How to steer a semi truck in an emergency
The best way to handle an emergency is to avoid it in the first place, most happen when drivers make mistakes. Professional semi truck drivers reduce the chance of accidents by learning to recognize possible emergencies and to practice defensive driving techniques. Evasive steering is often the safest maneuver for getting out of or avoiding an emergency situation without hitting the brakes in a panic.
- Brake before beginning to make an evasive turn, if possible. By braking before the turn, you can make a sharper turn and decrease the chance of a rollover or a jackknife.
- When using evasive steering, turn the steering wheel as little as possible to avoid the emergency. Turn quickly.
- To turn as quickly as possible, hand-over-hand steering is best. Placing the hands at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions lets the wheel turn 180 degrees without releasing either hand.
- Once you have steered around whatever was in your path, you will need to turn the wheel back in the opposite direction, back toward your intended path of travel. This is called counter steering.
- Be ready to counter steer immediately. Do this smoothly to keep the semi truck from going out of the escape path or off the road. Timing is very important. Begin to counter steer as soon as the front of the trailer clears the obstacle.
- If possible, avoid braking in the middle of steering or counter steering.
- If you have to leave the paved roadway to avoid an accident, try to keep one set of wheels on the pavement for better traction.
- Some drivers think using the horn will annoy other drivers, but in a possible emergency situation it's better to use the horn than to have a collision.
- Speed magnifies the steering used. The higher the speed, the less you will need to turn the wheel.
- If the semi truck begins to slide sideways, steer in the direction you want the truck to go, and turn the wheel quickly. As the truck corrects its course, turn the wheel the other way quickly to avoid skidding again.
- When you see an oncoming emergency, stopping can sometimes be the worst option. You may not have enough room to stop without a collision, or stopping too quickly may cause the semi truck and trailer to flip or jackknife.
- Over steering can cause skidding, so avoid turning the wheels more that the truck itself can turn. Remember that each turn creates another possibility for a skid.
- If your tires fail, stop as soon as possible. To maintain control, hold the steering wheel firmly and stay off the brakes until the truck has slowed. Then pull off the road and stop.
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