Day after day, truck drivers put themselves at risk on the road. There are still many skills that commercial truck drivers learn when first getting their license. These skills are key to not forget as they clock their miles on the freeways. Key skills to know are the proper pull-over procedure and how to effectively and safely get back up to highway speed and merge back into traffic. A tire change, mechanical issue, or inspections are the most common reasons to be pulled over into the emergency/shoulder lane. Truck drivers are trained to not use the shoulder lane of a road unless they absolutely must. For commercial vehicles, it is very dangerous to try and get back into the flow of traffic. But, there are times when it is the only option, so read on to review the key components of this practice. 

Hazard Warnings

When you are pulled over on the shoulder, you must activate your hazard lights and place your hazard cones (also known as warning triangles) behind your truck. The positioning of the hazard cones is critical. The FMCSA states the following procedure: 

“If a vehicle is stopped on a highway or shoulder for a reason other than a necessary traffic stop, the driver must turn on the vehicle’s hazard warning system, which is to be left on until the vehicle’s external warning devices (warning triangles, fusee flares, or liquid-burning flares) are in position. The hazard warning system must again be utilized when the warning devices are being picked up before the vehicle moves on.”

According to the FMCSA, warning devices must be in place within 10 minutes of pulling over, in 3 locations:

  • One on the traffic side, four paces (approx. 10 feet) from the vehicle, in the direction of approaching traffic;
  • One in the center of the traffic lane or shoulder, 40 paces (approx. 100 feet) from the vehicle, in the direction of approaching traffic; and
  • One in the center of the traffic lane or shoulder, 40 paces (approx. 100 feet) from the vehicle, in the direction away from approaching traffic.

Indicate Your Intentions

When you are ready to re-enter the flow of traffic, remove the warning cones and deactivate the truck’s hazard lights. 

Next, turn on the left turning signal so that other motorists are aware that your truck is going from stopped to moving. Make sure to do this early so that there is plenty of time for other motorists to see your intention to reenter traffic. 


A driver should always start to accelerate the CMV in the shoulder lane. Think of the shoulder lane as an acceleration lane, and make sure the truck has reached the speed of traffic prior to attempting to merge. 


Watch for an obvious space to merge into. Hopefully other drivers will notice your indication to move back into traffic and put their left signal on to advise you that they’ll move over to give you the necessary space you need. But this doesn’t always happen. Experts and CMV training centers will tell you that the responsibility lies with the CMV operator to drive in a way that avoids assumptions and measures that may cause crashes. Many times, other motorists lack the awareness or experience. They generally drive expecting no disruptions in their path (except for plainly noted areas such as designated merge ramps, etc), and this affects their reaction time. 

Continual Training

Commercial motor vehicle drivers receive extensive training before they are allowed behind the wheel and on the road. And, once a licensed CMV driver settles into their career, it’s important to update and improve these skills with additional training and education throughout their career. 

So, if you’re looking for a great resource that provides access to educational presentations, videos, and print materials in order to keep up to date, sign up to the CVSA’s Drivers Training program

Pulling Onto The Shoulder – What to Do and How to Get Back into Traffic was last modified: by