Trucks travel about 304 billion miles a year, moving consumer goods from point A to point B.
Now that’s a lot of miles! And it is truck drivers that navigate those miles behind the wheel. The truck driver is the main pillar of reliable cargo transportation. The economy doesn’t move without them.
A safe and efficient truck driver gets cargo to where it needs to be on time. Still, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), more than 1 in 3 long-haul truck drivers experience a truck crash during their careers.
If transporting cargo safely and on time is your goal, then it requires truck driver safety.
What are the essential things that every driver must know to help cut down on accidents, deliver goods, and also keep themselves and others on the road safe?
We recommend following these tips and recommendations for truck driver safety as they can hone in on those essentials.
THE TRUCK DRIVER SAFETY CHECKLIST
Starting with the basics is the foundation of any good truck driver safety plan. Not only truck drivers should know these tips, but any driver behind any wheel.
Buckling up keeps drivers safe. According to the Center for Disease Control studies, the risk of serious injury and death in a crash is cut in half by using a seat belt.
Using vehicle signals supports accident prevention. Signals show intent and give the other driver time to react accordingly. It is how drivers communicate with one another on the road and is fundamental to a truck’s safe operation. It’s also courteous.
If it is necessary to pull over, don’t forget to use flashers, reflectors, and flares. It helps other drivers see that there is a possible hazard ahead.
To promote safe driving, truck drivers need to know what is happening all around their vehicle. Watching and compensating for a truck’s blind spots avoids accidents.
It’s a good rule of thumb to check mirrors every 8-10 seconds to remain aware of vehicles in a truck’s blind spot.
Driving within the posted speed limits is not only legal, it’s safe. For truck drivers, following the designated speed limits for trucks is especially important.
Stay in the Lane
Due to a truck’s blind spots and the distance needed to maneuver, accidents often occur during a lane change. Cutting down on lane changes cuts down on accidents.
Defensive driving is a set of driving strategies that help drivers address hazards before they become accidents. It could be seen as preventative driving as much as defensive driving. The goal of defensive driving practices is to prevent accidents, just like the way that eating healthy and exercising helps prevent disease.
Defensive driving tips and recommendations
Look Ahead and Scan 15 seconds
It takes time for a truck to stop or change lanes. Scanning ahead to check for potential hazards allows for the time and space to safely maneuver a truck when necessary. Scan ahead to leave enough time to spot possible risks and react accordingly. Scanning ahead every 15 seconds is a good rule to follow. It covers a quarter-mile on the Interstate and about two blocks in a city.
Maintain Follow Distance
The braking distance for a truck is greater than other vehicles on the road. Following too close behind another vehicle increases accident risk.
Know When to Slow
Curves and ramps can be hazardous to trucks if taken too fast, causing spills and rollovers. Unpredictable weather and road conditions require slower speeds also. Slow down and stay safe.
Leave an Out
Waiting until the last minute to make a move or not anticipating the road ahead can put a driver in a dangerous spot. Leave room to move when necessary.
Scan Intersections Ahead of Time
Turning a truck takes extra space. Scan intersections to ensure that there is enough room to execute a turn. This helps prevent unnecessary collisions.
Backing up a truck takes extra room and extra time. Those extras are not always available, so try to avoid having to use them.
Take a Defensive Driving Course
Taking a defensive driving course to learn collision prevention techniques is another step towards effective truck driver safety.
Remaining alert and avoiding fatigue are important truck driver essentials and key to staying sharp and safe on the road.
It’s important to stay focused on driving while behind the wheel. Keeping your attention on the road helps maintain a safe reaction time to any changing circumstances.
- Being aware of unexpected road conditions.
- Spotting distracted drivers.
- Watching out for those who don’t understand how a commercial truck operates.
Long hours at the wheel and cutting corners to meet tight schedules causes fatigue. The hazards of fatigue include reduced attentiveness and increased reaction time. It’s a combo that causes accidents, sometimes fatal.
Utilizing techniques on how to successfully fight fatigue after long rides is important for truck drivers.
A few truck driver tips to fight fatigue:
- Get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel.
- Stay within regulation driving hours for a 24-hour period.
- Take consistent breaks to get fresh air and exercise.
- Stay hydrated.
- Eat healthy foods that do not cause drowsiness.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages.
- Practice stress management. Stress takes energy. Being calm supports being awake.
Remaining engaged with driving and avoiding distractions while behind the wheel helps truck drivers prevent accidents and stay safe on the road.
A wandering mind is not engaged in driving. Daydreams have no place on the road.
What can distract the driver from the road, which poses a huge danger to him and the environment? It does not take a lot of analysis to answer this question. It’s what distracts almost everyone these days—cell phones.
The handheld use of mobile devices while driving is illegal in most states because it’s dangerous. Leave the texting, talking, and screen gazing for rest stops. If a call is important and cannot be delayed, pull over.
What is it that can give an advantage to the driver to do his job more efficiently? The simple answer, plan ahead. Being safe means being prepared. The best way to prepare is to plan for the trip ahead of time, so unexpected delays do not mean taking unnecessary safety risks.
Truck Driving Tips for Planning Ahead:
- Map the route to time your trip.
- Devise alternative routes in case of weather, road closures, or emergencies.
- Arrange for regularly scheduled rest stops.
- Check the weather and drive according to the conditions.
- Practice good time management – Truck drivers who manage their time on the road are less likely to be rushed and feel pressure to cut corners on safe driving. Less stress also helps reduce fatigue.
- Check the vehicle to ensure safe operation.
It is essential to keep the rig a truck driver uses to get the job done in top condition. Making regular vehicle maintenance a priority contributes to driver safety and should not be overlooked.
A Quick Maintenance Checklist:
- Tires – check both air pressure and tread.
- Fluids – check for leakage and ensure proper levels of coolant, antifreeze, oil, and fuel. Check the gauges to make sure that they are also working.
- Electrical system and wiring – Lights are essential to safety. Make sure they are working. Don’t forget to look for worn or loose wires too.
- Brakes- Check the air pressure, lining, and warning lights for both standard and parking brakes.
Checking the vehicle’s condition before a trip should be a part of the planning ahead checklist, but maintaining regularly scheduled maintenance is also essential for truck driver safety. Check the owner’s manual and schedule maintenance accordingly.
Getting cargo when and where it needs to be is a truck driver’s job. Getting there safely and efficiently depends on safe driving practices. Preventing crashes and cutting down on hazardous habits helps ensure a truck driver’s career is not a statistic.
The goal should be not only transporting cargo safely and on time but the truck driver too.
Following simple and essential tips and recommendations that every truck driver should know helps avoid accidents and makes the roads safer for everyone traveling from point A to point B.