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Preventing tractor-trailer crashes this winter

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 8:31 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - There have been several recent tractor-trailer crashes on Vermont’s highways and the Department of Motor Vehicles says they all could have been prevented.

“It’s a lot harder for one of these to stop, just leave enough distance in between,” said Eric Badore, a student at Pro Driver Training, a truck driving school in Milton.

Badore has driven everything from a commuter vehicle to race cars, but an 18-wheeler was an adjustment. He even says it takes more skill than anything he has been in.

“I wish everyone could get behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer, not even drive, just sit there,” said Alex Johnson, an instructor and part-owner of Pro Driver Training.

He says being on the road opens your eyes to common mistakes people make while driving near a tractor-trailer.

“There is a lot of cutting off. You’ve got people going around and cutting in front, taking up that space that you need to stop as a truck driver,” Johnson said.

That space, with a fully loaded 80,000-pound truck, can be equivalent to the length of a football field. But cutting off truckers isn’t the only issue.

“Everybody is distracted, everybody is in a hurry, there are double the amount of cars, no one is courteous,” said Richard Green, who, along with Liz Green, is also an owner of Pro Driver Training.

Richard has spent most of his life behind the wheel and he says when around a truck, drivers need to remember to give space, be patient and stay out of blind spots on all sides. And while he can’t control what cars do, he can control what his students learn, from prechecking the truck to getting on the road.

“We try to train our drivers to be safe and courteous, courtesy on the road is a big one, knowing what is around you,” he said.

Liz says while safety is number one, often that isn’t what their drivers do, instead, they worry about others.

“Safety is the number one thing, safety is. We are going to teach you how to drive this truck, you are going to be a professional driver, but part of being a professional driver is understanding how safe you have to be on that road. And part of being safe on that road is being able to anticipate what that next driver is going to do. That’s what they are taught -- look ahead, be cautious be aware. What’s that car doing, what’s that pedestrian doing, look for the spike at the crosswalk. We are constantly instilling that safety and that preparedness,” she said.

They say one of the biggest issues their drivers run into is getting cut off by other drivers rushing or trying to make an exit. And authorities say that’s actually the cause of one of the crashes last week on Interstate 89 in Georgia.

“Those normal safety mindsets that we have about just normal driving should be increased. Those distances should be increased when we are operating in and around commercial vehicles,” said Sgt. Matthew Nesto, with the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.

Nesto says this time of year they typically see a few more crashes as road conditions change. He says while a lot of crashes are typically caused by the driver of the car, truck drivers make mistakes, too.

“For those same reasons car operators should be aware that trucks don’t stop on a dime, commercial operators need to be aware those limitations are there for them, too,” he said.

Nesto says one of the most common laws people forget about is that when you merge onto the highway, you must yield to drivers already on the road. Larger trucks cannot always move over as easily as a car due to blind spot safety, so your safest maneuver, according to Pro Driver Training, is to slow down and merge behind the truck if you can’t safely make it in front.

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