This may seem obvious to you, but just think about this statement for a second: trucks are not like cars.
Trucks don't look like cars, they don't act like cars, and they don't drive like cars. Does that mean a car driver can't learn to drive a rental truck? No; it just means they need to keep some extra safety tips in mind before they hit the road.
With your first time driving a truck, you may forget how much size changes the way you drive. A larger vehicle means you'll need to drive defensively and be especially careful to watch other vehicles around you. As one truck driver put it, "You are a lumbering elephant surrounded by little rodents."
Besides watching for other cars, your size also means you'll want to watch out for bridges or overpasses that are too large for your truck to go under.
When you drive your car, you might accelerate your car to its top speed. You can't really do this with a big truck. Typically, driving slowly simply means you shouldn't exceed the speed limit. However, you may feel like you have better control over the truck at a slightly lower speed, so just drive at the speed you feel comfortable with.
On the highway, stay in the slow lane. Trucks should not drive in the passing lane, where they will just frustrate car drivers and block traffic.
You'll probably notice many cars on the highway trying to pass you. Make sure you leave cars enough room to pass. If a car is trying to pass you, slow down and give them room. This will help you avoid frustrated car drivers tailgating you.
What if you need to pass? You should avoid the farthest left lane, even for passing, and you shouldn't pass a vehicle moving faster than 65 kph (40 mph). Also make sure not to pass in places where you have limited sight distance, like hills or curves. See the tips "use your side mirrors" and "be aware of blind spots" below for more tips on how to change lanes.
The fact of the matter is that trucks needs more room than cars to make a turn. If you aren't careful when you turn, you could end up driving over a curb, which can be especially dangerous with pedestrians around. Make sure a little more than half your vehicle has passed the radius point of your turn before you make the turn. This will require moving up farther to make a turn, and that's okay. Use your side mirrors to watch where your back wheels are before you make the turn.
Remember, you're handling a huge vehicle. Give yourself time to slow down rather than slamming down on the brakes.
If you don't have enough space to slow down or stop, you risk hitting the vehicle in front of you. Similarly, vehicles behind you should give you enough space as well. After all, it takes cars about 240 feet to stop, and trucks about 400 feet-more than the length of an American football field. So leave a large distance between your truck and other cars; about 5 to 6 car lengths is a good rule.
In a car, you might get away with ignoring your side mirrors. In a truck, this is not the case. Adjust your mirrors before you start driving. As you drive, frequently check your side mirrors to assess where other traffic is in relation to you.
Be aware that trucks have large blind spots. While many drivers know to stay away from truck blind spots, many do not. As one truck driver put it, "Assume every person driving something smaller than you is a suicidal psychopath who wants his heirs to collect a fat insurance cheque from you for running over him with your truck." Perhaps this is taking the idea too far, but you should still keep in mind that many cars do not practice safe driving around trucks.
Thus, before you change lanes, make sure you've completely scanned the area. Also, turn on your turning signal for a time so cars in your blind spots have a chance to move.
Since it's hard to see when you're backing out with a truck, you need to go especially slowly and maybe even have some from outside direct you. If you can avoid backing up, go for it. If the parking lot isn't full, pull into several parking lot spaces.
As with driving a car, remember to follow basic rules. This includes wearing a seatbelt, leaving space between cars, and avoiding dangerous practices like speeding, drunk driving, and weaving in and out of traffic.
These rules are especially important to follow when you're driving a truck, since trucks are larger and more powerful-and can thus cause more damage. But don't be nervous. If you drive slowly and carefully and follow these safety tips, you'll have a successful drive.