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October 23, 2023

Mastering the Art of Semi-Truck Turns: A Safety Guide

A.W Griffith Transportation Consulting LLC

The act of driving a semi-truck is far more complex than operating a standard passenger vehicle. This complexity increases when attempting to navigate through turns, whether on highways, city roads, or even in parking lots. Unfortunately, improper turns are one of the leading causes of accidents involving semi-trucks, often resulting in severe injuries or fatalities. This article aims to provide an in-depth guide on mastering the art of semi-truck turns to enhance safety for both the driver and other road users.

The Importance of Proper Turning Techniques

Before diving into the mechanics, it’s essential to understand why proper turning techniques are so crucial for semi-truck drivers. In addition to the sheer size and weight of these vehicles, the trailers they tow create additional pivot points that can make turning tricky. A single mistake can result in the trailer “off-tracking,” where the wheels follow a tighter radius than the truck itself, potentially leading to rollovers or collisions. Mastering proper turning techniques can help avoid such incidents and improve road safety.

Types of Turns for Semi-Trucks

Generally, there are two main types of turns a semi-truck driver needs to be familiar with:

Wide Right Turns: This is often the trickiest for new drivers because it requires steering left initially to create space for the trailer to clear the corner.

Left Turns: While usually more straightforward than right turns, left turns still require attention to the positioning of the truck and trailer to avoid collisions.

Wide Right Turns

Here’s a step-by-step guide to performing a wide right turn safely:

Approach: As you approach the intersection, position your truck towards the center or even slightly to the left of your lane to create ample space for the turn.

Signal and Observe: Use your turn signals well in advance and check all mirrors for surrounding vehicles, especially on your right side.

Execute: As you begin the turn, steer slightly to the left to create a wider arc, then sharply turn right, being cautious of your speed to prevent rollovers.

Monitor Trailer: Continuously monitor the trailer through your side mirrors to ensure it clears the corner and does not off-track.

Complete: Once the trailer has cleared the turn, straighten the steering wheel and proceed.

Left Turns

Left turns are generally more straightforward but still require attention to detail:

Approach: Stick to the left side of your lane as you approach the turn.

Signal and Observe: Activate your turn signal early and monitor all mirrors.

Execute: Begin the turn, ensuring that the truck and trailer remain within the designated lanes.

Monitor Trailer: Keep an eye on your trailer through your mirrors, ensuring it follows the path of the truck.

Complete: Once the trailer has successfully navigated the turn, straighten the steering wheel and proceed.

Safety Tips

Know Your Equipment

Understanding the dimensions and turning capabilities of your truck and trailer is vital. Knowing the wheelbase, trailer length, and even the tire conditions can greatly influence your turns.

Be Mindful of Speed

The faster you go, the more difficult it becomes to control a semi-truck during turns. A controlled, slow speed will give you more time to react and adjust.

Use Your Mirrors

Mirrors are your best friend during any turn. Continuously check them to ensure you’re clearing obstacles and that the trailer is following the correct path.

Practice Defensive Driving

Always be aware of other road users. Your size and limited mobility may not be apparent to car drivers, so anticipate their moves as much as possible.


Turning a semi-truck is an art form that combines technical skill with an in-depth understanding of the vehicle’s mechanics and dimensions. Mastering this art is critical for the safety of both the driver and everyone else on the road. The importance of proper turning techniques cannot be understated, given the high stakes involved in semi-truck operation.

Remember that practice makes perfect. Each turn is an opportunity to refine your skills and become a safer, more proficient driver. And in an industry where safety is paramount, mastering the art of turning is not just an asset; it’s a necessity.

By adhering to best practices, understanding the mechanics, and continually focusing on safety, you can navigate the challenges that come with turning a semi-truck. Doing so will not only enhance your own driving capabilities but also contribute to the overall safety and efficiency of road transport. So the next time you’re behind the wheel, remember: turning is an art, and like any artist, you must continuously hone your skills.

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A.W Griffith Transportation Consulting LLC

October 23, 2023


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