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Help truck drivers stay safe

As Suffolk and the rest of Hampton Roads have developed, much of the development has come with the cost of more trucks on our roads. The port and many warehouse and distribution facilities in Suffolk and to the west have brought opportunities, but they have also brought more truck traffic and train traffic loaded with products and materials of all kinds making its way back and forth between facilities.

Much has been said about the traffic snags that the long trains produce in Suffolk, but here I’d like to focus on the truck traffic, instead.

My dad was a truck driver for most of his career. He worked for a variety of different companies delivering many products. There’s a good chance he delivered a door or window in your house, gasoline you pumped into your car, soda you drank, cash you spent at a business or mail you sent from here to Richmond.

One of the companies my dad worked for gave him a bonus every time someone called the number on the back of his truck and reported him for driving well. He took my mom and me out to dinner with the money every time.

I was always proud of the hard work my dad did to support me and my mom. He had to stop working after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2014, just before his 60th birthday. He never drove a tractor-trailer again and died the following January.

Even so, I still think of him when I see tractor-trailers on the road, and I imagine him driving as I try to drive extra carefully and extend every courtesy possible to them, as I would have wanted others to do for my dad.

So I was excited to cover an event happening at Paul D. Camp Community College this Wednesday, where potential truck drivers were able to learn about a new program that will help them get their commercial driver’s license. There will be a story about this event and program running in the paper in the coming days, so watch out for it.

That event got me thinking about how many drivers on the road may not be aware of how to keep themselves and others safe when they’re driving near tractor-trailers. So, culled from a variety of online sources, here are some safety tips for when you’re driving near a tractor-trailer.

  • Give the truck extra space. Tractor-trailers need substantially more space than a car does to come to a complete stop in an emergency. Don’t follow them closely, and choose another lane if they are following you too closely.
  • Don’t stay in their blind spot. The blind spots include directly behind the trailer and large portions of the area on both sides of the truck, especially the right.
  • Never cut into a small space between a tractor-trailer and the car in front of them. The semi driver left that space for a reason.
  • Pass with care. Always do so on the left, and make sure you stay in your lane when you’re traveling beside a tractor-trailer. They don’t have as much leeway as cars do.
  • Give them a wide berth as they’re turning. They need to swing wider to make a turn — especially a right turn — and they can’t do it as quickly.
  • Watch for other passenger vehicles that may make an unsafe move near the tractor-trailer, and give the trucker the room to do what he or she needs to do to compensate.
  • Use common sense and be patient.