More cars, buses and trucks are travelling on Canada's roads than ever before. As traffic increases, so does the need for sharing the road safely. All drivers need to:
- Understand how different vehicles operate and why other drivers take the actions they do.
- Gain the knowledge and skill to behave safely around different types of vehicles.
- Show patience and courtesy towards all other road users, even those who demonstrate less understanding and skill.
For information relating to collisions involving truck and buses, visit the National Collision Database Online.
Sharing the road safely is the responsibility of every road user. Transport Canada and its partners in road safety want to help everyone safely share Canada's roads.
On this page
- Car drivers: understanding large vehicles
- Trucks & bus drivers: sharing the road with passenger cars
- Contact us
Car drivers: understanding large vehicles
When a passenger vehicle collides with a larger truck or bus, the results can be tragic. While crashes involving trucks and buses represent only 8.7% of total collisions, they account for 21% of fatalities. And it's the occupants of the smaller vehicle who are more likely to suffer. A better understanding of how large vehicles operate and move can help motorists reduce the risk of collision.
Large trucks and buses are not like cars-not even big cars. Driving these large vehicles requires extra skill and training, especially when the road is difficult, the weather bad or the traffic heavy. When trucks and buses speed up, slow down, climb hills, switch lanes and make turns, they perform in ways that are not the same as cars. The bigger the vehicle, the larger its blind spots, the more room it needs to manoeuvre, and the longer it takes to speed up or to stop.
But no matter how skillful professional drivers may be, their vehicles impose physical limits on how effectively they can react to unexpected moves by other road users.
Remember: Exercise patience and courtesy towards all other road users. Keeping them safe keeps you safe.
While trucks and buses have more powerful engines than cars, they must also pull much more weight. A heavy truck may need 10 gear changes to reach the speed limit, and may take twice as much time and distance as a car to stop. Large trucks and buses make wide turns, and may first have to move in the opposite direction (left for a right-hand turn, right for a left-hand turn) in order to turn some corners.
Truck and bus drivers are aware of the limitations and the power of their vehicles, and therefore take their driving very seriously.
Are you a car driver who occasionally drives larger vehicles, such as a moving van or a motor-home? The Sharing the Road with passenger cars section will be particularly helpful.
Tips and advice for car drivers
Drivers of large trucks and buses enjoy a better forward view and have larger side mirrors. But remember that they also have more and larger blind spots. Avoid staying in one of their blind spots-if you can't see the driver in his or her side mirror, the driver probably can't see you.
Approaching large vehicles
Larger vehicles create more air turbulence at highway speeds. When approaching, keep a steady grip on your steering wheel.
Truck and bus wheels spray a lot of rain in the summer and slush in the winter. When the road is wet, turn on your windshield wipers when approaching trucks and buses so you'll be able to see more clearly at all times.
Following a large vehicle
Tailgating is always dangerous, but tailgating a large truck or bus is especially dangerous. Not only does this reduce your ability to see what's happening on the road ahead, but the driver of the truck or bus can't see you. Keep a safe distance when following. And remember, if you can't see the driver in his or her side mirror, the driver can't see you.
When possible, stay to the left side within your lane. This increases your own field of vision and makes you more visible to the bus or truck driver.
Leave plenty of space when coming to a stop behind a large vehicle on an incline. Heavy vehicles can roll back as much as 4.5 metres (15 feet) when the driver's foot is taken off the brake to accelerate.
Don't squeeze your vehicle into the space that a truck or bus driver leaves between the truck or bus and the vehicle ahead of it. The driver is leaving enough room to brake safely. If you reduce this braking distance, you may be forcing the driver behind you to make a difficult choice: brake hard (possibly causing problems like jackknifing), or risk rear-ending your vehicle.
Sometimes large vehicles must swing wide to turn safely-they'll swing right for a left turn and left for a right turn. Watch their turn signals and give them room to manoeuvre. Never drive between a turning truck or bus and the side of the road-your car could get stuck between the large vehicle and the curb.
Don't stay in the passing lane after overtaking a truck or bus. When you can see the entire front of the truck or bus in your rear-view mirror, make a shoulder check, signal and return to the right lane.
Never overtake a bus or truck on the right side-this is the side with the largest blind spot. If the larger vehicle needs to move to the right, he or she may not see you in time to avoid a collision.
Drivers of large vehicles can't see objects that are close behind them. Unless they have someone assisting them, stay clear of a truck or bus that is backing up.
Signal your intentions
Trucks and buses take more time and need greater distances than cars to speed up, manoeuvre and stop. When driving near a large vehicle, signal your intentions early so that the truck or bus driver has enough time to react safely.
