We are often asked about the differences between car accidents and trucking accidents, as well as about different rules that apply to commercial vehicles compared to more typical passenger vehicles. One big rule difference is that a commercial truck should never make an uncontrolled U-Turn.
The simple safety rule is that commercial vehicles should never attempt an uncontrolled U-Turn. A controlled turn is one where the driver is assisted by a human spotter guiding them through the maneuver. The pair - the driver and spotter - can be absolutely sure that the path is clear and the turn can be safely executed.
Absent this controlled condition, a commercial driver should avoid a U-Turn at all costs. And because this controlled/spotter set-up is likely not typically available, drivers need to be prepared to find alternative routes and solutions as opposed to putting themselves and other drivers at risk by trying a dangerous U-Turn.
Why are U-Turns Dangerous?
There are several reasons why U-Turns are dangerous. Most obviously, it takes a long time for a massive commercial vehicle to make the maneuver. Contributing to the risk is that the vehicle wholly bisects and obstructs traffic as it makes the turn.
Additionally, if the commercial vehicle gets stuck at any point, the turn can take much longer as the driver attempts to start and stop - forward and reverse - to get out of the turn.
More reasons why a U-Turn is unsafe include:
- At the start of the turn, the driver really has no way of knowing if they have enough time to complete the U-Turn. Cars that are not in sight yet may well reach the truck before the maneuver can be finished.
- Even main roads are usually not wide enough to accommodate a truck U-turn; the driver will usually have to make several attempts and adjustments.
- Many drivers operate “solo” and won't have another person to spot them during the U-turn.
- When the U-turn is finally completed, it will then take additional time for the truck to pick up speed, so they're no longer a hazard to other drivers.
The bottom line - U-Turns are unsafe and should not be attempted. They should absolutely be avoided at night and in bad weather. Indeed, most reputable trucking companies have strict guidelines prohibiting drivers from this maneuver. Of course, that does not mean that drivers follow that directive out on the roads.