By Brent Johnson
for the Salisbury Post
Thursday was Valentine’s Day, and in the West Rowan High School parking lot, Rich Cupp was speaking from the heart.
But he wasn’t whispering words of love.
Cupp was at the school to warn driver’s education students how dangerous it can be when drivers don’t realize the blind spots that tractor-trailer drivers must contend with behind the wheel.
“Look out your right,” says Cupp, a professional truck driver, to a student sitting in the driver’s seat of an 18-wheeler.
“Can you see that barrel?”
The student shakes her head.
“Look out your left. Still isn’t there, is it?” Cupp asks. The student shrugs again.
“That’s my one magic trick,” Cupp says. “I made that barrel disappear.”
Cupp is captain of the North Carolina Trucking Association’s Road Team, which was formed in 1996 to promote highway safety to the public as well as to dispel myths about truck driving.
Cupp was at West Rowan specifically to teach driver’s education students ó about 100 of them ó about the dangers of tractor-trailer “No-Zones,” or blind spots. Blue barrels ó which the students could not see while sitting in the driver’s side of the 18-wheeler ó represented the cars that truck drivers are unable to see due to blind spots. Cupp and Swing Transport Inc. Safety Supervisor Wayne Whitley brought in their own trucks to help students understand the truck driver’s perspective.
“It’s better for them to see it first-hand than to see it on video,” said Todd Bell, the driver’s education coordinator at West Rowan.
The Swing Transport trailer was purchased solely to promote safety. The truck’s side panel is a moving billboard that displays the precautions a driver should take when interacting with tractor-trailers on the road. The panel features an image of an 18-wheeler, its potentially large “No-Zones” and a tiny car that drives along in one of these blind spots.
Viewers may be left considering what would happen if an 80,000-pound 18-wheeler collided with a 4,000-pound car.
“It’s an eye-catcher,” Bell says. “Other people will realize the ‘No-Zones,’ too, as they drive.”
“The ‘No-Zone’ truck has extra mirrors to eliminate blind spots,” Whitley says.
“It was scary,” said 14-year-old Heather Hamilton after stepping out from the driver’s side of the mammoth vehicle.
“I know I’m not getting anywhere near one of those things now,” said Billy Parish, 14.
Brent Johnson is a senior at Catawba College. He is an intern with the Salisbury Post.
By Brent Johnson