HGVs: How car drivers can stay safe around lorries on the road

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?

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.

22 comments on “HGVs: How car drivers can stay safe around lorries on the road

  1. Eric Hayman 19/05/2017 8:03 AM

    Having regularly driven 7 1/2 tonne lorries, I know that many car and van drivers do not appreciate the problems all lorry drivers have when there are smaller vehicles close to them. It is not just being in a blind spot; drivers of smaller vehicles will nip around large ones just to get ahead. And I have seen plenty of times when a lorry will drift onto the hard shoulder, or across lanes. Another fault with HGV drivers – often of the same company – is very close tailgating, presumably to save on fuel consumption by slipstreaming the lorry in front. “Just-in-time” schedules do not make better drivers.

  2. Jane Gibson 12/06/2017 11:33 AM

    Most likely places to encounter lots of HGVs at one time are on motorways. Many car drivers are not up to motorway driving, if they do not use M-ways that much, nor are their cars. It is easy to accelerate beyond one’s normal speed but not so easy to get out of a bad situation. As an older driver I voluntarily gave up M-way driving some years ago as I knew my reactions were not fast enough to deal with sudden changes in the road-scape. I don’t have any magic answer to that problem but I urge all drivers to be careful and not be distracted by eating, chattering, ‘phone use (even hands free) and so on. No-one knows what will happen ahead in just a few seconds.

  3. Michael V Thomas 06/07/2017 6:33 PM

    Very interesting and educational. and informs you of the problems facing lorry drivers . Most motorists , including me were or are not fully aware of the problem with blind spots.

  4. John Alce 06/07/2017 7:18 PM

    Why do they pullout on dual carriageways without looking? They should check their mirrors before they pull out. Also there should be no passing by lorries on any roads that are less than 3 or more lanes!!!! Why do they have to tailgate other lorries? I thought they had to stay 150 metres behind the vehicle in front.

    • Eric Hayman 17/07/2017 1:07 PM

      ” Why do they have to tailgate other lorries? ” Suppsedly to save fuel by slipstreaming. Or maybe so that only the driver in front has to think!

      • Chris D 17/07/2017 1:58 PM

        Tailgating is bad – primarily because it is dangerous to the following driver. Any idea of it being useful in terms of slip-streaming is fanciful. Unfortunately the couple of hundred yards it takes to stop an HGV at 56mph just provides too much space for car drivers to fit in. Even slowing on a slip road car drivers think they are ok to jump into 40 feet between one truck and another. I tend to think of them as MY potential ‘crumple zone’ 🙂

  5. Philip Evans 07/07/2017 3:28 PM

    Maybe LH Drive lorries should not be allowed on UK motorways and vice versa?

    • Bob chandley 09/07/2017 7:33 AM

      Not finañcially feasible for owners to have two types of vehicles for home and abroad use.

  6. Robert Henry 08/07/2017 7:38 PM

    Is it not possible to fit a camera to the back of large lorries to enable the driver to read the situation on a screen in the cab?

    • Shirley Lycett 12/07/2017 12:21 PM

      If you’re behind a lorry its your responsibility to not get too close, the lorry driver has enough to do looking where he’s going without having to worry about who driving behind him!

    • Chris D 12/07/2017 3:28 PM

      Yes, but anything that means the LGV driver has to take their eyes of the road in front is a bad thing. These days an increasing amount of ‘technology’ means the driver has to do just that. This is not good!

  7. john driver 09/07/2017 3:04 PM

    Any tip regarding other types of vehicles could save lives. A dead person cannot say “Well I was in the right” if it happens.

  8. Lawrie 10/07/2017 1:31 PM

    HGV’s used to be my “enemy no1” but have dropped down the list below cyclist’s and moped riders

  9. Charles Jenkins 12/07/2017 10:21 AM

    Nice article Laurie. But PLEASE stop using the term “inside” lane when describing road position. Lane 1, lane 2 etc is better. Lots of novices refer to lane 1 as the “inside”lane of a dual carriage way and the lane closest to the island as the “inside” lane on a roundabout. Confused? Let’s keep it unambiguous.

    Charles ADI

  10. Sue Pattison 13/07/2017 7:55 AM

    Why can’t everyone just take more care, leave more space and think about other drivers. OK so that would be the ideal and I suppose it won’t happen unfortunately!

    • Mark 16/07/2017 9:05 AM

      You mean the magic word called “patience”?
      Sadly not available on the UK roads. Everybody want’s to leave later and be somewhere before somebody else.

  11. Lynnette 17/07/2017 11:00 AM

    I agree with John Alce – lorry drivers should not overtake on 2-lane roads. I see a lot of near misses when cars and other vehicles have to brake as one lorry overtakes another and then they drive at the same speed, side by side for some time.

  12. Pat Finn 17/07/2017 7:24 PM

    As an ex-HGV driver, I would like to add a couple of points which might not immediately occur to some car drivers –
    1) because HGVs take longer to get going and to stop, it is not a clever move for a car driver to pull out from a side road in front of a heavy vehicle on a main road, causing it to brake, and then shortly afterwards pull up completely in order to make a turn at the next road junction. This will guarantee a sense of humour failure from the HGV driver who now has to get his slug going again, and
    2) as HGVs are mechanically limited to 56 mph, they need all the momentum they can get to keep their weight going. The problem of tailgating is one consequence of this and has been well highlighted in this blog. It is a terrifying habit. Nevertheless, if you are driving a car blithely along a dual carriageway at a steady 50 mph, please, please, please, do not cruise relentlessly at that speed in lane 2 if lane 1 is clear, believing you have a right to hog lane 2 because only HGVs belong in lane 1. You should do as spelt out in the Highway Code and move across to your default position in lane 1. Otherwise, you will simply be causing an obstruction for all the other traffic which might want to go a bit faster than 50 mph. A laden HGV will want to keep going at his maximum speed so he has a better chance of getting up the next gradient without running out of puff.
    Stay considerate and stay safe y’all.

    • SEUMAS MACLAREN 21/07/2017 10:54 PM

      Brilliant comment Pat. Very self controlled too. That sort of lane hogging is literally insane.

  13. Elizabeth 19/07/2017 10:10 PM

    On Mways when behind a lorry I check if I can overtake without riding alongside and keep the front wheel in the corner of my eye and be ready to blow the horn if it turns my way.

  14. Eric Hayman 20/07/2017 4:43 PM

    What is frightening about those replying to the video of the car coming up on the left side of the artic – with both turning left – is the large number blaming the lorry driver. If any of these people read the Highway Code they would know that the rear wheels of artic trailers and of any trailer (horseboxes, caravans, etc) made a smaller circle than the front wheels. Then there is the body of the trailer to consider. Do they just not see such things when they are out driving? The artic driver will have been looking in front of him at other traffic crossing his path. The driving test should include compulsory watching of videos of such events. Near where I live last week a car in front of me almost came to a stop at green traffic lights because a car and caravan were turning left in front of it at the lights. The driver realised that the rear of the caravan would swing out to the right and into his lane and would have hit him had he continued. Top marks for seeing the potential accident and dealing with it correctly.

    • SEUMAS MACLAREN 21/07/2017 10:57 PM

      Well said Eric. Most of safe driving is anticipation and courtesy, just like the one who waited for the caravan load – and the old rule my grandfather taught my father, who then taught me: “Good judgement tempered with caution.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>