I call the area directly in front of my truck ‘the kill zone,’ for obvious reasons. If anything happens in this zone, people can be seriously injured, or worse. Chances are, the truck has rear ended a vehicle causing an accident. Under normal and somewhat stressful driving conditions, a professional driver should be able to avoid these types of accidents.
My objective is always to protect the kill zone and making sure other vehicles are never in my kill zone or are at least moving out of it quickly.
How far the kill zone extends from your truck depends on many things:
- Your speed
- The gross weight of your truck and load
- The speed of other traffic
- Weather conditions
- Road conditions
- Your ability to recognize the driving habits of others
In most cases, it is my defensive driving that is most useful.
Maintaining a safe distance from the car in front of you is the best way to avoid any vehicles from being in your kill zone. Unfortunately many drivers are not aware of the space needed for trucks and enter this zone frequently.
The split second I see someone change lanes and they are too close to me, I’m off the gas and covering the brake. If they don’t speed up fast enough, I brake. I don’t wait to see what they will do.
If I’m on a flat road and I approach someone, putting them in the zone, I look to see if it’s safe to change lanes and proceed to do so. If i can’t change lanes, I slow down a bit until I can build speed again and safely pass them.
If this same scenario happens on a hilly road, most times I just have to wait. I catch them on the downhill and they pull away on the uphill. When most cars see a truck getting closer and backing off, they usually accelerate out of the zone. Some however will not, and that may be a good time to pull off for a few minutes.
The most stressful for me when dealing with people in the kill zone is when traffic is going 90 km/hr and then unexpectedly comes to a standstill. Trying to stop 80,000 lbs and not hitting someone requires attentive driving and quick reflexes. You should not only be watching the the one or two cars directly in front of you but also be scanning down the road.
The other thing I’m always focusing on while driving is looking for an ‘escape’ route in case someone enters my kill zone and then brakes hard. This is why I prefer to drive in the right hand lane. In an emergency, I can probably pull to the shoulder and not hit another vehicle. Yes, the right lane means you deal with on ramps and exits. People are entering your kill zone more frequently. Sometimes this slows you down but you are getting lots of practice at dealing with this sometimes difficult part of the job.