of large trucks to stay out of the truck driver’s blind spots.
- Anticipate wide turns – watch for trucks making wide swings to turn right. Never drive ahead in the right lane beside a turning truck.
“We’re asking drivers to consider their own driving behaviour around large trucks – if we want our roads to be safer, we first need to start with ourselves,” said Lindsay Matthews, Director of Road Safety for ICBC. “The reality is these crashes are preventable and they’re contributing to the rising number of injury and vehicle damage claims in our province which are putting pressure on B.C. insurance rates.”
A survey of B.C. drivers conducted for the Be Truck Aware Alliance in June found that 80 percent of drivers surveyed claim to know how to drive safely around large trucks, but over 40 percent don’t always drive that way. And nearly a third of drivers surveyed say they feel nervous driving around big trucks all or most of the time.
“When we first learn to drive, we’re taught to be cooperative,” says 20-year commercial truck driver Bruce Meadley. “But over time, driving behaviours erode, and we end up in a competitive environment where everyone’s trying to beat my truck or beat the light. They don’t realize how much danger they’re putting themselves in and how it endangers me and others who are not expecting me to have to make an abrupt stop.”
Although Be Truck Aware is concerned mostly with helping passenger vehicle drivers be safe around large trucks, the campaign also urges commercial truck drivers to do their part, and offers advice on how they can contribute to safer roads:
- Ensure brakes and tires are in top condition to minimize stopping distances.
- Adjust speed and driving in poor weather and road conditions.
- Stay sharp and focused by getting plenty of rest and eliminating in-cab distractions.
- Make sure loads are well-balanced and secure.
“Most trucking companies and their professional drivers are safe and take pride in what they do,” said Chris Back, Director of Industry and Labour Services for WorkSafeBC. “But the trucking safety record can always be better. We urge all truck drivers and employers of drivers to also do their part to reduce the risk of collisions.”
Drivers wanting to learn more about how they can reduce the risks of driving around large commercial trucks — and the penalties for unsafe driving — can visit gov.bc.ca/betruckaware.
B.C.’s Be Truck Aware Alliance includes RoadSafetyBC, ICBC, WorkSafeBC, the Justice Institute of British Columbia, RCMP, Commercial Vehicle Safety & Enforcement (CVSE), the BC Trucking Association, Teamsters Local 31 and Safety Driven – the Trucking Safety Council of B.C.