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Test your knowledge of tractor-trailers and truck drivers

It might save a life some day.

Truckers get a bad rap, but drivers of cars and SUVs also cause or contribute to truck accidents by failing to keep a healthy distance. If the public had a better understanding of tractor-trailers and what truck drivers are dealing with, we might be able to prevent more injuries and deaths.

What you don’t know CAN hurt you. Take this quick quiz to test your knowledge of 18-wheelers. Answers appear at the end.

1. What is the length of a typical tractor-trailer?
a. 25 feet
b. 75 feet
c. 140 feet
d. 210 feet

2. How much does a fully loaded 18-wheeler weigh?
a. Up to 1 ton
b. Up to 4 tons
c. Up to 15 tons
d. Up to 40 tons

3. What is the stopping distance for a tractor-trailer at highway speed?
a. Twice as long as a car’s stopping distance
b. About 40 percent greater than a car
c. With air brakes, 40 percent less than a typical car
d. About the same as a car

4. How many miles do 18-wheeler drivers typically cover?
a. 15,000 miles per year
b. 35,000 miles per year
c.  75,000 miles per year
d. 125,000 miles a year

5. What do you call a tractor (truck cab) with no trailer?
a. Bobtail
b. Club cab
c. Fifth wheel
d. Flatbed

6. How much does a typical trucker earn?
a. $23,000 a year
b. $43,000 a year
c. $73,000 a year
d. $123,000 a year

7. What is the minimum requirement to drive an 18-wheeler?
a. Any state-issued driver’s license
b. A commercial driver’s license
c. Age 18 and a clean drug test
d. There are no minimum requirements

8. How many people are killed in the U.S. in truck accidents each year?
a. More than 100,000
b. About 40,000
c. About 4,000
d. About 400

 

ANSWERS

1. How long is a typical tractor-trailer?
Answer:  (B) Most tractor-trailers are around 70 to 80 feet long, nose to tail.  By comparison, a typical car is about 15 feet long.  If you must pass a truck on a mountain road or two-lane highway, be absolutely sure you have enough room to do so safely.

2. How much does a fully loaded 18-wheeler weigh?
Answer: (D) Tractor-trailers weigh up to 40 tons (80,000 pounds) when fully loaded. By contrast, a typical passenger vehicle weighs about 2 tons. This is why trucking accidents are so devastating. The state of California and the federal government strictly limit the maximum weight of trucks to 80,000 pounds, to prevent damage to roads but also to protect the public.

3. What is the stopping distance for a tractor-trailer?
Answer: (B) By federal law, a tractor-trailer traveling at 60 mph must be able to stop in 250 feet. However, braking distance does not include human reaction time before hitting the brakes. Total stopping distance for a loaded 18-wheeler at highway speed is more than 300 feet, about 40 percent more than an average car (215 feet).  Leave plenty of space when you are driving in front of a truck, especially in stop-and-go traffic.

4. How many miles do 18-wheeler drivers cover?
Answer: (D) Over-the-road truck drivers travel about 500 miles in a work day, and average 125,000 total miles in a year. By comparison, the average American drives less than 15,000 miles a year. Driver fatigue is a serious threat to the safety of truckers and everyone else on the road. For this reason, the federal government restricts how many hours trucks can drive in one day, and mandates at least 10 hours of rest between driving shifts.

5. What do you call a tractor (truck cab) with no trailer?
Answer:  (A) After dropping the trailer, the cab is known as “bobtail.” A bobtail truck handles differently than one pulling a trailer, and can be dangerous in wet conditions. Similarly, an empty trailer handles differently than a loaded trailer. These factors often come into play in a truck accident reconstruction.

6. How much do truckers earn?
Answer:  (C) Starting pay is only about $40,000, but experienced over-the-road truck drivers earn much more. The median pay for 18-wheeler fleet drivers is $73,000 per year, according to the American Trucking Association. Many independent truckers are paid per mile or per delivery, which provides an incentive to exceed the speed limit or drive more miles in a day than is safe.

7. What is the minimum requirement to drive an 18-wheeler?
Answer:  (B) A tractor-trailer driver must hold a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). A CDL requires 72 hours of classroom instruction, 160 hours of behind-the-wheel training, and an exam. Many employers require additional training (plus a background check) before handing over the keys to a quarter-million-dollar rig.

8. How many people are killed in truck accidents each year?
Answer:  (C) There are nearly 4,000 truck-related deaths in the U.S. every year, plus another 130,000 injuries. Not all of those are 18-wheeler accidents; the statistics include all large trucks and buses. Fatalities have crept upward the last few years, and that trend is likely to continue. The trucking industry has a growing shortage of drivers, which may translate to more truck drivers who are inexperienced, more drivers with sketchy driving histories, and more truckers who are dangerously fatigued.

What was your score? Even veteran truck drivers may not get ‘em all right. Whatever your score, hopefully you've learned something new that may help keep our highways safe.

Sources:  National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Truckers Report, AllTrucking.com

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