Take 10 for Lane Changes
This is a transcript of a safety presentation I just made to Landstar drivers during their monthly safety call. We're big believers in group training, though I'd categorize this as more of a reminder and communication than actual training. Landstar asks its drivers to review the course before the meeting so we're all on the same page — a great tactic that lets the in-person time skip the basics, and focus on real-world tips.
You’ve probably heard the expression “take a break” or even “take 10.” But did you know that “Take 10” applies to making a safe lane change? A lane change is a very common driving maneuver. Unfortunately, the routine of lane changes can lead us to let our guard down overlooking our own actions—and the actions of others around us.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were approximately 300,000 DOT reportable crashes in 2013. And while the industry has experienced a positive trend in fewer crashes involving heavy-duty trucks, certain type of crashes are still considered high frequency. One of these crash types is lane changes which remains in the industry’s top 8 "Critical Crashes." An astonishing 12% of crashes involved a lane change, with 42% of these crashes involving merging into traffic or a sideswipe.
Habits for a Safe Lane Change
What are some things we can do as professional drivers to ensure we stay safe during lane changes? Let’s review several:
- Make sure you’re rested and current on your DOT breaks. Avoiding driving fatigued which affects your ability to stay in your lane and see and react to hazards on the road.
- During your pre-trip inspection, check your mirrors. Make sure they are clean and functioning properly. Take the time to adjust your mirrors, especially your convex mirrors and hood mirrors to maximize visibility in the front right and front left corners of your tractor. The front right and left areas often become ‘blind spots’ and happen to be where most lane change crashes or sideswipes occur.
- Check your speed. You should be driving at or below the posted speed limit. Driving too fast for conditions significantly affects your ability to see hazards and react to them promptly.
- Stay centered in your lane. Look up and ahead, approximately 7-10 seconds distance. That means in the city, you should be looking out at least one block. On the freeway, look out ¼ mile or so. Looking up and out ahead helps you identify and avoid hazards and also helps you greatly in staying centered in your lane.
- When it’s time to make a lane change, check your mirrors frequently as traffic around you continually changes. Check the lane you want to move to several times.
What are the hazards that can lead to a lane change crash? Of course, visibility, especially fog, rain, snow and nighttime driving can impair our ability to see around us. We may be distracted while driving which reduces our ability to see hazards and react to them quickly. The traffic around us is constantly moving and changing quickly and we may not be checking the lane we’re moving to often enough. Then, before you know it, another vehicle quickly fills the space that just a moment before—looked clear.
Also, fatigue can come into play. Fatigue lowers our perception and ability to react to hazards. When driving long distances, “highway hypnosis” can creep in—causing drifting in our lanes and possibly sideswiping others.
Take 10 for a Lane Change
Now let’s talk about “Take 10”. I encourage you to try the “Take 10” method to perform a lane change today. When you are ready to change lanes, turn your signal on for at least 3 seconds. That way, you are communicating to others your intention to change lanes.
Next, allow yourself about 7 seconds to actually move your tractor-trailer over to the new lane. The 3 seconds you take to signal and the 7 seconds to move your vehicle total 10 seconds for the whole maneuver.
Why 10 seconds? This time allows for a gradual move on your part. You want to avoid abrupt or erratic movement for two important reasons:
- If you’re moving abruptly, you may lose control of your vehicle, especially if the roads are slick.
- Abrupt maneuvers are perceived as aggressive and often startle other drivers causing them to lose control. Moving erratically can spell a disaster for yourself and others around you.
Use the Take 10 technique for both right-to-left and for left-to-right lane changes. Drivers, be especially careful about left-to-right lane changes, as it is quite easy for other vehicles to move into the blind spot of your right front tractor. Be sure to double check your mirrors as you signal and make certain the lane is clear before you enter into it.
Share Take 10 with Family
While “Take 10” is very helpful to the professional driver, it’s also helpful to others on the road. So drivers, why don’t you take the “Take 10” technique home to your family and tell them about it? After all, safety is a shared responsibility and your family will appreciate that you shared how to “Take 10” when making a lane change to help them stay safe when you can’t be behind the wheel of the family car.
For more information on safe driving practices be sure to check out PRO-TREAD’s lesson on “Lane Changes and Intersections." BCOs, thank you for the work you do and we do hope you make it a great—and safe—day!