Understanding Trucker Signals
By Chad Upton | Editor
You can’t go far on the highway without seeing a semi-truck. While they may be intimidating to some, in many cases they are the most careful drivers on the road — their life and livelihood is on the line.
Truckers usually communicate with each other using citizen’s band (CB) radios, but they communicate with you using headlights, turn signals and trailer lights. In a lot of cases, you probably don’t realize they’re doing it.
Trucks have a lot of advantages over the average driver. For example, they sit a lot higher, so they see past other cars when you can’t. Also, from their CB radio, they know about things that are around the next corner.
The most common signal is used by cars and trucks in oncoming lanes. They will double-flash their headlights when they just passed a police speed trap that you’re heading toward. While this is very helpful, be sure you know your local laws about this, in some places it is against the law.
More than two consecutive flashes from oncoming traffic signals that there is another type of danger ahead, such as a foreign object on the road and drivers should proceed with caution. These two signals are often confused, but the appropriate action is the same, slow down.
Another signal is for lane change clearance. Because semi-trucks are so long, it can be difficult for the driver to tell if he can safely change lanes in front of you. You can quickly flash your headlights when his trailer clears your car and there is room for him to move back into the driving lane (as appose to the passing lane).
This is especially useful in heavy traffic or when a truck passes you on the highway. If he has his signal on, and he has room to fit in front of you, he expects you to quickly flash your lights to give him the OK. If you do so, he will usually flash his trailer lights a number of times to say, “thank you.”
When you’re driving on the highway for a long time, you experience a condition known as velocitization — your ability to detect changes in speed is reduced. If you’re not expecting a construction zone or some other hazard that requires a sudden reduction in speed, then it can be a dangerous situation. Truck drivers will put their flashing hazard lights on when the highway traffic is coming to an abrupt stop. This signal is fairly common among drivers in Europe, but is only common among truck drivers in North America. If you understand this signal, you’ll notice it from a great distance and you won’t have to jam your brakes at the last minute.
I propose adding a “thank you” signal for motorists that move out of the passing lane when you approach from behind. Flash your left signal a couple times after your pass (or right signal if you drive on the left side of the road).
If you put in a lot of highway miles, you might consider a CB radio for earlier warnings, alternate routes and good old fashioned chit-chat. The common channel is usually 19 (although 17 is popular in some areas too). You can get a CB radio at radio shack or many truck stops.
Thanks for reading, I’m 10-7.
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