Trucking companies have a duty to protect the safety of other motorists by preparing their drivers for the road ahead. Showing drivers how to plan roots ahead, drive defensively, and prepare for the road ahead of them is a vital part of their training.
Commercial vehicles entering the road have different expectations and rules because these vehicles are so much larger and more complex than your typical passenger vehicle. If you are teaching a driver safety class or simply trying to prepare for the road ahead, ensure you are following these safety steps before you ever buckle into the cab.
1: Check Your Truck Before Every Trip
Before leaving the garage, you should always make a pre-trip safety inspection to ensure that all your safety equipment and general parts are working as they are supposed to. If you are traveling a long distance, ensuring your truck will run safely during that time as much as possible is vital. While it is impossible to guarantee you are safe, ensuring that all safety equipment works correctly before you leave and at every truck stop can save lives.
One of the first tips for truck drivers preparing for a pre-trip safety check is to make a visual inspection of the vehicle. If there are any flashing lights, and you do not have any hazard or turn signals on, check your manual and ensure that those lights are not a severe problem. For example, driving with engine problems may worsen the problem and lead to engine failure which causes an accident.
Always check that your power steering fluid, oil, and fuel are filled as needed. An issue with your brake or power steering fluid can lead to devastating accidents if either fails on the interstate or highway. Ensuring that as many of these issues are avoided as possible is critical.
Once you have checked your entire truck before your trip, ensure that your seat belt is working correctly, locked in place, and not too tight or lying incorrectly on your body. Seat belts can save your life in a severe accident, preventing you from being thrown from the cab and further force being placed on your body.
While you cannot predict a sudden malfunction or part failure, checking all your systems and ensuring they are all running properly can help save you in an emergency situation. Because of this, we recommend all drivers take a moment to check their vehicles before they leave.
2: Always Check the Weather
Inclement weather is one of the biggest causes of vehicle crashes, leading to low visibility and road hazards that may be difficult to predict from typical traffic patterns. It can be challenging to predict a fallen tree branch in the road or deep water that impacts your ability to cross a road.
When bad weather is on the way, driver safety is our priority. Your safety is vital, and taking risks can lead to damaged cargo, vehicle accidents, and even a loss of life.
So what can you do if the weather has gone bad? Waiting out stormy conditions or contacting the right people if you cannot travel is safer and better than trying to travel when the weather has turned nasty. If you have the option, try to avoid driving. If you have to drive, be sure to stay below the speed limit and turn on any safety lights so that you are as visible as possible in any weather conditions.
What to Do if You Are Stuck in Bad Weather
You may be stuck in place when weather and road conditions turn sour. If you cannot make a lane change or travel the highway without putting yourself at risk, you may need to take shelter from bad weather and ensure you and your truck are safe.
For bus drivers, you may need to notify the bus company of the weather changes and that you cannot safely take on passengers in this weather. Likewise, delivery drivers should be cautious because you must enter and exit your vehicle multiple times during your truck route. That exposes you to weather conditions and even lightning strikes.
Safe driving tips can help you drive defensively when the weather is terrible, but it is typically better to focus on safety, not completing your route. Even the safest drivers make mistakes, and in the rain or snow, it is even easier to fail to consider conditions that can lead to a devastating truck accident.
3: Always Drive Sober and Alert
When you get your truck driver’s license, you are expected to follow specific safety tips, rules of the road, and state and federal laws. Many of these laws revolve around whether you are driving in a way that keeps you and other drivers safe. This goes doubly for truck and bus drivers with much larger vehicles that can cause more damage.
Because of this, it is essential always to practice safe driving. Many safety messages have been made about distracted driving, drunk driving, and drowsy driving. Unfortunately, many truck drivers do not take this seriously. Ensure you remember the following defensive driving tips before you hit the road.
That means always watching and avoiding any drivers who may be driving erratically. That includes speeding, crossing lanes, or tailgating other drivers. If you see this happening, slow down and try to distance yourself and this other driver as much as possible.
Distracted Driving Can Be Dangerous
Many people think that they can talk or text on their cell phones while driving without putting themselves and other vehicles in danger. Even those with the best driver training and commercial driver licenses can make big mistakes.
When texting and driving, you may not be as aware of what you are doing and how fast you are going. Many people drive well over the posted speed limit, not out of aggression or intentional recklessness, but because they pay attention to their cell phones, not the road. Failing to follow the speed limit and stick to other safe driving tips such as following it a safe distance can lead to a devastating accident.
