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Truck Safety and Signage: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How are trucks classified?


Trucks are Commercial Motor Vehicles which are classified into eight classes in the United States, clubbed into three major categories - 

  • -Light-duty
  • -Medium-duty
  • -Heavy-duty

Light-duty trucks include commercial truck classes 1, 2, and 3 (minivans, SUVs, pickups, tow trucks). 

  • -Class 1: Trucks having a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 0–6,000 pounds.
  • -Class 2: Trucks having a GVWR of 6,001–10,000 pounds.

The medium-duty trucks include commercial truck classes 4, 5, and 6 (van, recreational vehicle, box truck, flatbed truck)

  • -Class 3: Trucks having a GVWR of 10,001–14,000 pounds.
  • -Class 4: Trucks having a GVWR of 14,001–16,000 pounds.
  • -Class 5: Trucks having a GVWR of 16,001–19,500 pounds.
  • -Class 6: Trucks having a GVWR of 19,501–26,000 pounds.

The heavy-duty trucks include commercial truck classes 7 and 8 (tractor-trailers, cement mixers, dump trucks, log carriers).

  • -Class 7: Trucks having a GVWR of 26,001 to 33,000 pounds.
  • -Class 8: Trucks having a GVWR of greater than 33,001 pounds

Q. What is 3-point contact in trucks?


3-point contact is a technique for drivers to safely enter and exit trucks. It requires three of the four points of contact (hands and feet) to be maintained with the vehicle at all times. They can either be - 

  • Two hands and one foot
  • Both feet and one hand

This system ensures maximum stability and support, reducing the likelihood of slipping and falling. 3-point contact results in safe mounting and dismounting till one reaches the ground, cab, or a stable platform.

Q. What is the role of wheel chocks in trucks?

Wheel chocks are wedges of sturdy material placed against a vehicle's wheels to prevent trucks from rolling accidentally. Made from rubber, plastic or polyurethane, wheel chocks are used as an additional safety device, along with the brakes of the truck. They are often used when a truck is parked at an inclined surface or during loading/unloading. Wheel chocks reduce the risk of damage to surrounding areas as they prevent accidental movements of vehicles.

Q. Why are reflective signs vital for truck drivers?


Large trucks can have two times the observation angle as passenger vehicles when seen from the same distance. There’s much less reflected light available for these drivers to see road signs. That’s why for large vehicles, high-quality retroreflective truck signs are vital as they would return more light in a larger cone of reflectivity.

In a typical passenger vehicle, the light from headlights, hitting on a sign at 300-feet, will return at an angle of about 0.5-degree. This is called the angle of observation.

In an SUV or pickup truck, this angle increases to nearly 0.6 degrees. In a semi-trailer truck where the driver is distanced furthermore from the headlights, the observation angle increases to approximately 1.2 degrees.

Q. What are the hazards present in work zones that truck drivers must be aware of?


Work zones present many hazards for Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. Trucks have little maneuverability and large blind spots that make operating in work zones more challenging. Some of the hazards are listed below - 

  • - Lane shifts
  • - Sudden stops
  • - Uneven road surfaces
  • - Moving workers and equipment
  • - Confused passenger vehicle drivers
  • - Large blind spots

Q. How often should truck drivers check their mirrors?


Truck drivers must check their mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds. Mirrors must be checked - 

  • - Every time the truck stops or starts, slows down, passes a car, turns, merges, switches lanes or pulls over.
  • - Every time the truck driver gets in the driver’s seat and readjusts (if necessary).
  • - In irregular and high-traffic situations. The mirrors will help you navigate a difficult driving situation.

Q. How is idling bad for trucks? Are there any laws that prohibit truck idling?


Idling for more than 5 minutes at a time is a waste of fuel. Not only does it burn fuel, but it has also been linked to lung cancer, asthma, cardiac diseases, and other serious health risks in truck drivers. If idled and left unattended, there are chances of theft in the truck.

States do have laws that prohibit truck idling. For example, nine states — Texas, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., have limited idling between three to five minutes most vehicles.

Another 14 states limit idling for certain vehicles like school buses, state-owned vehicles, or vehicles over 10,001 pounds. 

18 states offer grants, loans, tax credits, or pilot programs to provide incentives for adopting idle reduction technologies.

Q. How can truckers take care of braking distance and turning radius?


Truckers must avoid close interactions by maintaining ample stopping distance between trucks and other vehicles ahead. Professional drivers constantly monitor the "space cushion" around their trucks to ensure they are not too close to other objects, whether stationary or moving.Trucks make wide turns and drivers must take caution when making turns or changing lanes to avoid collision with vehicles or other objects.

Q. How can trucks and large vehicles safely park?

  • - Big rigs need four times space as an average passenger car. Therefore, trucks must park in designated areas only.
  • - Trucks should not be parked near driveways or side streets, as the tractor-trailer can obstruct a motorist’s view of oncoming traffic.
  • - Trucks should never be parked on roads with speed limits over 30 mph unless disabled.
  • - Truck drivers must alert other traffic using truck flares, flashers, and safety triangles when pulling off to the side of the road or highway.
  • - Never park facing oncoming traffic.

Q. Are there any federal regulations requiring seat belts for truck drivers?


Yes. Section 393.93 of the FMCSRs (49 CFR 393.93) requires seat belts on trucks, truck tractors, and buses manufactured on or after January 1, 1965. 

For vehicles built on or after July 1, 1971, the seat belts must comply with the applicable National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards dealing with seat belts (49 CFR 571.208, 571.209, and 571.210).

Truck drivers, managers, and owners must also always check with the U.S. Department of Transportation and your state and local transportation authorities to ensure that you comply with the most recent rules, regulations, and laws.

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