Truck driving this summer will be different. Yes, you will see the standard summertime advisories:
- Watch for road construction.
- Monitor the weather for severe conditions.
- Be ready for increased traffic.
However, that last item will make the “Summer of 2021” very different than the “Summer of 2020.”
The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed personal travel during most of 2020. Truck drivers still had a job to do last year, but they travelled over less congested roadways. And the drivers who took to the road in 2020 often found those miles alluring. Speeding violations by truck drivers increased significantly in 2020, while motorists were cited for speeding six times more than truckers
With the arrival of the “Summer of 2021” all indications show that passenger car travel will return with a vengeance. AAA reported a 60% increase in highway travel on Memorial Day weekend compared to 2020. Demand for gasoline reached its highest level since the start of the pandemic. Americans, pent up by the pandemic, are now shedding their masks, loading up the family and heading out on vacation.
Motorists will bring more than the kids, dogs and beach blankets with them. Many will also bring dusty safe driving habits from lack of use. Perhaps the crowded road will lessen the temptation to speed. On the other hand, car and truck drivers alike will now need to pay more attention to each other’s presence. While dad and mom readjust to highway traffic, professional truck drivers should take steps to keep the roads safe for everyone:
- Watch roadsides and travel center parking lots. Vacationers may stop alongside the road or take a break near where trucks get fuel. Doors open, children and pets run around, and parents forget to check the lane before pulling back into traffic. Be alert.
- Use mirrors continually. Motorists will eventually become reacquainted with truck blind spots. Until then, safety requires constant awareness by truck drivers. That includes signaling motorists when it is safe for them to pass a truck on a two-lane road.
- Take caution near weigh stations. Truck drivers know they need to drive in the right-hand lane to exit for inspections or to have their bypass transponder properly read. Truckers also know that commercial motor vehicles exiting an inspection site will take time to reach highway speed. Passenger car drivers may not remember those routines. Use turn signals early to change lanes. Use flashers as necessary to help motorists slow down.
- Share vision. Truck drivers have the safety advantage of sitting higher above the road and seeing what lies ahead. Truckers see traffic congestion, work zones, accidents and speed limit changes long before they become visible to the motorist. Share that vision with lights, flashers, brakes. Safety is enhanced when everyone knows what is coming.
Families on the road want to reach their destinations safely, just as truckers do. But after a year of COVID-19, motorists may be a little out of practice. Be a professional and help other highway users get back up to speed with safe driving.