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How to drive safely when a truck is nearby

Driving in front of, or even behind, a large lorry can be daunting. But there’s no need to panic if you follow the advice from the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ RoadSmart division.

  • When you’re driving on a motorway, you’ll notice many lorries with foreign number plates. Bear in mind that the driver will be sitting on the left-hand side rather than the right, so you may be difficult to see and the driver may be acclimatising to his lane position in the UK. Take extra care when passing and allow more space if you can.
  • We’ve all heard the saying, “if you can see their mirrors, then they can see you.” But an HGV can have up to five mirrors, and the driver is only limited to looking at one at a time so they may not see you. Hold back and you will eventually be visible in their mirrors.
  • Identify when there’s a likelihood of the HGV changing lanes. Is there a slip road coming up which will be joining traffic and may force a lane change? Or if there is an HGV in lane two, are they likely to change back to lane one? Be accommodating. Hang back and allow them to pull into the lane they are looking to move into.
  • We’ve all experienced heavy spray from an HGV in front of us sometimes. You can control this by extending the distance between yourself and the lorry. The Highway Code suggests at least four seconds in the rain but, if needed, make it more. Not only will it prevent your wipers working overtime, it will also improve your vision beyond the HGV.
  • An articulated lorry will track sideways in a right-hand bend on the motorway and on a roundabout, so avoid being beside it. A good rule of thumb is to be safely in front or safely behind, but never beside an HGV when entering a roundabout
  • If you see a queue of traffic in front of you and an HGV is behind you, introduce your brake lights early to pre-warn the driver behind and slow down gradually. This will let the HGV driver extend their braking distance and stop in plenty of time. On a motorway or dual carriageway, hazard lights can be used to show drivers behind you of any issues further in front (Highway Code rule 116).
  • Despite being legally limited to 60mph, an HGV can only physically go a maximum of 56mph on the motorway. So if you do see a HGV in the right-hand lane, give them a helping hand by slowing down and letting them into the left lane. Allow them to pass more easily if you can.
  • “As any HGV driver will tell you,” IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Riding & Driving Standards said, “they sometimes need a bit of extra space to move down the road. Visibility can be restricted, and no amount of mirrors will allow all of the blind spots to be monitored all of the time.

    “By applying some simple rules and sharing the road space, we can make life easier for all of us. On a roundabout, they will need more than one lane so let them have it; a few seconds delay will be worth it if you prevent a crash. Walk that mile in the other man’s shoes and understand what we may need.”