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CMV Driving Tips - Inadequate Surveillance

Inadequate surveillance occurs when the driver is in a situation where he/she is required to look to safely complete a maneuver and either fails to look in the appropriate place or looks, but does not see.14 This may include lane changes or turns at intersections where the driver looks in the required direction, but fails to see the approaching traffic.14 The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) reported that 14 percent of large-truck crashes occurred due to commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers' inadequate surveillance.15

Below are some tips that will help you stay aware of the vehicles and traffic around you.

TIP #1: Be Aware of Your "No-Zone"

Be vigilant in watching for vehicles in the "No-Zone." Drivers around you may not be aware of the size of your truck's blind spots. As a CMV driver, you are aware that some of your blind spots are large enough that a passenger vehicle can virtually disappear from your view. Remember that other drivers unfamiliar with commercial driving probably don't realize this.33

Did You Know? The "No-Zone" represents the areas around your truck where crashes are more likely to occur. One-third of all crashes between large trucks and cars takes place in the "No-Zone." 33

An example of inadequate surveillance is shown in the video clip below. Training exercise questions follow the video clip.

VIDEO DESCRIPTION: The CMV driver is traveling in the right lane of a two-lane highway during the day. The driver is approaching a slower-moving heavy vehicle. The CMV driver begins to change lanes to the left to go around the slower-moving vehicle, not recognizing a second vehicle is already in the left lane. The CMV driver has to brake suddenly and swerve to the right to avoid the vehicle. The vehicle also swerves to the right, onto the shoulder, to avoid the truck.

TRAINING DESCRIPTION: After viewing the video, try to answer the following questions:

  • How vigilant was the driver in watching for vehicles in his "no-zone?"
  • When did the driver notice that there was a vehicle in his "no-zone?"
  • What happened as a result of the driver's inadequate surveillance?
  • What could the truck driver have done differently?

TIP #2: Always Drive Defensively

Defensive driving is a way of operating your vehicle to avoid accidents due to the actions of others. To drive defensively you should: keep your distance, maintain a safe speed and stay alert. Recognizing potentially dangerous situations well in advance can allow you to safely maneuver past these situations.34

Did You Know? A recent study on the interaction between light vehicles and heavy vehicles revealed that light-vehicle drivers initiated almost 83 percent of safety-related traffic events.35 Therefore it is important to be aware of surrounding traffic and be ready to react to other drivers’ mistakes.

Did You Know? Seventy-five percent of lane change/merge crashes involve a recognition failure by the lane-changing/merging driver.36 The vast majority of these drivers (over 90 percent) are drivers of passenger vehicles.37

Did You Know? On July 16, 1981, on the Long Island Expressway near Jericho, NY, musician and singer Harry Chapin decreased his speed and swerved left and right between lanes twice and ended right in front of a tractor-trailer. The truck was unable to brake in time and rear-ended the vehicle in which Chapin was travelling. It was later determined that Chapin died of cardiac arrest, and it was believed that he might have been trying to pull over when the tractor-trailer hit him.38,39,40

An example of inadequate surveillance is shown in the video clip below. Training exercise questions follow the video clip.

VIDEO DESCRIPTION: The CMV driver is traveling in the left lane of a multi-lane road during the day. As the driver approaches an intersection, he looks out his left window at the same time that a pickup truck from the left turn lane changes lanes directly in front of the truck. The driver has to brake suddenly to avoid the pickup truck.

TRAINING EXERCISE: After viewing the video, try to answer the following questions:

  • What lane was the CMV driver driving in and why?
  • Describe the driver's alertness when approaching the intersection?
  • What happened when the driver approached the intersection?
  • What could the driver have done differently?

TIP #3: Look Far Enough Ahead

Look at least 15 seconds in front of you (approximately1/4 of a mile on the interstate and 1 1/2 blocks in the city).16 Looking far ahead will allow you to respond early and smoothly to changing conditions ahead and to avoid dangerous, abrupt braking situations.41

Did You Know? The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) states that "the speed of rotation and angle of the front wheels give you clues to whether the driver is slowing to stop or planning to turn in a certain direction. If the rotation does not appear to be slowing as the driver approaches a required stop, you should pad your brake and prepare to stop, and lightly tap your horn to get the other driver's attention." 42

Did You Know? It takes 3/4 of a second from the moment your brain sends the signal to your foot to move from the accelerator to when your foot actually applies the brake. In this short period of time, you may have already traveled up to 60 feet.16 Focusing on the vehicles ahead of you will help you react in a safe and timely manner.

TIP #4: Check Your Mirrors Often

Check your mirrors regularly (at least every 5 to 8 seconds) and before you change lanes, turn, or merge.43 Check your mirrors quickly and return your attention to the road ahead.16 Frequent scanning will allow you to be aware of changing traffic conditions around your truck.44

Did You Know? If you check your mirrors regularly, they can help you spot overtaking vehicles. Mirrors will also help you monitor your surrounding environment and may help you identify if a vehicle has moved into your blind spot.44

Did You Know? You can also use your mirrors to check your tires as you are driving down the road which may help you spot a tire fire. In addition, you can use the mirrors to check for loose straps, ropes, or chains when you are carrying open cargo.44

TIP #5: Approach and Enter Intersections with Caution

Check left, right, and left again before entering an intersection. Being able to quickly glance in each direction (of the crossing traffic) will provide you sufficient time to recognize oncoming vehicles.

Did You Know? A report on "Rear-End Large Truck Crashes" stated that 14.6 percent of truck-striking crashes are intersection-related.60