Riding next to tractor trailers


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Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby WingAdmin » Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:59 pm



I've always been wary of riding (or driving!) next to tractor trailers. When I come up and am going to pass one on the highway, I slow down, wait until I know I can get completely past the truck, then accelerate quickly past. The idea being, I want to spend as little time as possible next to that truck. I also move over as far to the left of my lane (i.e. as far away as as possible from the truck) as I can.

Trucks can pick up debris on the road and fling it, but more importantly, they have large tires that can (and do) fail catastrophically, flinging large pieces of rubber in every direction. One of these pieces of rubber, at highway speeds, can at best do significant damage to your bike, and at worst kill you if they hit you directly.

Validation of my truck tire paranoia was brought to the forefront earlier this month. I was riding my Goldwing, with my son on back and towing my trailer, southbound on I-75 between Detroit and Toledo. Suddenly, I saw brake lights come on in front of me, and on the CB, the truck drivers started yelling at each other to get into the center lane. I did the same.

A minute later, we came across the reason. Sitting in the right lane, partially on the shoulder was a tractor trailer. One of the trailer wheels was shredded. Large chunks of rubber were all over the road. The tractor itself was bashed and dented, and the trailer it was pulling was also damaged. Shortly up the road on the left shoulder, was a car, a Mercedes, resting up against the concrete median wall. This car looked like it had been through a car crusher, it was absolutely destroyed. There was no surface on the car that was not crumpled, crushed, smashed. Several people had stopped and were in the process of prying the passenger out, who was an older gentleman in a daze. I could not see the driver, but from the looks of the car, he couldn't have been in good shape.

During the next few minutes, I heard from some of the truck drivers over the CB who had witnessed the crash just what had happened: The Mercedes, driving alongside the truck, was startled by the sudden explosion of one of the trailer tires, as it flung chunks of tire outward. He veered and crashed into the median wall, then lost control and spun across two lanes, crashing into the truck. The trailer went over the car, sending it spinning back into the median wall again, where it finally slid to a stop. The truck came to a stop, mostly on the right shoulder.

The people inside that car were in rough shape. A motorcycle would not have had the slightest chance.

So watch out for the big trucks. They have trouble seeing us, are heavy (which means increased braking distance), and can (and do) have catastrophic tire failures that throw heavy rubber tire chunks all over the place. Keep clear of them, and keep your time next to them at a minimum.



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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby bstig60 » Tue Aug 19, 2014 4:51 pm

Good Advice! I make a practice never to ride next to any car or truck, they don't see you and you never know what they are going to do. Just yesterday I had a car sneak over into my lane as the driver was leaning over in the seat looking for something. I hope he found it. Thankfully I was riding a few feet behind him in the right lane when he slid in front of me.
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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby Ol' Man » Tue Aug 19, 2014 5:06 pm

Those "road gators" can be mean suckers to run over even in a cage. I would sure hate to experience on a bike.
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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby detdrbuzzard » Tue Aug 19, 2014 6:22 pm

I drove tractor trailers for 24+ years and on the wing I don't like to sit next to a truck even when traffic is stopped. I've had blow outs on my big rig that took out the mud flap and the bracket it attaches to; the worst rig you could be near is one with a rail can on it. companys contract to haul a rail can which means they are just borrowing the chassie the can is on so when there is a flat most companys put the cheapest tire ( s ) on possible next on my list are steel and gravel haulers
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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby HawkeyeGL1200 » Tue Aug 19, 2014 6:35 pm

Last weekend, while riding to a town near me, I was approaching a garbage truck from behind at a fairly rapid rate. I figure I was doing 10-15 mph faster than the truck. With a fairly sharp right-hand curve ahead, I slowed a bit more, with still 400-500 yards between me and the truck. As the truck rounded the bend in the road, it appeared he ran over a bunch of dry dirt in the road, as I could see a "cloud" rise up in the road ahead. Figuring someone or some thing had dumped loose dirt in my lane, I slowed even more. By the time I got into the curve, I had probably slowed to 40-45 mph and it was then I realized that the "cloud" of dust I had seen was the explosion of one of the rear duals on the garbage truck. There were chunks of tire everywhere. I was able to maneuver around all the larger pieces and ran over some of the steel belt fragments without incident. The truck had pulled over on the shoulder and the driver was bailing out of the cab to have a look (I suspect) at the damage.

