Being an HGV driver can be a tough job at times; long hours on the road, tight deadlines, traffic jams and delays, all things to be dealt with while ensuring the precious cargo is delivered safely to its intended destination. Naturally, these things are unavoidable – it’s all part of working on Britain’s roads, and not much can be done to change them. However, most truckers would agree that there’s one thing they would love to change, which is not so ‘set in stone’ and could be changed easily. We’re talking about the behaviour of other road users, or more specifically, behaviours that affect the trucker’s ability to do their job. It is entirely likely that the majority of road users who cause problems for HGV drivers are completely unaware they’ve done anything wrong, so that’s why we’ve written this article: The Top 10 Things Car Drivers Do That Annoy HGV Drivers.
- Pulling into the safe braking space It should be common knowledge that heavy goods vehicles require a greater amount of distance to stop. When driving on a motorway or dual-carriageway, you will often notice that HGV drivers leave a large gap between themselves and the vehicle in front. This is to reduce risk should an incident occur ahead, and allows the driver to slow and stop the vehicle quickly and safely if needed. The problem with leaving this much room in front is it becomes all too tempting for other road users to move into. Before you move across in front of a lorry, think: ‘have I left the driver enough room to stop their vehicle in an emergency?’ This point leads seamlessly into No.2
- Late exiting The Highway Code rule 272 states that you should ‘move into the left-hand lane well before reaching your exit’. Sadly, it is all too common to see people wait until the last minute to cut across from lane 2 or even 3, straight to the slip road. Consider the previous point about safe braking distances and you can see why this behaviour causes stress for drivers of HGVs. The following video (which may upset some viewers) shows the precise reason why it should not be done.
- Pulling out of junctions dangerously While we’re on the subject of safe braking distances, one of the most terrifying experiences that occur daily for lorry drivers is cars pulling out of junctions in front of them. It can be tempting to try and ‘beat the truck’ when exiting a junction, however, consider this: if you stall or lose grip as you pull away, or cross the junction half-way and find your road ahead blocked, you leave the truck driver very little chance of stopping in time. Also, even if the truck is able to stop in time, it is possible that the load being carried may have been damaged by the sudden braking. Always leave plenty of time and space when crossing the path of an HGV, and make sure you have properly checked all around before moving off.
- Not sharing lay-bys Lorry drivers hours are strictly regulated, and they must take a break after 4.5 hours of driving. When an HGV driver gets near to this time, they will look for somewhere they can stop safely and legally to take their break. An ideal place for this is a lay-by, but often as drivers approach they find a car or van parked right in the middle of the lay-by. When parking in a lay-by, if possible, pull as far forward as possible. This leaves the maximum amount of space for large vehicles to park behind. If a vehicle in front of you moves, move forward as far as possible. Remember that once an HGV driver has started a break, they cannot move the vehicle.
- Parking opposite junctions Another parking related issue that lorry drivers have to deal with regularly is vehicles parking opposite junctions, preventing them from being able to make a turn. Remember: lorries need much more space when turning to prevent the rear wheels cutting the corner. If you park opposite a junction you might stop the driver from continuing their journey, or force them to mount the pavement.
- Blocking roads Closely related to parking opposite junctions is the issue of vehicles parking and blocking roads. Standard trucks (and buses) are approximately 2.5m wide, which must be considered when parking at the roadside. The following images show poor examples of parking that affect drivers of large vehicles.
- The speed-change game Some might say that when using a motorway, a driver should drive at a speed at which they feel safe. While this is generally good advice (providing the safe speed is reasonable for the road) the issue that most lorry drivers have to contend with is drivers travelling slowly in lane 1 who, once the lorry has started to overtake, then proceed to speed up. This leaves the lorry driver having to move back into lane 1, often repeating the process a few miles down the road! When using fast roads like motorways, if a lorry starts to overtake you, allow them to get past. Don’t wait until they’re alongside and then speed up. It’s extremely frustrating for the lorry driver to have to keep changing lanes.
- Not signalling on roundabouts This issue can cause situations for truckers that are potentially dangerous, very frustrating, or both. Other road users failing to signal when turning right can cause HGV drivers to have to brake very late, potentially damaging their load or causing following traffic to collide with the rear of their vehicle. Alternatively, failing to signal when turning left often means the lorry driver stops their vehicle to allow the other driver to pass, only for the vehicle to turn off. The lorry driver then needs to move off again from stationary, using more time and critically more fuel, causing greater emissions (moving away from a standing start instead of continuing to roll uses approximately 15% more fuel).
- Squeezing into spaces Sometimes drivers of large vehicles have to position themselves across more than one lane in order to make a turn. In addition to creating the necessary space, ‘straddling’ lanes can be done to encourage the following traffic to stay behind for their own safety. However, it is common for impatient drivers to squeeze into the small space left, causing a dangerous situation. Remember: if you cannot see an HGV driver’s mirrors, they cannot see you!
- Using loading bays We’ll finish with a very simple one. It may be tempting to park your car in a loading bay (they’re often placed right outside shops for obvious reasons), but consider the lorry driver that may need to use it. If a trucker arrives to deliver and cannot park in the designated bay, they are forced to drive on, again using more time and fuel. They may need to keep looping around until space becomes available, eating away at the limited daily driving time they have available.
We hope this guide helps other road users see things from the perspective of professional drivers of large vehicles. It is far too easy to get frustrated with lorries, but the most important thing to remember is these vehicles (and their drivers) are responsible for keeping the country running. They deliver food, fuel, clothes and household goods, and anything else you want or need. As shown in Points 5 & 6, fire engines are also large vehicles which require consideration.