More Than ‘Semi Aware’
Con-way Truckload driver’s new book targets public with safe-driving techniques around trucks
Crossville, Tenn., resident and seven-year Con-way Truckload company driver Toby Bogard was approached in a truckstop not so long ago by a woman whose question left him at once baffled and moving toward something of an epiphany. She asked him why, if tractor-trailer rigs have 18 wheels, they weren’t able to stop more quickly than standard automobiles.
“She wasn’t joking,” says Bogard, the author of a slim “Driver’s trip plan to success” in the book On the Big Road, published last year. He explained to her the basic physics involved, and “after that, I realized the full extent of the information that people who drive cars don’t know that I take for granted, because I drive a truck and I know how to drive around them. And that information needs to be passed on.”
He set about writing a second book, now out, called Semi Aware, which delivers helpful information about safe driving around big trucks. It’s primarily meant for “teens about to get their driver’s licenses before they get into the bad habits,” Bogard says, two of which you’ll be more than familiar with.
The cutoff: “One of the biggest things I see,” Bogard says, “is when people driving a car will zip around a big truck to suddenly jump in front of us because they’re going to miss their exit. If you jump in front us [it’s an obvious problem because] we can’t stop as quickly as you can.”
Tailgating: “Some people call it drafting — mathematically, you need to be within 13 feet of the rear bumper of the big truck to save any fuel whatsoever. The savings then is so minuscule that you might as well back off” for safety, as truck drivers can’t see a car that close to the back of the trailer, Bogard notes.
Written in a conversational style, with space left in each chapter for the studious reader to take notes, it could well make a great gift for that 15-year-old in your life.
But, says Bogard, “this book can be read by anybody, and the techniques in it can be applied by anybody. There are a lot of people who drive big trucks who, well, have bad habits, too.”
A firm believer in the Smith System of truck-driver education and its benefit for drivers of all types, Bogard sees Semi Aware as of a piece with public outreach efforts of carriers and trade associations (remember those “No Zone” trailers?) and others in the driver community. Ultimately, he hopes the book will fill a void in basic driver training — the lack of any formal training on how to drive safely around big trucks. “People about to be getting their driver’s licenses need to be trained — at least spend a day on it when you’re in driver education class, make it a portion of the written test. Make sure it’s covered.”
Send the big-rig-challenged young drivers among you to Toby Bogard’s YouTube site, youtube.com/TruckWriter, for biweekly vids illustrating the concepts in Semi-Aware. And find our video interview with him at www.truckersnews.com.