How to Turn a Right Hand Corner in a Tractor Trailer Semi Truckby Richard Rowe
Driving a tractor trailer is nothing if not an art, but like any other art, perfecting it is mostly a matter of practice and inspiration. Practice comes from doing it, from daily honing of crucial skills. Inspiration comes from the knowledge that you're capable of handling any situation that the road throws at you.
Look at the curve and try figure out if you'll have the room you'll need to swing out and make the turn. You'll almost always need to go into another lane. If there's traffic sitting at the intersection on your right, then wait for an opportunity to swing into the left-hand lane. If you can't go to your left, then wait for traffic sitting in the oncoming lane of the cross-road to move.
Engage your right turn signal at least 200 feet before making the turn, and check traffic at the intersection and in your mirrors. Check traffic coming up on your left behind you, and bear to the left side of your lane. Downshift to the appropriate gear. Cross over the line to your left by about a foot if necessary, but no more.
Check your right-hand mirror one last time to make sure that no one is trying to sneak around you and going to end up with a trailer parked on their hood. Enter the turn, aiming the front of your truck for the oncoming lane if it's a two-lane road or the middle lane if it's a three-lane.
Watch your right front, hood-mounted blind-spot mirror. Once you've determined that you have the clearance to swing out, your trailer tires are effectively "driving" the truck. You already know that you have room for the tractor, so your primary duty at this point is to direct the trailer tires so that they don't hop the curb.
Look up and forward every three seconds to make sure that the traffic is where you left it, and to re-check your tractor clearance. Go back to watching the trailer wheels, and steer the tractor in or out to get them as close to the apex of the curve as you can without hopping it.
Turn the truck sharply to the right after your rear wheels have passed the apex of the curve. Nothing you do past this point will steer your trailer tires over the curb, so now your priority shifts to getting the truck completely into your lane and straightening it out.
Cancel your turn signal only when the truck has completely straightened out in its lane.
- "JB Hunt Driver-Trainer Manual"; JB Hunt Enterprises; 2003
- If you don't already know what gear you should be in when negotiating a turn, then consider re-enrolling in CDL school. That being said, most trucks will negotiate a turn in second gear when loaded or fourth gear when empty.
Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.