TruckingTruth logo

2.15 Emergencies

  • Traffic emergencies occur when two vehicles are about to collide.
  • Vehicle emergencies occur when tires, brakes or other critical parts fail.

Following the safety practices in this manual can help prevent emergencies. But if an emergency does happen, your chances of avoiding an accident depend upon how well you take action.

Steering to Avoid a Crash

Stopping is not always the safest thing to do in an emergency. When you do not have enough room to stop, you may have to steer away from what is ahead. Remember, you can almost always turn to miss an obstacle more quickly than you can stop (however, top-heavy vehicles and tractors with multiple trailers may overturn).

Steering quickly:

To turn quickly, you must have a firm grip on the steering wheel with both hands. A quick turn can be made safely if it is done correctly.

Test Your Knowledge

  • What factors determine your selection of a “safe” speed when going down a long, steep downgrade?
  • Why should you be in the proper gear before starting down a hill?
  • Describe the proper braking technique when going down a long, steep downgrade
  • What is a hazard?
  • Why make emergency plans when you see a hazard?

Study sections 2.12 through 2.14 if you can't answer all of these questions.

  • Do not apply the brakes while you are turning. It is very easy to lock your wheels while turning. If that happens, you may skid out of control.
  • Do not turn any more than needed to clear whatever is in your way. The more sharply you turn, the greater the chances of a skid or rollover.
  • Be prepared to “countersteer,” that is, to turn the wheel back in the other direction once you have passed whatever was in your path. Unless you are prepared to countersteer, you will not be able to do it quickly enough. Think of emergency steering and countersteering as two parts of one driving action.
Where to steer:

If an oncoming driver has drifted into your lane, a move to your right is best. If that driver realizes what has happened, the natural response will be to return to his/her own lane. If something is blocking your path, the best direction to steer will depend on the situation.

  • If you have been using your mirrors, you will know which lane is empty and can be safely used.
  • If the shoulder is clear, going right may be best. No one is likely to be driving on the shoulder, but someone may be passing you on the left. You will know if you have been using your mirrors.
  • If you are blocked on both sides, a move to the right may be best. At least you will not force anyone into an opposing traffic lane and a possible head-on collision.
Leaving the road:

In some emergencies, you may have to drive off the road. It may be less risky than facing a collision with another vehicle. Most shoulders are strong enough to support the weight of a large vehicle and, therefore, offer an available escape route. Following are guidelines if you must leave the road:

  • Avoid braking - If possible, avoid using the brakes until your speed has dropped to about 20 mph. Then brake very gently to avoid skidding on a loose surface.
  • Keep one set of wheels on pavement if possible - This helps to maintain control of the vehicle.
  • Stay on the shoulder - If the shoulder is clear, stay on it until your vehicle has come to a complete stop. Signal and check your mirrors before pulling back onto the road.
Returning to the Road:

If you are forced to return to the road before you can stop, use the following procedures:

  • Hold the wheel tightly and turn sharply enough to get right back on the road safely. Do not try to edge gradually back on the road. If you do, your tires might grab unexpectedly and you could lose control.
  • When both front tires are on the paved surface, countersteer immediately. The two turns should be made as a single “steer-countersteer” move.

Stopping Quickly and Safely

If somebody suddenly pulls out in front of you, your natural response is to hit the brakes. This is a good response if there is enough distance to stop and you use the brakes correctly. You should brake in a way that will keep your vehicle in a straight line and allow you to turn if it becomes necessary. You can use the “controlled braking” or the “stab braking” methods.

Controlled Braking:

With this method, you apply the brakes as hard as you can without locking the wheels. Keep steering wheel movements very small while doing this. If you need to make a larger steering adjustment or if the wheels lock, release the brakes. Reapply the brakes as soon as you can.

Stab Braking:

Use only on vehicles without anti-lock brake systems.

  • Apply your brakes all the way.
  • Release brakes when wheels lock up.
  • As soon as the wheels start rolling, apply the brakes fully again. (It can take up to 1 second for the wheels to start rolling after you release the brakes. If you reapply the brakes before the wheels start rolling, the vehicle will not straighten out.
Do not Jam on the Brakes:

Use only on vehicles without anti-lock brake systems. Emergency braking does not mean pushing down on the brake pedal as hard as you can. That will only keep the wheels locked up and cause a skid. If the wheels are skidding, you cannot control the vehicle

Note: If you drive a vehicle with anti-lock brakes, read and follow the directions for stopping quickly in the ownerʼs manual.

