It makes for shocking viewing: an HGV swipes a tiny Nissan Micra in its blind spot then pushes it along the road. In another film, an articulated truck crunches onto a Toyota Yaris and drags it round the corner. They’re graphic proof that car drivers need to be aware that sitting in the blind spot of a large lorry can be very dangerous.
Put yourself in the cab of an HGV for a moment. Lumbering, unwieldy, and as athletic as a pile of logs, vision towards the rear is restricted and the thing you’re driving can weigh as much as 40 tonnes and might be nearly 19m long. In addition, it folds right behind your head. And anyone who’s ever towed anything in a car will know the problems that can present. So how can we as car drivers do our bit to help? We asked Laurie Moore from HGV driver instruction company Tockwith Training.
What’s the most common mistake car drivers make?
“Cars now are very agile and nippy. Big lorries have got better but they’re still nowhere near as manoeuvrable as cars,” Laurie said. “Drivers of smaller vehicles nip alongside lorries at roundabouts and around bends without realising that the HGV driver doesn’t have eyes in the back of their head. Although the HGV driver might check their mirrors regularly, cars can be alongside in their blind spot in the blink of an eye.” The message is clear: if the car doesn’t give the lorry as much room as it needs, there will be a coming together.
How much can an HGV driver see?
“The biggest hazard for car drivers is being side-swiped by a lorry,” claimed Laurie. “HGV drivers have huge blind spots, particularly when they’re turning corners. As soon as they start turning to the right, perhaps on a roundabout, HGV drivers struggle to see down the left-hand side. And if they’re turning left, they have the same problem on the other side.
“A lot of car drivers will exit motorways and undertake lorries as they head for the slip road. That might be at the same time as the lorry driver decides to move back into the inside lane. The HGV driver may well not see the car and could hit it.”
How much of a hazard are foreign trucks?
“Car drivers really must be aware that when they pass left-hand drive foreign trucks on the right, as you would on a motorway or dual carriageway, the driver might not see them.
“If a driver is passing a foreign-registered truck, they should make sure they aren’t hanging around to the side of it. They should either be behind it by the trailer’s rear wheels or by the front of the cab. That way the driver will definitely be able to see them.”
How much can lorry drivers see when making tight turns?
“If a lorry is turning tight left, they should gradually move over to the right before starting their left turn. But some drivers don’t. They swing out to the right then swing left. It’s a bit more exciting that doing it the correct way! The trouble is it might confuse a car driver, motor biker or cyclist who don’t realise the lorry is turning left. By the time they’re alongside, they’ll be in the driver’s blind spot and could be crushed.”
What about running into the back of HGVs?
“Trucks must now have under-run bars at the back. That will generally stop cars sliding under them. But the biggest threat is for motor bikers. Nonetheless, other road users shouldn’t be too close to the back of lorries simply because the closer you are, the less chance there is that the lorry has seen you. The old saying is true: if you can’t see the lorry’s mirrors, the driver can’t see you.”
How dangerous are lorries?
Statistics from the Department for Transport show that in 2015, 282 people were killed in crashes involving HGVs in the UK. On motorways, 45 people died in HGV crashes. Just fewer than twice as many ‑ 81 people – were killed in cars. However, cars covered six and a half times more miles on motorways than HGVs. The most recent data for left-hand drive truck crashes is from 2009. It shows that 7 per cent of deaths in accidents with HGVs involved foreign-registered trucks.