Some professional delivery services require their drivers to look at the vehicle mirrors every 3-5 or 10-15 seconds while being evaluated. There is no doubt that if you drive in a major metropolitan area, it is absolutely necessary given the dynamics of active traffic flow.
Remember, truck vehicles usually do not have a rearview mirror. Therefore, checking the side mirrors regularly updates the status of the different vehicles and how they are moving around you.
While driving in a straight line, using the side mirrors allows a driver to judge if the truck is centered in its respective lane and not "riding the lines." Larger vehicles clearly use up more real estate than normal passenger vehicles. Visualizing the side of the vehicle and its relation (space) with the lines marking the lanes is a good reference to tell you are centered.
I instructed my student drivers to stay close to the left side rather than the right. It is normal behavior for anyone to allow more space on the left side for safety reasons.
However, on most fire department vehicles, the driver is located over and in front of the front wheels, unlike normal passenger vehicles where the driver is behind and inside of the front wheels. In addition, we know what the situation is when it is closest to us, but we are not as fortunate when it comes to the right side of vehicle because we are not physically located there.
What I have experienced from the drivers not staying closer to the left side is that the bus and truck mirrors on other vehicles, tree branches, signs attached to posts, etc., get hit with the fire department vehicle's mirrors on the right side.
The driver needs to feel like s/he is practically riding on the left line of the lane. Believe it or not, the vehicle probably will be centered in the lane. It does take getting used to, but with enough practice it becomes second nature.
Another good reference is watching the rear tire clearance when going around corners. After a driver does his/her visual scan and assures a safe and unobstructed path approaching into a turn, s/he should shift either to the right- or left-side mirrors and watch the rear tires as they clear around the curb. Preferably allow one to two feet of clearance. If this is not possible, anything less must be done more cautiously and slowly.
When driving larger vehicles, it is all in the approach, meaning you may have to veer more toward the left by using up half of the lane to begin the right turn or vice versa for left turns. Just watch tractor trailer drivers when they have to make turns on urban streets. Remember, pedestrians may be standing right at the edge of the curb or even a little in the street. You don't want to run over their feet.
Drivers need to be always looking at different reference points around their vehicles. These points are the left front bumper, center of the bumper, right front bumper, right rear tires, left rear tires and the ever-important vertical or roofline of the apparatus.
Every driver needs to know the vertical height of the apparatus, which should be displayed on the dashboard of the vehicle in clear sight for the driver to see. Drivers need to pay special attention to the designated clearances posted on structures. These include expressway overpasses, parking areas in and around buildings, and the structures holding the highway signs — among other overhangs not listed here.
All in all, driving large vehicles requires a lot of work and concentration. Drivers need to be focused on the task at hand. They have an obligation of safe vehicle operation, not only for the protection of themselves but also for their crew and the public. Be safe!
This article was written for & published by MultiBriefs.