Driving a Rental Truck

Today’s rental trucks drive like big cars. They have automatic transmission, a comfortable cab, a radio, and lots of mirrors for seeing things.

Of course, you may have no inclination or desire to drive your truck. You’ve done enough work already. Hire to have the driving done if you want. Or delegate it to a trusted family member, relative, or friend. Or hire a professional driver.

I wasn’t able to fly back to Iowa for our move to Oregon a few years ago, so we paid airfare and a few bucks to a nephew with truck driving experience. He was glad for the cash and the vacation.

If you do decide to borrow or rent a truck and drive it yourself, talk to the owner and/or read any literature from the rental company. Ask if there are any special quirks you should know about. One family learned the hard way that the parking brakes on the truck they borrowed held only if a foot was on the brake pedal when the parking brake was applied. Take a test drive. Practice backing up. Learn to use the side mirrors. Find the spare tire.

Professional drivers may log a million miles or more between tickets and may drive five million miles or more without an accident. That’s safe driving. Here are some of the tips they pass on to you:

  • Never, never, never drink and drive.
  • Use your seat belt and require that all passengers use them.
  • Set the side mirrors before you pull out; and use them often.
  • Start out slowly and get the feel of the truck.
  • Watch your mirrors during turns to learn how much extra space you need.
  • Allow extra time when merging into traffic because it takes longer for a truck to accelerate than it does for a car.
  • Allow extra time and distance for stopping because it also takes longer to stop a truck than it does a car.
  • Observe special truck speed limits as posted on highways.
  • Plan a route that allows truck traffic.
  • Expect that your trip will take longer than it would in a car.
  • Don’t be in a hurry. If you must pass, allow plenty of time and space.
  • If you are not used to driving a truck, avoid backing up, if possible.
  • If you must back up, let your assistant spot you as you back into the driveway or other location.
  • Know what your overhead clearance is and watch for low bridges or tunnels, service station canopies, motel entrances, drive-up windows and other obstacles.
  • When in doubt, hog the far-right lane, slow down, and drive with your flashers on.

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