This reinforces the point of not spending any more time near trucks, tractor trailers, or pretty much anything else on the road in my mind. I pay particular attention to the sound of any truck or trailer I happen to be near on the road, as often times the tires will provide a clue they're getting ready to let loose, if you listen. I guess being 40-50 feet from the rear tandems, the driver can't hear the thumping of impending failure as well as I seem to be able to when I'm directly behind or beside a tier before it lets loose.

I also give a lot of room to large vehicles to the front until it is safe to pass on two or four lane roads. I won't "pace" one unless it is in town and speeds are significantly slower that what I consider to be highway speeds. Aside from the tire danger, I figure there's a high probability that a truck driver (unlike the cell-phone distracted liars who claim) can't see me if I hang out on either side of the truck. If I can't see his face, odds are he can't see my bike... so, I'll take it slow until there's plenty of room to pass and then I speed past rather quickly and settle in at my cruising speed after I'm safely past the big rig...

I could not agree with your assessment more.
I am wrong as often as I am right concerning what is wrong with someone else' motorcycle without having seen the machine in person. Guessing with limited information, as to the source of the trouble, is sketchy at best.

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby moneypit » Tue Aug 19, 2014 6:42 pm

yup they scair the hell out of me .

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby milkman44 » Tue Aug 19, 2014 9:00 pm

HawkeyeGL1200 wrote:Last weekend, while riding to a town near me, I was approaching a garbage truck from behind at a fairly rapid rate. I figure I was doing 10-15 mph faster than the truck. With a fairly sharp right-hand curve ahead, I slowed a bit more, with still 400-500 yards between me and the truck. As the truck rounded the bend in the road, it appeared he ran over a bunch of dry dirt in the road, as I could see a "cloud" rise up in the road ahead. Figuring someone or some thing had dumped loose dirt in my lane, I slowed even more. By the time I got into the curve, I had probably slowed to 40-45 mph and it was then I realized that the "cloud" of dust I had seen was the explosion of one of the rear duals on the garbage truck. There were chunks of tire everywhere. I was able to maneuver around all the larger pieces and ran over some of the steel belt fragments without incident. The truck had pulled over on the shoulder and the driver was bailing out of the cab to have a look (I suspect) at the damage.

This reinforces the point of not spending any more time near trucks, tractor trailers, or pretty much anything else on the road in my mind. I pay particular attention to the sound of any truck or trailer I happen to be near on the road, as often times the tires will provide a clue they're getting ready to let loose, if you listen. I guess being 40-50 feet from the rear tandems, the driver can't hear the thumping of impending failure as well as I seem to be able to when I'm directly behind or beside a tier before it lets loose.

I also give a lot of room to large vehicles to the front until it is safe to pass on two or four lane roads. I won't "pace" one unless it is in town and speeds are significantly slower that what I consider to be highway speeds. Aside from the tire danger, I figure there's a high probability that a truck driver (unlike the cell-phone distracted liars who claim) can't see me if I hang out on either side of the truck. If I can't see his face, odds are he can't see my bike... so, I'll take it slow until there's plenty of room to pass and then I speed past rather quickly and settle in at my cruising speed after I'm safely past the big rig...

I could not agree with your assessment more.


From the bold part, sounds like you're saying "quiet pipes save lives". :lol:

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby waituntilthebeep » Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:14 pm

By trade, I am a truck mechanic. The crap I see that is driving on our roads simply amazes me. I try not to be within 3 truck lengths of them because you never know what is going to fall off or fail. I too witnessed a gator jump off a rim and barrel at high speed right into the side of a Honda Civic and push it clean off into the median. BEWARE of the gator

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby Happytrails » Thu Aug 21, 2014 1:18 am

I do the same thing when pulling up by a tractor trailer. I won't ride next to him in case of a blowout or something being kicked up by it. I'll setup and make my pass.