Rest When You Need To
Many truck drivers spend hours on the road every day, and unfortunately, many do not follow the essential daily safety messages about driver fatigue. Many truck drivers are pushed to meet specific delivery goals, so they may push themselves far beyond federal regulations to meet those standards.
Unfortunately, driver fatigue can lead to severe accidents. For example, you may be a truck driver passing through a school zone. School zones have strict speed limits and other rules, but you may not notice the signs until someone is hurt because you are tired.
Driving alerts can also help you protect yourself. These laws keep delivery drivers safe by limiting how long they can drive for a specific time, and ensuring regular breaks are taken to avoid exhaustion, brain fog, and serious accidents.
Drinking and Driving: A Deadly Combination
One of the deadliest things a person can do behind the wheel is to drink and drive. If you practice safe driving, you should always be completely sober before getting behind the wheel. Many fatal crashes are caused every year by people who try to drink and drive.
Safe driving practices are only one part of ensuring you are not drunk driving. Remember that truck drivers are also held to different drinking limits. For example, the regulation for adult drivers is typically a 0.08 on the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test. For truck drivers, you will need to be below 0.04 BAC. Failure to maintain this limit can lead to severe penalties, such as a DUI conviction, a loss of your CDL, and even jail time.
4: Know Your Blind Spots
One of the most challenging things about driving a commercial truck is its blind spots. When changing lanes, many 18-wheelers have large blind spots that create danger zones for other vehicles. If you do not see a passenger vehicle when changing lanes, it is easy to cause an accident and seriously injure that person.
To practice safe driving, ensure that you are always staying aware of your blind spots and keeping track of when someone enters and exits those blind spots. For example, a truck driver with good driving habits may notice a motorcyclist nearby. Careful attention when that motorcycle is visible can tell the driver whether or not that motorcyclist is still nearby, even if they are completely blocked within the blind spot.
5: Be Mindful of Your Cargo
When commercial drivers are hauling large amounts of cargo across the country, it is crucial to ensure you are careful with your cargo. That includes driving safely, ensuring that you have brake fluid, breaking early if someone stops suddenly in front of you, and avoiding cell phone use so that you can keep close attention on the road.
Beyond being careful while on the road, you must follow federal regulations. These regulations determine how much weight a truck can hold, and thus how much weight you can safely carry to its destination. Talk to your company If you have any questions about the safety of your truck, the federal regulations you will need to stay within, and any state laws that differ from federal regulations and thus must be taken into account when driving through these states.
Securing Cargo Correctly Saves Lives
The cargo on a commercial truck can lead to severe accidents. If you are hauling heavy materials and change lanes quickly, that sudden weight shift can unbalance your vehicle and cause an accident. Because of this, safety practices are vital.
To practice safe loading, ensure all work zones are safe and secure before loading or unloading. For example, you must ensure your truck is parked and will not shift or move during unloading or loading. Ensuring that you or anyone else loading and unloading this cargo is following proper safety practices can protect you and others from serious injury.
Keep Your Speeds Safe and Practice Defensive Driving When Hauling Cargo
Even if you have followed all safety messages and have ensured that your cargo is secure, staying at a safe speed can help prevent accidents that leave you and others seriously injured. Drive carefully at all times and consider that others may not be as careful as you are.
For example, you may follow all posted speed limits. However, other drivers may be speeding, making unsafe lane shifts, and failing to stay at a safe following distance. While you cannot prevent the unsafe actions of another driver, you can control how you drive. Ensuring that you are maintaining safe distances between you and other drivers is essential. As a truck driver, you do not have as much time to break to avoid an accident. Stopping early is a vital part of this and can prevent shifts in the cargo that cause you to lose control of your truck. Watch for other people’s brake lights, traffic light changes, and hazards that can lead to sudden stops.
Taking the Right Steps for Safety Is Always Worthwhile
Members of the trucking industry know that large trucks have more rules to follow for road safety, and failing to follow these safety rules can lead to hazards. Those hazards can quickly lead to a loss of life, so it is vital to consider specific safety measures before you get on the road.
Driving a commercial truck is not as simple as putting on cruise control and heading to your destination. Road conditions, service rules, and other considerations can lead to more complex concerns affecting your trip and your job. However, taking the proper steps to ensure your safety and the safety of other drivers on the road is always worthwhile. You have the power to stay safe and protect yourself and others while you are behind the wheel.
If you have any questions or concerns about safety on the road as a truck driver, ensure that you are working with a truck company that is working with your safety in mind. If you have any doubts about your group or are considering starting your own trucking company, contact Simplex. We can help you prepare safety information, plan routes ahead, provide training for your drivers, and take many administrative tasks off your plate. Call or contact us through our online contact form.