Properly managing the space in front, behind and to the sides of a vehicle is the sign of a skilled professional driver. Yet, to reach any destination safely, drivers must monitor the space around their vehicle in ALL directions, including above and below. Space Above & Below Of all the space around a vehicle, it’s the area above which is most often forgotten.
Hitting overhead objects (e.g., bridges, overpasses, railroad trestles, signs) can be caused by missed warning signs, being distracted or getting off of a “commercial vehicle route” and is a major cause of damage. It’s also very easy for a driver to overlook the space under the vehicle, which can be very small, especially when the vehicle is heavily loaded.
Railroad tracks and unpaved roads, for example, often present a challenge. General Tips
• Know the height of the vehicle before driving. However, keep in mind that an empty vehicle
is lighter, and therefore higher, than a loaded one.
• Research your route ahead of time to help identify low clearance locations and other obstacles by using resources designed for commercial vehicles.
If you are using a GPS device, be certain it is made for commercial vehicles, and keep the software up-to-date. Unlike passenger car units, commercial vehicle devices contain
specific mapping data, such as road restrictions and bridge and trestle clearances.
• Check the height of any overhead structure before driving under it. However, remember that repaved roads or snow and ice may change the actual clearance. Be especially cautious when operating on private property where clearance signs may not be posted.
• Pay attention to how a road is graded. A vehicle may tilt toward the side of the road because of a high crown or different levels of paving, thereby creating a clearance problem, particularly along the side of the road.
• Travel on limited-access highways, interstates and tollways whenever possible. Even then, there may be an occasional “low bridge” and you need to be alert to that possibility.
• Don’t back up if you don’t have to. But, if you must back up, get out and scan the entire area – above, below and on both sides – before backing. Use a guide, if available, but keep in mind that the driver has the final responsibility for safe backing.
• Check before driving onto unpaved surfaces. They may not be as firm as they look, particularly after a rainstorm.
• Read and heed all warning signs. This includes low ground
clearance grade crossing signs that alert drivers of long wheelbase vehicles or trailers of a potential hang-up situation at railroad crossings.
• If there is any doubt about your vehicle’s clearance, err on the side of caution and select an alternate route – it is better to be safe than sorry.