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What’s a Space Cushion? Commercial Truck Driver Tips From Matrack

space cushion guide commercial truck drivers

Driving is like a sport – you require attention, concentration, training, and experience to win the race for safety.

Let’s travel to the Silk Road when traders loaded goods onto camels. Back then, people encountered less traffic and fewer accidents.

But coming to the present scenario, we can say thousands of vehicles run on the road. How can you ensure the safety of your goods and prevent accidents in your fleet, especially when the damage will be huge due to the size and weight of a loaded vehicle?

The role of the space cushion comes into play here. It is maintaining a safe space between different vehicles to prevent collisions. It enables drivers with enough reaction time to make informed decisions in emergencies.

In this blog, we have listed everything you need to know about Space Cushion. This full-fledged guide is layered carefully after hours of research by the Matrack team to serve you information on a plate.

What is a Space Cushion?

A space cushion is the ideal space between vehicles on the road. You have likely seen drivers tailgating on the highway. Tailgating occurs when one driver follows too closely behind another vehicle. It poses risks because it reduces the time and space needed to stop safely. 

Therefore, when you drive fast (but within the speed limit), you must maintain a distance between your Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) and the one in front. This space is called a “space cushion.”

We know you are probably wondering, “I am good at driving, so I should not worry about such mistakes occurring.” But think about the other drivers on the road. What if they make a mistake? Their one mistake might damage your goods or delay your delivery. Moreover, as a CMV driver, it is more likely that the size of your vehicle will cause more harm in case of a mishap.

Hence, this probability rules out all your reasoning to not worry about space cushion. It is an essential defensive driving technique. 

Purpose and Importance of Space Cushions for Commercial Truck Drivers

Did you know that 94% of road accidents occur because of a driver’s fault? Drivers often fail to decide within a few seconds before an accident occurs.

Experienced drivers often say, “You don’t know the other people driving alongside you.” while guiding the younger commercial drivers.

People of all age groups, vision, and health conditions travel on the road. They all have different reaction times with context to the speed as well. Some people hurriedly want to reach their destination, while others are tired and sleepy after a long day at work. 

Thus, overspeeding, overtaking, or changing lanes are some common occurrences. We all know precaution is always a better choice. 

Therefore, having enough space between vehicles ensures that you prevent collisions, brake delays, mechanical issues, and decision-making delays by other vehicles around you.

What are the Benefits of Space Cushions for Commercial Truck Drivers?

The benefits of space cushions for commercial drivers are increased visibility, fewer collisions, ease of movement, fewer traffic violations, and many more. To know these better, refer to the list provided below:

  • Drivers have more time to avoid crashes and other problems when they leave enough space around their vehicles. It lowers the chance of hitting the vehicle in front.
  • Drivers can see better, and others can see the driver better when they keep a space buffer. It helps them avoid blind spots and be aware of their surroundings.
  • Drivers can follow the traffic rules and avoid fines or tickets when they manage their space well. It saves them from legal trouble for the fleet.
  • Drivers use less fuel and save money when they drive smoothly and steadily. It happens when they have a well-maintained space cushion. They also avoid speeding up and slowing down too much.
  • Drivers follow safety laws and standards when they keep a proper space cushion. Some places have specific rules for how much space commercial vehicles must have.
  • The fleet looks good to the public and customers if they follow safe space management. It shows that it cares about safe driving.
  • The fleet lasts longer and needs fewer repairs when it has a reasonable space cushion. It reduces the damage to the brakes, tires, and other parts.
  • The fleet pays less for insurance and has a good name in the eyes of insurance providers when it drives safely. It includes keeping a proper space cushion.