Study and memorize the below definitions. These terms show up quite a bit on the written exam.
Swerving is extremely dangerous in a large vehicle due to the high center of gravity. You may be asked about this.
Be familiar with the below list. Remember, you should not apply the brakes while turning or turn any more than is needed. Understand the concept of "countersteering".
A question about this shows up from time to time. For the purposes of the written exam, always move right when an oncoming vehicle enters your lane.
There is nothing to memorize here, but be familiar with the overall concepts presented in the below list.
Some questions on the written exam are very particular about this. Remember to coast down to about 20mph before using the brakes, if safely possible. Remembering 20mph is key.
Review these two points a few times so you understand it. Many people answer questions about this incorrectly. While you may be able to argue these points, for the purposes of your written exam, you should not try to edge back onto the roadway. Instead, turn sharply enough to get back onto the road safely and then countersteer immediately once you're back on the roadway.
It is extremely important that you not only understand what controlled braking is, but you must know how it differs from stab braking and when to use each technique. Don't skip over this as questions about controlled and stab braking are very common!
You really need to know what stab braking is, how it differs from controlled braking, and when to properly use stab braking. This is a very important concept to understand!

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Review Questions - Click On The Picture To Begin...

What is the advantage to moving right instead of left when an oncoming vehicle veers into your lane?
  • If you're blocked on both sides of your vehicle, you will avoid forcing the vehicle on your left into oncoming traffic
  • The oncoming vehicle may try to steer back into the correct lane at the last second
  • All of these answers are correct
  • If a shoulder is present, it is unlikely anybody will be next to your right side

Quote From The CDL Manual:

If an oncoming driver has drifted into your lane, a move to your right is best. If that driver realizes what has happened, the natural response will be to return to his/her own lane. If something is blocking your path, the best direction to steer will depend on the situation.

  • If you have been using your mirrors, you will know which lane is empty and can be safely used.
  • If the shoulder is clear, going right may be best. No one is likely to be driving on the shoulder, but someone may be passing you on the left. You will know if you have been using your mirrors.
  • If you are blocked on both sides, a move to the right may be best. At least you will not force anyone into an opposing traffic lane and a possible head-on collision.
Next
If you must swerve or turn quickly to avoid a hazard, you should:
  • Use one hand on the steering wheel to avoid overreactions
  • Apply the brakes firmly while turning
  • Avoid applying the brakes while you are turning
  • Turn more than you feel is needed to ensure you avoid the hazard

Quote From The CDL Manual:

Stopping is not always the safest thing to do in an emergency. When you do not have enough room to stop, you may have to steer away from what is ahead. Remember, you can almost always turn to miss an obstacle more quickly than you can stop. (However, top-heavy vehicles and tractors with multiple trailers may overturn.)

Turning quickly: To turn quickly, you must have a firm grip on the steering wheel with both hands. A quick turn can be made safely if it is done correctly:

  • Do not apply the brakes while you are turning. It is very easy to lock your wheels while turning. If that happens, you may skid out of control.
  • Do not turn any more than needed to clear whatever is in your way. The more sharply you turn, the greater the chances of a skid or rollover.
  • Be prepared to "countersteer," that is, to turn the wheel back in the other direction once you have passed whatever was in your path. Unless you are prepared to countersteer, you will not be able to do it quickly enough. Think of emergency steering and countersteering as two parts of one driving action.

TruckingTruth's Advice:

While swerving is sometimes the only available option to avoid a collision, swerving or making sharp turns should be avoided if at all possible. Maintain a large following distance so you can reduce the risk of swerving to avoid an accident. Not only are large vehicles more prone to overturning and losing control, but damage can be caused to any cargo being hauled.

Prev
Next
If you must leave the road to avoid a collision, you should do all of the following except:
  • Brake as hard as you can to stop as quickly as possible
  • Avoid braking until your speed has dropped to about 20mph
  • Keep one set of wheels on the pavement if possible
  • Stay on the shoulder until your vehicle has come to a complete stop

Quote From The CDL Manual:

Leaving the road: In some emergencies, you may have to drive off the road. It may be less risky than facing a collision with another vehicle. Most shoulders are strong enough to support the weight of a large vehicle and, therefore, offer an available escape route. Following are guidelines if you must leave the road:

  • Avoid braking - If possible, avoid using the brakes until your speed has dropped to about 20 mph. Then brake very gently to avoid skidding on a loose surface.
  • Keep one set of wheels on pavement if possible - This helps to maintain control of the vehicle.
  • Stay on the shoulder - If the shoulder is clear, stay on it until your vehicle has come to a complete stop. Signal and check your mirrors before pulling back onto the road.
Prev
Next
If you leave the paved roadway and must return quickly to avoid a hazard, what is the best way to do so?
  • Hold the wheel tightly and turn sharply enough to get right back on the road
  • Pull back onto the roadway as slowly and gradually as possible
  • Only return one side of the vehicles tires to the roadway and wait for them to "grab" the surface before going further
  • When both front tires return to a paved surface, hesitate about 1/2 second before counter-steering

