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Throttle Therapy: Co-existing with trucks on the road
There are a lot of other vehicles insisting they share the road with motorcyclists. Some received training just once, as young adults, when they first received their regular drivers licence. Other, like professional drivers, have necessarily had additional training.
Until the time comes when just motorcyclists are on the road (I know, I know, that will never happen), it’s up to the vulnerable participant in traffic to be more imaginative than the rest.
That means you, the biker, have to think twice. Once for riding your own machine, and again for knowing what other types of vehicles bring to the road.
Consider trucks. As a rider, it is incumbent on you to know that trucks have many blind spots, or “no zone” in which the trucker cannot see you (see diagram).
That’s just one of several things you need to know about sharing the roads with trucks.
Here are just a few tips for riders who have to share the road with truckers.
Trucks cannot stop on a dime.
What this boils down to is that if you need to do an emergency stop when there is a truck following you, you need to be ready to go again in an instant. If you have the option, it may be best to choose an emergency swerve instead of an emergency stop. And as a biker, it is your responsibility to know — at all times — what is in front, beside and behind you.
If you are riding behind a truck, realize that sometimes (like bikers) trucks use “engine brakes” to slow down. This means that they gear down. They may or may not apply the brakes and activate the brake lights. Gauge a truck’s speed by it’s expanding or diminishing the distance from you.
If you are behind a truck at a stop, you must come to terms with the true fact that trucks cannot start in an instant. This is a good time to practice patience.
If you are in front of a truck at a stop, you need to realize there is a possibility that you are in the trucker’s blind spot. This is a horrid place to be, potentially deadly. At all times when stopped at an intersection, your bike should be in first gear. This is especially true when you are in front of a truck. You MUST be in gear, and ready to go. (That should be a forever rule anyway. Never idle in neutral in the middle of traffic.)
In order for a long truck to turn, it must position the cab on the opposite side of the intended direction. So, in order to turn right, the trucker positions the vehicle to the far left of the lane (and sometimes crosses into the neighbouring left lane) in order to turn right.
Stay well back when you see a truck getting ready to turn. Do not attempt to pass it. You might be impatient with its lumbering speed, but it’s better to be patient and alive than to be impatient and dead.
Phantom trucker turns
This is the hardest one to contend with, because the obvious clue (the 18-wheeler truck) is missing. A good secondary suggestion might be the size of the pickup truck, or the height of its tires. Regardless, the driver of this phantom 18-wheeler will still drift into the left lane in order to execute a right hand turn. Your safest bet here is to drop back, and wait for their whatever to be fully executed.
I remember being fiercely frightened of the gust of wind from passing trucks, because some fool once scared me with a mythical notion of a truck’s dangerous wind tunnel. You can get sucked in there, I was told. Then, it dawned on me: if that were true, there would be a wake of dead animals in the trail of any passing truck. Considering the weight of a bike and its rider, the likelihood of being sucked into the draft of an oncoming truck is, well, nil. Just treat it like any other wind gust, position yourself in the middle of the lane, and stay strong. Prayer is not necessary.
Bottom line, it’s never a good idea to be in a hurry on roads that are shared with truckers. Or phantom truck drivers.