Passing long trucks can be easy for motorcycles with their rapid rate of acceleration, but there are several dangers you can encounter when you overtake a truck.
Here are our four safety tips for passing a truck.
1 Beware the blind spots
When passing a truck, you need to be aware that they have a lot of blind spots that can swallow a small motorcycle.
The Goldwing World Facebook page published the photograph above warning of the extent of these blind spots claiming that all the bikes in the photo are in the truck’s blind spots.
Note that the photo is American, so the positions are reversed for left-hand-drive countries.
Remember, not all trucks, buses and other big vehicles are the same. Fixed vehicles such as vans and buses/coaches have different blind spots to B doubles or prime movers with trailers. There are also extra blind spots for trucks with hoods (eg Mack) rather than cab-over trucks (eg Hino) with flat fronts.
For fixed vehicles, the worst blind spot is close on the inside (left in RHD countries and right for LHD countries) of the vehicle. Most heavy vehicles have blind-spot mirrors, but fast-accelerating bikes can zoom into view so quickly on a slow-moving vehicle, the driver may not have had a chance to see them.
Prime movers also have the problem that when they turn, their mirrors, which are fixed to the prime mover, show only a view of the trailer on one side and a wide view on the other, creating a massive blind spot area.
For trucks like Mack with a big bonnet, almost everywhere from the mirrors forward is a blind spot, especially by the inside fender. Drivers say riders can slip into the gap in front of a truck without them seeing the bike, which could result in a rear-ender as they approach a red traffic light.
2 Overtake quickly
Motorcycles accelerate quickly so passing a truck can only take a couple of seconds.
Despite it being illegal to speed, I always overtake quickly to spend as little time beside the truck as possible.
The above video was recorded in 2016 on the Logan Motorway in Brisbane, but it could happen anywhere.
Just look at the amount of truck tyre debris on our roads. Any one of those tyre blowouts could easily have claimed the life of a rider.
When passing a truck, it’s probably better to risk a speeding fine and ride by quickly than to sit alongside, or if a truck decides to overtake you on a multi-lane road, either speed up or slow down.
Also, take a wide berth by moving into the furthest wheel track of the adjacent lane.
Be aware that the rear trailer on a road train can suddenly wag sideways by a couple of metres.
3 Prepare for the blast
Trucks have a lot of wind resistance creating “dirty air” or turbulence that can unsettle a small motorcycle at highway speed.
The worst are not the closed-in trailers, but open trailers such as car carriers and livestock trailers. (Another tip: Don’t follow livestock trailers too closely unless you want to be showered in sh*t!)
Closed-in trailers tend to create “still air” as you pass, then you suddenly get hit by a blast of wind.
So be prepared as you pass, lean forward, hold on tight and power through.
4 Don’t cut in
Don’t cut into the truck’s lane as soon as you pass.
For a start they may not see you and drive right over the top of you at the next set of traffic lights.
Also, if you have to brake suddenly, the truck will have a lot less stopping power than you and will simply drive straight over the top of your motorcycle.
5 Show courtesy
They are bigger than you and they deserve respect.
Also, if you show a little courtesy, truckies will show some back. Many even flash their indicators to show you when it is safe to pass.
That’s handy as they have a high view and can see a lot further ahead.
But no amount of defensive riding could have prepared him for the Volvo driver’s tailgating and dangerous undertaking manoeuvre.
It was probably caused by the driver’s frustration with discourteous right-lane traffic that didn’t move to the left.
“The Volvo came up very fast in the right lane behind the red hatchback,” Alistaire says.
“The right lane started to slow down and then he came in behind me quite close as seen in the rear vision mirror.
“We were in an 80km/h zone in traffic but it was flowing quite well.
“I slowed after the Volvo came in behind me because the red hatchback also put their indicator on to merge but I guess I was too close for them to do so.
“The Volvo dropped back a little and came past in the right hand lane when there was a gap but he left it a bit late in my opinion and had to cut in front of me very close.
“I didn’t see any indicator on the Volvo when he passed and actually thought he would stay in the right lane because the gap between myself and the green car was closing as the traffic sped back up to 80km/h.”
Alistaire was lucky he was not knocked off the road.
The dangerous passing manoeuvre was to no avail, anyway, as Alistaire caught up with the Volvo at the next set of red lights.
It could have escalated into road rage, but Alistaire kept a cool head.
“We exchanged some dirty looks, but nothing else,” he says.
“I thought his driving was really aggressive, especially considering the time of day and traffic flow.”
Alistaire says he is “a little hesitant” on a motorbike these days as he wrote off his 2014 Ducati Monster 659 in November and needed surgery on a badly broken wrist.
“So I tend to stick to the left lane and keep a decent gap to the vehicle in front,” he says.
“I am not saying I am a perfect rider but his driving was unnecessary and dangerous.”