Do You Tailgate?

Why do truck drivers tailgate? I would love to hear your response to this question. Because I just don’t understand it. Why do you follow so close? I see this action each day that I travel on Ontario’s Highway 401. What are the advantages to tailgating? You are putting yourself in a position to have a crash. You are exposing yourself to a really bad day. And of course, you could ruin someone else’s day. So again I ask the question “Why?”

I have had the privilege and opportunity to ask this question directly to truck drivers and I have gotten a variety of answers. The most popular ones are:

I don’t do that; I have to because if I don’t, I will never get to where I’m going; If I don’t then someone will jump into my space and cut me off; I get paid by the mile and I need to get to where I’m going as fast as possible so that I make as much money per hour as possible; The law that sets the speed limiter to 105 km is against my rights.

I have heard all of these excuses coming from the mouths of drivers. For those of you that tailgate and follow too close, which one is yours?

Let’s talk about why you should not encroach on another vehicle’s space. You have all heard about stopping distance. I have written before about how much space a truck needs to stop safely. But how do I change your behavior? What can I say to get you to listen and stop putting yourself in danger?

I think that each driver has to find their “Big Why.” You’re big why is the reason that you can make huge changes with the least amount of effort. For many people, it is making changes for other people that love you. Most often it is your children that can cause the biggest change. An example is a story that was told to me by a friend; this is an example of a huge change that happened to him. My friend had tried to quit smoking. He had tried and tried but each time he failed. He had tried vaping, the patch and hypnosis. Each failure made him feel like a loser. He wanted to quit. He knew that for his health he should stop. But failure greeted him each time that he tried.

One day my friend came home from work to find his seven-year-old daughter waiting for him at the door. She was anxious to see her father this day and as he opened the door, there was his daughter crying! He quickly scooped her up into his arms and asked her “What is wrong dear?” She said that today at school they had watched a movie. It was a film about smoking. With tears falling from her eyes, she said: “Daddy, if you don’t quit smoking you are going to die!” Well, guess what? Although all the previous attempts to quit smoking had failed, he succeeded this time. He has now been smoke-free for two and a half years. How did he do it? He found his big why! Although he knew that smoking was bad for him, he couldn’t quit until he found his big why. And of course his big why was the love of his daughter. We can often do very difficult things for others that we just can’t do for ourselves.

Now back to tailgating. I’m encouraging you to find your big why so that you can stop following too closely. I know that it is difficult. But you can do difficult things. You have done so in the past. So I’m asking you to protect those that love you. Tailgating and improper following distance can result in horrific crashes, causing loss of life and often puts people into jail. Don’t let it happen to you.
Keep 5 to 6-second following distance at all times.

All the best and stay safe.

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.