Local truckers are very dangerous. They take risks, they are selfish and rude, they cut off drivers in smaller vehicles. You can take a pretty good guess at who is a long distance highway trucker and who are the local dangerous ones.
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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby WingAdmin » Thu Aug 21, 2014 9:20 am

Happytrails wrote:Local truckers are very dangerous. They take risks, they are selfish and rude, they cut off drivers in smaller vehicles. You can take a pretty good guess at who is a long distance highway trucker and who are the local dangerous ones.


In my experience, I find you're 100% correct. Almost without exception, the long-haul truck drivers are skilled, professional, courteous drivers. The local guys, not always the case.

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby tandem54 » Thu Aug 21, 2014 10:51 am

I get around them ASAP I don't like all the wind buffeting, and I don't trust them (I've been cut off before on the Wing when they didn't see me). This summer we were going camping (with the car), doing 75mph a 1 ton truck with "dollies" was passing me, just as he got 50 feet in front of me his right rear blew! All I could see was shrapnel of rubber and a big cloud of dust vapor from the tire. Scared the crap out of me! I told the wife at least we're not on the Wing! :o :shock: I don't know how that would have went!!
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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby WingAdmin » Thu Aug 21, 2014 12:50 pm

Here's a perfect example of why you should keep away from those trucks. The tires on the highway can be pressurized easily to 125 PSI. That's a huge amount of pressure, and there's a lot of air in those tires - that's a massive amount of potential energy. Watch as this truck's tire blows, hurling a huge, heavy chunk of rubber away sideways, just like a massive piece of shrapnel:




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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby Ol' Man » Thu Aug 21, 2014 2:26 pm

Wow... something like that smack you upside the head I'm afraid a helmet wouldn't be of much use. :shock:
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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby newday777 » Mon Sep 01, 2014 6:20 am

WingAdmin wrote:Here's a perfect example of why you should keep away from those trucks. The tires on the highway can be pressurized easily to 125 PSI. That's a huge amount of pressure, and there's a lot of air in those tires - that's a massive amount of potential energy. Watch as this truck's tire blows, hurling a huge, heavy chunk of rubber away sideways, just like a massive piece of shrapnel:





2 weeks ago traveling across the PA turnpike, at a rest area I met another rider who was just earlier riding following his buddy who was beside a big rig when a tire let go. The buddy got hit with shrapnel, and the guy following had to dodge the gator. Both were unhurt but it could have been much worse. They were both shaken a bit (big biker guys too!) and they also said to get past the rigs fast as you can, not to spend time beside the rig.

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby rachester67 » Mon Sep 01, 2014 6:38 am

I've passed one heard the tires making not so good sounds then blow right after I passed. Sure makes the PTSD the VA says I don't have kick in.

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby kibbie » Mon Sep 01, 2014 6:39 am

There's a practise I do habitually when I drive my Wing on highways....when I see an 18 wheeler approaching in the oncoming lane I move over to the right hand of my lane just to give me that extra margin of error IF a tire should blow and to avoid any wind turbulence. In my experience, some of the long distance truck drivers today are not trained like they were 20-30 years ago. With rising insurance rates, fluctuating fuel costs and slim profit margins training has been cut to the bone and I feel our roads are unsafe by fatigued and distracted truck drivers on our highways. I cannot tell you the number of times an 18 wheeler has drifted over into my side of the lane on the Trans Canada highway! In a head on collision, the truck driver always walks away from the scene. I have seen some pretty grizzly 18 wheeler accidents over the years and I believe blown tires are certainly something you want to be aware of as a biker but the biggest threat to us on our public highways in my mind is distracted and fatigued drivers that lack the training involved to be a truly professional, safe truck driver.

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On the "Dangers of Tractor Trailers"..a note..