Quote From The CDL Manual:

If you are forced to return to the road before you can stop, use the following procedures:

  • Hold the wheel tightly and turn sharply enough to get right back on the road safely. Do not try to edge gradually back on the road. If you do, your tires might grab unexpectedly and you could lose control.
  • When both front tires are on the paved surface, countersteer immediately. The two turns should be made as a single "steer-countersteer" move.
Prev
Next
What is an example of a traffic emergency?
  • When there is a foreign object in the roadway
  • When two vehicles are about to collide
  • All of these indicate a traffic emergency
  • When experiencing brake failure

Quote From The CDL Manual:

Traffic emergencies occur when two vehicles are about to collide. Vehicle emergencies occur when tires, brakes or other critical parts fail. Following the safety practices in this manual can help prevent emergencies. But if an emergency does happen, your chances of avoiding an accident depend upon how well you take action.

TruckingTruth's Advice:

Understand the difference between the following:

  • Traffic Hazard: Any road condition or other road user (driver, bicyclist, pedestrian) that is a possible danger.
  • Traffic Emergency: When two vehicles are about to collide.
  • Vehicle Emergency: When tires, brakes or other critical parts fail.
Prev
Next
What is Controlled Braking?
  • Applying the brakes as hard as possible and locking the wheels
  • Applying the brakes as hard as possible without locking the wheels
  • Applying only the trailer brakes using the trailer brake valve to avoid a jackknife
  • Applying and releasing the brakes to avoid locking the wheels

Quote From The CDL Manual:

Controlled braking: With this method, you apply the brakes as hard as you can without locking the wheels. Keep steering wheel movements very small while doing this. If you need to make a larger steering adjustment or if the wheels lock, release the brakes. Reapply the brakes as soon as you can.

TruckingTruth's Advice:

A question about Controlled Braking and/or Stab Braking will likely show up on your written exam. Be sure to know the difference of each:

Controlled braking: With this method, you apply the brakes as hard as you can without locking the wheels.

Stab braking: Use only on vehicles without anti-lock brake systems.

  • Apply your brakes all the way.
  • Release brakes when wheels lock up.
  • As soon as the wheels start rolling, apply the brakes fully again. (It can take up to 1 second for the wheels to start rolling after you release the brakes. If you reapply the brakes before the wheels start rolling, the vehicle will not straighten out.)

Note that most newer equipment (including trailers) have Anti-Lock Brake systems. That means controlled / stab braking is done automatically via the ABS system.

Prev
Next
All of the following are Vehicle Emergencies except:
  • Steep drop-off next to the roadway
  • A tire blows out
  • Brake failure
  • Steering malfunction

Quote From The CDL Manual:

Vehicle emergencies occur when tires, brakes or other critical parts fail.

TruckingTruth's Advice:

Understand the difference between the following:

  • Traffic Hazard: Any road condition or other road user (driver, bicyclist, pedestrian) that is a possible danger.
  • Traffic Emergency: When two vehicles are about to collide.
  • Vehicle Emergency: When tires, brakes or other critical parts fail.
Prev
Next
If an oncoming driver has drifted into your lane, what should you do?
  • If at all possible, move to your left
  • Stop immediately
  • Do nothing and allow the oncoming vehicle to make any evasive maneuvers
  • If at all possible, move to your right

Quote From The CDL Manual:

If an oncoming driver has drifted into your lane, a move to your right is best. If that driver realizes what has happened, the natural response will be to return to his/her own lane. If something is blocking your path, the best direction to steer will depend on the situation.

  • If you have been using your mirrors, you will know which lane is empty and can be safely used.
  • If the shoulder is clear, going right may be best. No one is likely to be driving on the shoulder, but someone may be passing you on the left. You will know if you have been using your mirrors.
  • If you are blocked on both sides, a move to the right may be best. At least you will not force anyone into an opposing traffic lane and a possible head-on collision.
Prev
Finish
Please select an option
[3,3,1,1,2,2,1,4]
8

Join Us!

We have an awesome set of tools that will help you understand the trucking industry and prepare for a great start to your trucking career. Not only that, but everything we offer here at TruckingTruth is 100% free - no strings attached! Sign up now and get instant access to our member's section:
High Road Training Program Logo
  • The High Road Training Program
  • The High Road Article Series
  • The Friendliest Trucker's Forum Ever!
  • Email Updates When New Articles Are Posted

About Us

TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

Read More

Becoming A Truck Driver

Becoming A Truck Driver is a dream we've all pondered at some point in our lives. We've all wondered if the adventure and challenges of life on the open road would suit us better than the ordinary day to day lives we've always known. At TruckingTruth we'll help you decide if trucking is right for you and help you get your career off to a great start.

Learn More