Improper Commercial Vehicle Turns

Preventable Collisions: Improper Turns In Commercial Motor Vehicles

November 06, 2020

We all know that making a turn in any vehicle can be dangerous, but that concept runs even deeper for drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV). Unfortunately, many commercial motor vehicle collisions involving turns are preventable. This article will focus on understanding the federal regulations and the North Dakota rules regarding turns in CMVs.

Federal Regulations

As we have mentioned in prior blog articles, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) are found in the Code of Federal Regulations, and they regulate the operation of commercial vehicles in interstate commerce (commerce involving more than one state). The FMCSRs require CMV operators to have the knowledge and skills to make safe turns:

49 CFR § 383.111(a)(4)(iv)-Required Knowledge

All CMV operators must have knowledge of the proper procedures for performing various basic maneuvers, including turning the vehicle, e.g., basic rules, off tracking, right/left turns, and right curves.

49 CFR § 383.113(b)(5)-Required Skills

All applicants for a CDL must possess and demonstrate the following basic motor vehicle control skills for the vehicle class that the driver operates or expects to operate: the ability to position the motor vehicle to negotiate safely and then make left and right turns.

North Dakota CDL Manual

The North Dakota Commercial Drivers License (CDL) Manual includes “minimum testing standards for the licensing of commercial drivers”, and discusses the rules governing turns while driving a CMV:

2.7.6-Space for Turns

The space around a truck or bus is important in turns. Because of wide turning and off-tracking, large vehicles can hit other vehicles or objects during turns.

Right Turns

Here are some rules to help prevent right-turn crashes:

  • Turn slowly to give yourself and others more time to avoid problems.
  • If you are driving a truck or bus that cannot make the right turn without swinging into another lane, turn wide as you complete the turn. Keep the rear of your vehicle close to the curb. This will stop other drivers from passing you on the right.
  • Don’t turn wide to the left as you start the turn. A following driver may think you are turning left and try to pass you on the right. You may crash into the other vehicle as you complete your turn.
  • If you must cross into the oncoming lane to make a turn, watch out for vehicles coming toward you. Give them room to go by or to stop. However, don’t back up for them, because you might hit someone behind you.

Left Turns

  • On a left turn, make sure you have reached the center of the intersection before you start the left turn. If you turn too soon, the left side of your vehicle may hit another vehicle because of off-tracking.
  • If there are two turning lanes, always take the right turn lane. Don’t start in the inside lane because you may have to swing right to make the turn. Drivers on your left can be more readily seen.

2.7.7-Space Needed to Cross or Enter Traffic

Be aware of the size and weight of your vehicle when you cross or enter traffic. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • Because of slow acceleration and space, large vehicles require, you may need a much larger gap to enter traffic than you would in a car.
  • Acceleration varies with the load. Allow more room if your vehicle is heavily loaded.
  • Before you start across a road, make sure you can get all the way across before traffic reaches you.

Interested in Learning More?

Last month, we discussed safe backing when driving a commercial motor vehicle. You can find that article here. We have also addressed other issues including Safe Speed is Important for Semis on the Road and Trucking Accidents: Know the Rules for Trucks Driving in North Dakota Weather.


As we have mentioned in prior blogs, there are significant differences between a car crash involving a commercial motor vehicle, and a car crash between two regular-sized motor vehicles. If you or a loved one has been catastrophically injured or killed in an accident involving a commercial motor vehicle, it is important that you hire an attorney who is knowledgeable in trucking law and regulations. Our personal injury team at SW&L Attorneys understands, knows, and handles all trucking and commercial motor vehicle accidents. To get in touch with our team, call 701-297-2890 or email

The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only.