Postby vv0350 » Mon Sep 01, 2014 7:58 am

Back about 20 years, when I oversaw the operation of a shop that serviced BFI trash trucks. We all gained a firm belief that these tires were dangerous when:
We had been repairing and changing all our own tractor tires using a heavy steel pipe tire cage for some minimal protection to our shop staff. Then, we joined a Firestone Tire program and began to send out all the tires to be repaired to their shop. One day, when I returned from a meeting, as I drove up to the office and shop building, I saw one entire sheet of the two story sheet metal building, twisted and curled up into the air over the edge of the roof. I got inside and found a 4 ½ Foot hole in the side of the ⅝" plywood inner shop wall. There were also two wall studs missing about 3 ½ feet of wood on either side of this hole. Seems that Firestone had returned a repaired truck tire that morning and it had been leaned against the wall for later stacking in the tire rack. For some unknown reason, the sidewall in that tire, right at the point that the tire was touching the wall, suddenly blew out. The explosion scared the heck out the shop staff and my operations manager, who recently back from Vietnam, threw himself under his desk when it blew. I found pieces of the two by fours over 100 feet from the building. The firestone rep came out and took photos and measurements. He later called me and explained the sidewall force exerted was equal to about 4 sticks of dinamite. So, yes, beware of those big trucks on the highway..or off the highway...

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Re: On the "Dangers of Tractor Trailers"..a note..

Postby HawkeyeGL1200 » Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:23 am

Rapid release of confined compressed air can do serious damage.
I am wrong as often as I am right concerning what is wrong with someone else' motorcycle without having seen the machine in person. Guessing with limited information, as to the source of the trouble, is sketchy at best.

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby kingpinent » Mon Sep 01, 2014 10:05 am

Always remember, unless you are passing a big truck, stay far enough behind to the point where you feel safe AND, always, ALWAYS, keep your self in a position on the road where you can see the truck driver in HIS rearview mirror, right or left side, it doesn't matter. This way he will always see you and know where you are. When passing, I agree with the previously mentioned. Get around him quickly as there is a very small blind spot the trucker may not see you in.
As they say in motorcycle safety, "SEE AND BE SEEN"!

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby rachester67 » Mon Sep 01, 2014 10:12 am

How about these new tires they are running that are real wide and replacing the duals? I haven't seen one those go yet!

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby 1drumlover » Mon Sep 01, 2014 10:17 am

Even In my car I NEVER ride anywhere close to a 18 wheeler, if avoidable, and will only pass when there is enough room to do so, quickly, and completely. :o

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby redial » Mon Sep 01, 2014 11:38 am

Rapid release of confined compressed air can do serious damage


Is that the same as what happens when you need a new set of undies? :D
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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby bartguderian » Mon Sep 01, 2014 12:47 pm

Great Advice on riding next to those highway bombs called semi's. I have practiced the mentioned techniques all my highway riding days but here is a situation I have never heard of or witnessed. A friend of mine was at a stop sign behind a semi when all of a sudden the truck began backing up--apparently to allow an oncoming turning truck extra room to make the turn. My friend didn't have time to push his bike backwards so he jumped off just in time to avoid being run over. The truck backed over the bike and totaled it. Keep that in mind when stopped behind a semi!!!!

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby tonyragi » Mon Sep 01, 2014 1:03 pm

On a month long tour on my 2010 Gold Wing, this past June (2014), I was on Highway 41 in Illinois, north of Chicago. I was coming up to pass a slower semi when he drifted off the road and I heard this horrendous sound of a tire coming apart. I had seen the tread pieces strewn along the main roads from semi tires often but had never experienced one close up, though it has been a special concern of mine. I had not imagined there was an associated sound as the tire pieces were being thrown around. I hard braked in the left lane and avoided all but a few shards which hit the bike hard but rubber on fiberglass leaves no lasting damage. However, being at 30mph in the fast lane where everyone is going 75 is not very comfortable. Luckily, all traffic behind me saw the situation and moved behind the truck, which had slowed but was still ejecting pieces banging into the cars. I was able to keep the cars as a shield between myself and the truck until I got around him. The last I saw, he was going slow, but still going. I was too busy to have the presence of mind to turn my helmet cam on.

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Re: Riding next to tractor trailers

Postby HawkeyeGL1200 » Mon Sep 01, 2014 1:58 pm

It's the stuff mixed in with the gas that makes changing your shorts a necessity :-)
redial wrote:Is that the same as what happens when you need a new set of undies? :D


I am wrong as often as I am right concerning what is wrong with someone else' motorcycle without having seen the machine in person. Guessing with limited information, as to the source of the trouble, is sketchy at best.


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