In hilly terrain
The speed of large vehicles will vary in hilly areas-faster down an incline and slower going up. Going faster down a slope helps a driver develop enough momentum to drive up the next hill at a reasonable speed. Be prepared to adjust your speed to maintain a safe distance.
If you're driving up a hill behind a large vehicle that is going slower, remember that the driver is probably doing his or her best to keep up speed. Be patient and slow down to maintain a safe distance.
If you're driving down a hill ahead of a large vehicle that is fast approaching, speed up a little, if it's safe to do so, to keep a safe distance between your vehicles. The truck or bus driver may be trying to slow down safely without losing the momentum needed to climb the next hill at a reasonable speed.
On many highways with three or more lanes, large vehicles are not allowed to use the far left lane, even for passing slower vehicles. When a large vehicle is following you in a centre lane, give it the opportunity to pass by moving to the right lane.
When a truck or bus moves to the left lane to allow you to merge with traffic on a highway, slow down a little to let it return to the right lane in front of you. This will allow you to pass safely on the left, if you wish, and will help the larger vehicle get out of faster-moving left-lane traffic.
Trucks & bus drivers: sharing the road with passenger cars
With the knowledge, experience and skill you have gained as a commercial driver comes an added responsibility—to share the road safely, to anticipate hazardous situations and to be patient with other road users who may not understand how a large vehicle operates.
While most professional drivers also drive cars and know how it feels to share the road with large vehicles, most passenger vehicle drivers have no idea what it's like to be behind the wheel of a large truck or bus.
Surveys indicate that many motorists feel uncomfortable around larger and longer vehicles. The very size of trucks and buses can make car drivers feel vulnerable, and may cause them to make inappropriate moves.
Drivers of smaller vehicles often don't realize that a loaded tractor-trailer needs twice as much more distance to stop as the average car and takes much longer to get up to cruising speed. They may not anticipate that a truck or bus sometimes needs to track wide when turning. They may feel intimidated and react unexpectedly when they see a truck or bus looming closer.
Remember that a serious collision, regardless of who may be at fault, is more likely to result in an injury to the people in the smaller vehicle. While crashes involving trucks and buses represent only 8.7% of total collisions, they account for 21% of fatalities.
Tips and advice for truck and bus drivers
Be aware of the size and location of your vehicle's blind spots, especially when driving an unfamiliar vehicle or new type of trailer or load. Watch the vehicles around you, notice when they enter your blind spots and remember they are there—even if you can't see them.
Following a small vehicle
Tailgating is extremely dangerous when you are behind the wheel of a heavy vehicle. Always leave plenty of braking and manoeuvring room between you and the vehicle in front. You are seated higher than a car driver, so use this extra driving height to look well ahead and prepare for braking situations.
When driving behind a smaller vehicle, keep in mind how intimidating your grille may appear in a the other vehicle's rear-view mirror. Leave a generous buffer zone to allow the other driver to feel comfortable and safe.
Being passed by another vehicle
When being passed by a faster vehicle, ease up on the accelerator a little to ensure quick and safe passing.
Convoys can be intimidating to car drivers. When travelling in convoy, consider leaving enough space between the trucks for overtaking passenger vehicles to fit into safely.
Signal your intentions
Signal your intentions clearly before turning, slowing or stopping so that drivers around you have enough time to react properly, especially in bad weather or in hilly areas.
When tracking wide to turn a corner, always take a moment to double-check for passenger vehicles that may have moved into your turning zone.
Don't allow yourself to become distracted. A large vehicle can travel a long way during a momentary lapse of concentration.
At 100 km/h, a large vehicle can travel 90 metres (nearly 300 feet) in only 3 seconds.
Think ahead several steps and anticipate the potential dangers. If you're planning to pass, is there an incline ahead that will slow you down? If you are turning a tight corner, have you signalled your intentions well ahead?
Be particularly vigilant in construction zones where there is less room to manoeuvre, more distractions and greater risk of the unexpected.
It's also important to slow down. The gravel surface in some construction zones reduces friction and so increases the distance needed to brake. The cloud of dust created behind a large vehicle on gravel roads reduces visibility for other road users and for workers.
Setting the standard
Continue to drive defensively, even when other road users aren't as courteous. As a professional, you set the standard for safe driving.
Always wear your seat belt. In rollover collisions in particular, many truck and bus drivers have been killed or injured after they were ejected from the vehicle. Wearing seat belts is the single most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries on our roads.
Have you got a question or comment on sharing the road safely? We appreciate your feedback and respond to queries as quickly as possible.
You can contact us by mail, e-mail or give us a call!
Motor Vehicle Safety
330 Sparks Street, Tower C
Ottawa ON K1A 0N5
Telephone: 1-800-333-0371 (toll-free), 1-613-998-8616 (Ottawa region)