Semi-trucks are just like your automobile, just bigger, right? Not exactly; while semis have some similarities to smaller automobiles, there are some big differences that big truck drivers and individual motorists need to know.
The most obvious difference between passenger vehicles and semi-trucks is, of course, size. Consider the weight of the two vehicle classes. The average passenger vehicle weighs around two tons. The average semi and tractor is 40 tons. The size difference has a big impact on how semis brake and how smaller autos fare when they crash into semis. (Hint: The semi always wins).
Semi-trucks have larger blind spots than passenger vehicles. There’s no rear view mirror in a semi-truck, as the trailer obscures the area the mirror would reflect. Truck drivers compensate with additional mirrors on the side, signs warning motorists to stay out of the blind spots, and, increasingly, electronic sensors and cameras. Nevertheless, blind spots remain a big contributor to accidents involving semis and other vehicles.
Semi-truck engines last far longer than passenger automobile engines. Because semis are constantly on the road, their engines are designed to be more durable than those in passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs. While most passenger vehicles are ready for the scrap yard after 200,000 miles or so, that’s just the beginning for a semi.
Semi-trucks use air brakes, while passenger automobiles use hydraulic brakes. The air brakes in semis aren’t just for the truck; there is a system of brakes for all wheels of the tractor trailer. A key benefit of air brakes over hydraulic brakes is that, while hydraulic brakes can lose effectiveness if they are low on fluid, air brakes will always have plenty of air to operate. However, truck drivers must carefully inspect air braking equipment and monitor air pressure levels.
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