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Tailgating: Does it Pay?

Living in southern Ontario, or any major metropolitan area, certainly brings challenges when travelling on our highways. The roads are overcrowded with aggressive drivers. And automobile drivers don’t comprehend the dangers they put themselves into when moving around big trucks. If they only knew!

But what surprises me the most are our “professional” truck drivers. Driving a truck is much different than operating a car. And truck drivers should understand the dangers of tailgating. Especially knowing the limited knowledge of most automobile drivers. So why is it that truck drivers don’t always leave adequate space between them and the vehicle in front of them? Yes I know our highways are overcrowded. But that’s an excuse. There are driving techniques that compensate for overly aggressive car drivers and congestion. Why aren’t truck drivers always using these?

I recently had the privilege to again speak to a room full of truck drivers. Reviewing and evaluating the company’s SMS scores, I knew I was standing in front of professionals. These men and women know how to drive on our highways. It’s for that reason that I was asked by the company to come and remind them about proper following distance. Everyone in the room understands that following distance is one of the keys to driving safely.

What are some of the techniques that I talk about? I explain why when travelling at 105 km/h, a six second following distances is needed. And when I talk about maintaining that six second following distance I often see it in the eyes of those listening, some don’t believe it can be done! That’s when I try and explain the theory of travelling just slightly below the speed of traffic. Yes that means doing something less than 105 km an hour. But I’m only talking about 100 to 103 hours per hour. This is only slightly less than all the other trucks around you. If you can manage to travel at 2 to 3 km/h less than the flow of traffic you will have six seconds following distance at least some of the time. So the first technique to maintain a safe following distance would be to go slightly slower than the speed of traffic.

The second technique would be a change of mindset. Most drivers are paid by the mile. The sooner they get to their destination the more money per hour they make. But when calculating the time difference of slightly lower speeds over the long haul, it’s a fraction of what most drivers might think. In the example above it would take between 30-50 hours of solid driving time to see a one-hour difference in pay. So that’s why I’m saying a change of mindset for the driver is needed.

So to summarize, I’m asking all professional truck drivers to do just two things; slow down and leave a heck of a lot more space between you and the vehicle in front of you! Yes that’s easily said, and very hard to do. But the truly professional drivers manage to do it.

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