Commercial truck driving is serious business. Any given day you are dealing with dangerous weather conditions, wandering wildlife and other motorists; so your full attention must be on the road and what is going on around you. In addition to all those factors, you are operating a large rig carrying heavy or sometimes dangerous cargo and one mistake can bring huge repercussions.
Here are some specific truck driving safety tips to focus on to preserve your safety, the safety of everyone around you and your livelihood:
- Maintain your vehicle – Be sure to do the pre-trip safety inspections every time. Your life depends on your tires and brakes so be sure to pay attention to them. Prevent a rollover by checking that your load is secure and well balanced. Loose materials create road hazards for others around you. Catching potential hazards during the pre-trip inspection can save you a lot of headaches.
- Practice good defense – A good habit to maintain is to check your mirrors every 8-10 seconds and be aware of vehicles that are entering your blind spots. Check ahead about a quarter of a mile on interstates or a block or two in cities for work zones, traffic issues and other dangers. There is a lot at stake for you to be constantly vigilant and know when there are bad road conditions, motorists not aware of you or just plain distracted drivers. Your life and the lives of those around you depend on your being aware, even when they are not.
- Buckle up- In 2014, 30% of truck drivers who were in fatal crashes were totally or partially ejected from their vehicles. Buckle up for your safety every single time to reduce injuries, save your life and stay in your vehicle if there is an accident.
- Slow down when needed- Bad weather and road conditions are best handled by slowing down. Driving too fast on curves and ramps create a higher risk for rollovers, spills, and crashes.
- Signal for safety – Give other drivers plenty of time to notice your intent by signaling and braking early. In times when you must pull off the road use flashers, road flares, and reflective triangles so drivers are aware and you stay safe.
- Good trip planning – Know what is coming such as road conditions, detours, weather and mountain routes to plan drive time. Know that non-commercial navigation apps and systems likely do not give weight or height limitations for commercial vehicles.
- Stay sharp, don’t be distracted – Be sure to get enough rest. Do not drive when you are too sick or too tired to focus. If you are on medications, even over-the-counter meds, that make you dizzy or drowsy do not drive. The money is not worth the risk to your life and those around you. Also be sure to stay off your phone while driving. It is illegal to text and drive and be aware that if using a mobile phone the device must be hands-free for talking and dialing. Other reasons for a crash, near-crash or unintentional lane deviations are eating, drinking, reading a map, controlling your pet, or working on a navigational device while driving. If something comes up that is important enough to take that much of your attention pull over or exit for just a few minutes – the alternative is not worth the risk.
- Work zone safety – In 2014, 30% of fatal work zone crashes involved at least one big truck. Compare that to only 11% of all fatal crashes that involve a big truck. Work zone safety is a serious issue. Slow down and maintain extra following space, obey all work zone signs, scan ahead for changing traffic patterns, be alert to vehicles entering blind spots and take extra care to look for road works and flag crews.
Stay aware and practice caution, it will help to keep your business going well and will bring you home safely to your family.