Staying safe on the road requires that you pay attention not just to your own vehicle but also to those around you. It also means that you need to be aware of the different safety considerations of various types of vehicles and how your driving should adjust.
Dump trucks are typically required by law to have their loads covered with a tarp, but that doesn’t mean that every truck driver does it. There are also loopholes to these laws that permit uncovered loads.
Every driver needs to understand how to react when encountering an uncovered dump truck. Here are three basic steps to staying safe around these hazardous vehicles.
Allow Extra Following Distance
Generally, you should allow two seconds of space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. To estimate this interval, start counting when the lead vehicle passes a sign. If you can count off two seconds before you pass it, your following distance is adequate–if the lead vehicle is an ordinary passenger vehicle.
If you’re following an untarped dump truck, stretch out the count to allow extra time to react if material bounces out of the truck.
Watch for Debris
Of course, the most important thing to do when you’re behind an uncovered truck is to be alert. As you scan the road, check frequently to see if there are any signs of material coming out of the truck. Anticipate that this will happen as the truck approaches potholes or encounters strong crosswinds, and be prepared to react.
It’s also important to remember that a truck just starting out with its load is likely to lose some material as soon as it gets up to speed, so if you catch up to a truck as it leaves a quarry or other source of materials, be extra vigilant.
Have a Reaction Plan
The idea of a following distance is to give yourself time to take action if something happens, so think ahead of time about what you will do if something comes off the truck. Keep an eye on your rear view mirror so that you know if you can brake quickly. Monitor adjacent lanes to see if there is somewhere you can safely move to if debris comes out.
The important thing is to be alert at all times to the possible need for evasive action. When you’ve already thought about what you’ll do, it’s easier to avoid a problem.
Following dump trucks is a common experience for every driver. There’s usually not a problem with their loads, but sometimes you’ll encounter an uncovered dump truck. With good driving skills and some basic preparation, you can avoid being struck by its flying debris.