We have all been there – driving behind a massive truck towing a trailer, and trying to overtake it on a single lane road. Not only is it swaying a bit from side to side, but it is so difficult to find a stretch of open road to use for overtaking. The following tips will go a long way for safe driving amongst trucks.

The Truck Driver Has Blind Spots To Cope With

Truck drivers cannot see everything that is near their trucks – they have to put up with quite a few blind spots, namely, at the front, sides, and back.  A good test to see if your car is in a truck’s blind spot while you are wanting to overtake is if you can see the driver’s face in the side mirror. The trick is to be aware if you are moving into a blind spot, and if you are, to move out of it as soon as you can, and make yourself visible to the truck driver. After all, you want the driver to be aware of your presence so that he or she can respond appropriately.

How Do You Overtake A Truck Safely?

Before you intend to overtake a truck in front of you, you,  need to position your car correctly behind the truck. Your car should be sufficiently far behind the truck, keeping a safe distance between the front of your car and the rear of the truck. Remember, the stopping distance of your car increases with increasing speed. Once the distance of your car behind the truck is safe, move slightly to the right to see past the truck, and obtain a clear view of what lies ahead.

It sounds obvious but as little time as possible should be spent in a lane of oncoming traffic while overtaking a truck. Overtaking on a level straight road is thus the best, as you need to see well ahead for at least 1-2 km. Never try and overtake going uphill. Avoid overtaking downhill, as trucks tend to speed up.

Something We Forget About, Is Speed And Time

If your car A, traveling at 120 km/hour, is heading towards a stationary car B in your lane of the road 2 km further on, it would take 60 seconds to reach car B. But, if car A is in the overtaking lane, and if both cars A and B are traveling towards each other at the same speed of 120 km/hour, and there is a distance of 2 km between them, it would take half the time and distance before they meet. In other words, in this situation, you would have only less than 30 seconds to get safely back to your side of the road. The whole point of the above calculations is to illustrate and emphasize how easily we can underestimate the speed of approaching cars when overtaking.

After Overtaking, Take Time To Get Back Into Your Lane

When overtaking a truck, you need to bear in mind that the driver will not be able to stop the truck at the same distance that you can stop your passenger car. When overtaking, allow one car’s length in front of the truck for every 16 km/hour. Thus, traveling at 80 km/hour means that, after overtaking a truck, you get back to your lane about 5 car lengths beyond the front of the truck.

A Truck’s Stopping Distance

Avoid overtaking a truck going downhill, and then suddenly cutting in front of it and stopping at a traffic light. The truck driver was estimating to stop the truck in a certain distance before the traffic light, but with you suddenly appearing out of nowhere in front of the driver means that the stopping distance is suddenly that much shorter. The truck may not be able to stop in time, and thus crash into the back of your car.  Remember that on average, a truck traveling at 80 km/hour needs about the length of a soccer field or 100 m to come to a total halt.

Why Keep A Safe Distance?

Avoid tailgating as that places your car in the truck driver’s blind spot. As you move back, stay in the zone where the truck driver can see you. In addition, if for any reason, the truck driver has to suddenly put on all the brakes, you will have enough time to brake and not slide under the truck’s chassis as is usually the case.

When stopping behind a truck that is uphill, and stationary facing a traffic light, leave enough space behind the truck, as it may roll back when taking off.

Beware Of A Truck’s Extra Turning Space

Trucks need a lot more space to turn than motor vehicles.   Make sure that you give them enough space to turn comfortably, otherwise you might end up with unnecessary damage to your car.


This article was prepared by Eric Sandmann in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views and opinions of Prime Meridian Direct (Pty) Ltd, FSP41040.The views and opinions in the article should not be attributed to anyone but the author unless expressly stated. Nothing in this article should be relied upon as advice, this publication is presented for informational purposes only. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found in this article, without first obtaining proper financial advice from the appropriate professional. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, or completeness, of any information linked from, referred to, or contained in this article. The author reserves the right, to edit and change the content of this article.