TRANSPORT VEHICLES: DRIVING SAFE WITH TRUCKS, TRAINS AND BUSES.

Transportation vehicles and their industry play a vital role in the economy of a country. Along with transportation via air and sea, trucks, buses, and trains are key to the transportation of people, food, and goods across the country.

October is South Africa’s Transport Month and we acknowledge the hard work of the transportation industry. Transportation infrastructure has a huge influence on the way people and goods move. Reliable transportation provides people with access to a greater travelling distance from home – thus more work opportunities -, as well as ensures that store shelves remain full. Often when transportation infrastructure is interrupted, everyday people immediately experience the negative impact of food and goods shortages. 

Transport Month aims to raise awareness of this very important industry and ask for business and civic society participation “in providing a safer, more affordable, accessible and reliable transport”, according to the South African government. 

In line with our work, we would like to take this opportunity to discuss how drivers and pedestrians can safely navigate transportation vehicles on the road. As these vehicles are much larger, extra precautions must be taken when sharing the road with them. Learning about the limitations and challenges that drivers of these vehicles face when operating them can be an important factor when navigating the roads around them. 

LARGER VEHICLES, LARGER BLIND SPOTS 

Especially with regards to trucks, a larger vehicle size makes for larger blind spots for the truck driver. Arrive Alive states that “70% of truck-related car fatalities are initiated by car drivers”. 35% of these fatalities occur in trucks’ blind spots. 

This means that other users of the road must be aware of these limitations so that they do not position themselves on the road where the truck driver is unable to see them. Most freight vehicles additionally do not have a rearview mirror. 

Because of these factors, it is important to give yourself extra distance between yourself and a truck. As a general rule, if you cannot see the driver’s face in their side mirrors, they cannot see you. If you follow too closely behind them, they are also not able to see your car around the large body of the truck. 

When overtaking a truck or bus, it is crucial to your safety to give yourself enough time and distance from the vehicle. This is so the driver can see you coming from a way off and can respond accordingly. Trucks and buses have a slower reaction time on account of their size, so it’s best to avoid “sneaking up” on them. 

As a pedestrian, you are already less visible to drivers, and added precaution should be taken when using the road alongside trucks and buses. Never try to cross the road too close to the front and rear of a large vehicle as you will find yourself in their blind spots. This can have devastating consequences for a pedestrian. If possible, rather wait for them to pass before attempting to cross the road. If a truck is reversing, never cross behind it as the driver will not be able to see you doing so. 

Take note of oncoming buses when crossing a bus lane. As they often see fewer vehicles than the other lanes, some people become complacent when looking out for oncoming buses. It is also not unusual for minibus taxis to illegally cross into the bus lane during peak traffic times in an attempt to reach their destination timeously. 

It should also be noted that due to the longer and wider bodies of freight vehicles, such as trucks, they have an incredibly wide turning radius. If you see a truck intending to turn, ensure that you have allowed enough space between yourself and the truck. Not doing so can very easily result in a collision. 

Large vehicles are required to have reflective strips around the entire body of the vehicle, as well as a chevron board mounted on the rear to highlight the width, although this is not always enforced. At night, trucks are far less visible despite their size. Always drive cautiously around a truck in the dark. Extra-long trucks and those driving with a trailer attached are usually marked as such. Take added caution when overtaking longer trucks. You should only do so when you have more than enough visible road ahead of you to safely do so. 

NO TIME TO STOP 

Given the large size of transport vehicles, as well as the momentum of their heavy load, a longer stopping distance is required. The greater the speed at which the truck is driving, the longer the stopping distance. The stopping distance needed for large vehicles is also exponentially increased at night and in adverse weather conditions. 

Because of this, maintaining a safe distance from a truck is key to avoiding a potentially fatal crash. This is extended to overtaking trucks and letting them pass. As truck drivers will try to ensure distance between themselves and other vehicles, many cars will see this as an opportunity to cut into the space provided, rather than keep it clear to allow for a safe stopping distance. 

If a bus or truck is approaching a red light, do not cut in front as these vehicles will require additional distance and time to come to a stop. Doing so may have devastating consequences. Always err on the side of caution when approaching an intersection with a large vehicle. 

As a pedestrian, crossing in front of an oncoming truck can prove fatal as the driver may not have enough time to brake to avoid you. 

GET ON TRACK WITH TRAIN SAFETY 

Especially in cities, trains are a mode of transport for many people. Freight trains also run across the country carrying coal and agricultural products. 

When reaching a train crossing by car, look in both directions and listen for the train before crossing. Trains travel very fast and can approach quicker than you anticipate. At night, it is also harder to correctly judge how far away the train may be. If you see a train approaching, wait for it to pass before crossing the tracks. Never stop your vehicle on the tracks. 

If you commute via train, making use of a train station should also be done with safety in mind. Never stand over the yellow line next to the tracks and only approach the train when the doors are open and it is safe to do so. Do not try to board a train if the doors are closing and the train is getting ready to pull away. 

Trying to hitch a free ride by hanging on the side of the train or else climbing on the roof will likely also end in a fatality as trains move at a high speed. This makes it impossible to hold on for the duration of the trip. 

Pedestrians should avoid walking along train tracks. Prevent children from playing on or near the tracks. If a pedestrian is too close to a passing train, they are at risk of getting sucked underneath the train which will be fatal.

Never throw rocks or other objects on the tracks as these can become projectiles under the fast-moving wheels of a train. 

Freight vehicle operators already have a job filled with challenges, whether it be the risk of truck burnings, looting, or long hours spent on the road. This Transport Month let’s all make the effort to drive more consciously around trucks, buses, and trains, not only for everyone’s safety on the road but to also make their job just a little bit easier.

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