Understanding the Areas for Space Cushion

Front-end space cushionsSide space cushions Rear-end space cushions 
It is the space left ahead of a vehicle. You risk crashing into the vehicle in front of you if you drive too close to it.It refers to the space left on the sides of the vehicles. They switch lanes without warning. A vehicle may come out of nowhere, or someone may open their door. The space left on the back of the vehicles. Drivers may tailgate and cause a collision.
You cannot see the road ahead well, especially if the vehicle is big, like a truck or a trailer. You need to see what is happening on the road to deal with traffic changes.Keep the lanes next to your car empty as much as you can. You can do it by driving in the middle of your lane and not moving to either side.Drivers often cannot control the space on the back end of their vehicle. It is usually the driver behind you who should keep a safe distance.
You might not stop or slow down in time if the vehicle in front of you does so suddenly. Trucks require a longer time to stop due to their weight.Drivers should note that vehicles have blind spots on their rear corners, not visible in mirrors. Know these blind spots to prevent collisions.If a driver is too close behind you, change lanes and let the driver behind you go ahead. But be careful of how fast and close the other vehicle is.
It is difficult to estimate the right distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. You can follow the three-second rule for it. If you want to change lanes, turn on your signal and ensure the lane next to you has a lot of space. You need at least eight feet of space on one side of your car to escape.Signal before you turn or slow down, and always look at your blind spots before changing lanes.

Different Ways of Maintaining Space Cushion

Now that you know about space cushions and their different areas, let’s look at ways to maintain them for truck drivers.

Essentially, there are two major rules for maintaining it. 

Three-second rule

1. Choose a fixed spot ahead of the vehicle in front of you. It spot could be anything like a road sign, a tree, etc.

2. When the back of the vehicle ahead of you reaches the fixed point, begin counting: one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three.

3. If you reach the fixed point before you finish counting, it means you are not maintaining a good space. Consider increasing the space. 

Four-second rule

It is similar to the three-second rule. The only difference is that you have to count to one thousand-four. It is especially recommended for large commercial vehicles, fleets, and trucks by the FMCSA. The trucks require a longer time to stop and thus need more space cushion.

It describes how you calculate the correct space cushion in between the vehicles. 

Introduction to the Smith System – 5 Essential Keys

Whenever there is a discussion on space cushions, people always mention the Smith system. The Smith system is a way of driving that helps you avoid crashes and stay safe on the road. It has five rules for creating a space cushion around your vehicle. Here are the five rules given by the Smith system:

  • Aim high in steering – Look far ahead of your truck instead of just looking at the vehicle in front of you. It helps you see the road better and plan your actions.
  • Get the big picture – Be aware of everything around your vehicle. It helps you avoid blind spots and see potential hazards.
  • Keep your eyes moving – Scan the road, the mirrors, and the dashboard. It helps you stay alert and focused.
  • Leave yourself an escape – Always have a way to escape if something goes wrong. Keep enough space between you and the vehicle in front and on your sides. It helps you move or stop your vehicle safely if needed.
  • Make sure they see you – Communicate with other drivers using your signals, lights, and horns. Make eye contact with them if possible. It helps you avoid misunderstandings and collisions.

Matrack’s Assistance to Safe Driving

Safe driving is a very crucial element. And space cushion is a prime component in it. With Matrack, you get assistance in several ways.

  • Matrack fleet management system warns you of potential dangers on the road, such as driver fatigue, distraction, texting, forward collision, and lane departure. 
  • Matrack’s dashcams also have dual-facing cameras that let you view the incidents in front and behind the vehicle.
  • It tracks your vehicle in real-time with GPS and access video on demand. It helps you monitor your fleet performance and efficiency. It can also help you locate your vehicle in case of theft or emergency.

Along with 24/7 customer support and easy installation at an affordable price, isn’t it a perfect recipe for safety for fleet management?

Final Words

To create and maintain a space cushion, follow some rules and tips. It is crucial for your safety, efficiency, and reputation. It saves both money and time. 

Follow the 4-second rule, know the blind spots, and avoid tailgating at all times. You can improve your driving skills and ensure ultimate safety by following the rules that were discussed above. 

If you have any queries, please feel free to contact Matrack and learn about different ways to safeguard your commercial trucks. 

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