H is for HGV

Keep yourself safe around large vehicles, such as lorries, and help the lorry driver at the same time. (This article was written by Richard Gladman from “IAM RoadSmart”)

Often one of the missing links when teaching people to become drivers is to get them to understand about the larger vehicles which use the road. The important messages will get conveyed to learners providing the opportunity arises and but ideally the skills need to be learned in practical terms. 

Image of a heavy goods vehicle

The driver of a large vehicle will tell you, they sometimes need a bit of extra space to move down the road. Visibility can be restricted, and no number of mirrors will allow all the blind spots to be monitored all of the time. On a roundabout they will often need more than one lane so let them have it; when turning to the left they will almost certainly move out to the right first to create their turning circle so hang back when you see them indicating their intention to turn left; a few seconds delay will be worth it if you prevent a crash. Driving in front of, or even behind, a large lorry can be daunting. 

When you’re driving along the motorway, you’ll notice many lorries with foreign number plates. Bear in mind that the driver will be sitting on the left-hand side rather than the right, so you may be difficult to see and the driver may be acclimatising his lane position in the UK. Take extra care when passing and allow more space if you can.

We have all heard the saying “if you can see their mirrors, then they can see you.” But an HGV can have up to five mirrors, and the driver is limited to looking at one at a time so they may not see you. Hold back and you will eventually be visible in their mirrors.

Identify when there is a likelihood of the HGV changing lanes. Is there a slip road coming up which will be joining traffic and may force a lane change? Or if there is an HGV in lane two, are they likely to change back into lane one? Be accommodating by hanging back and allowing them to pull into the lane they are looking to move into.

At one point in time, we’ve all experienced heavy spray from an HGV in front of us. You can control this by extending the distance between yourself and the lorry. The Highway Code suggests at least four seconds in the rain but if needed, make it more. Not only will it prevent your wipers working overtime, it will also improve your vision beyond the HGV.

An articulated lorry will track sideways in a right-hand bend on the motorway and on a roundabout, so avoid being beside it. A good rule of thumb is to be safely in front of or safely behind, but never beside an HGV when entering a roundabout.

If you see a queue of traffic in front of you and have an HGV behind you, introduce your brake lights early to pre-warn the driver behind and slow down gradually. This will let the HGV driver extend their braking distance and stop in plenty of time. On a motorway or dual carriageway, hazard lights can be used to show drivers behind you of any issues further in front. (Highway Code rule 116)

Despite being legally limited to 60mph, an HGV can only physically go a maximum of 56mph on the motorway. So, if you do see a HGV in the right hand lane, give them a helping hand by slowing down and letting them into the left lane. Allow them to pass more easily if you can.