Safety Training for Truck Drivers: 10 Topics for Teaching Safe Driving

Photo of a Truck's Dash

Truck driver safety training is one of the most critical steps before truck drivers get behind the wheel of a loaded truck. Safety training can save lives, preventing severe accidents that endanger not just the truck driver’s safety, but also the safety of anyone on the road. If you own your own trucking company and are preparing for safety training, there is a lot of ground to cover. Truck drivers find themselves in many hazardous or even outright dangerous situations. 

By ensuring that you are properly instructing them, you can help drivers prepare for any dangerous event that arises. Below are 10 topics that we hope every truck company covers with their drivers. Lessons should go above and beyond federal regulations to help avoid serious accidents and make the lives of truck drivers easier.

Defensive Driving 

When behind the wheel of any vehicle, one of the first things entry-level driver training must cover is defensive driving. You cannot control what other vehicles do when you are on the road. The only thing you can do is drive safely in a way that protects you from serious motor vehicle accidents. For example, you may be giving your full attention to the road, but if another driver is on their phone or driving drunk, driving defensively and protecting yourself can be difficult. 

That is why driver training programs should include information on defensive driving techniques for commercial trucks. While experienced drivers probably know about defensive driving in a passenger vehicle, these rules may differ for a commercial truck. These are much bigger vehicles, which can impact how well they handle quick changes.

Distracted and Drunk Driving 

Safety managers must discuss staying sober and focused on the road. Training materials should include information on how dangerous distracted driving can be, especially for commercial truck drivers. Even a momentary glance at your cell phone can lead to a devastating accident that causes severe injuries to you and others. 

Likewise, drunk driving is one of the leading causes of serious, even fatal accidents. Safety guidelines should include not only information about avoiding drinking while driving but should also warn against the dangers of other drivers on the road who are drunk. This includes maintaining a safe distance from drivers who are driving erratically and protecting yourself from accidents and hazards caused by these drivers.

What to Do in a Truck Accident 

Unfortunately, even the safest truck driver cannot prevent every accident. Others driving unsafely, brake failure, extreme weather conditions, and other concerns can lead to severe accidents. You may even be involved in a preventable accident because someone else was careless, but no matter who is at fault, taking the proper steps to protect your safety is essential.

If you were involved in an accident, one of the first things to do is to ensure all drivers are safe and that any passengers involved are cared for. In fatal crashes, it is essential to notify the authorities immediately that there has been a fatality on the scene. Even if no one seems injured, however, it is essential to notify the police and emergency services as soon as possible after the crash occurs. 

Drivers should also report crashes to their trucking companies. They must know about any injuries or property damages. The trucking company will also notify the insurance company, which is especially important if the driver is injured. 

While your training manuals typically emphasize safe driving, accidents are sometimes tricky to avoid. Because of this, it is vital to ensure that all truck drivers know to stop, check on other drivers, and protect the safety of all involved.

Hazardous Material Safety 

Truck drivers may need to carry hazardous materials with their commercial motor vehicles. Ensuring that they have hazardous materials training can help protect themselves and others. For those with a commercial driver’s license (CDL), hazardous material safety training may be vital to your truck driving training.

When carrying hazardous materials, any vehicle problems or minor driving infractions can become major issues. Handling these issues without training can lead to serious dangers, including fires, chemical burns, and dangerous spills. If you have any questions or concerns when carrying hazardous materials, having the right tools to handle these issues safely is vital for any truck driver.

What Happens If You Are Pulled Over 

Many drivers may fear the disciplinary system they may face if pulled over. Trucking companies may consider it a mark against them and their future performance, but knowing what to do when pulled over by a police officer is a vital part of the driving experience.

Even if you believe you are driving safely, traffic stops happen from time to time. You may have a brake light out, for example, or you may be stopped because the officer noticed an issue that could be dealt with before an injury occurs. Handling these interactions positively and with the right information can make all the difference.

The Dangers of Unsecured Cargo 

Part of any truck driver training should include information on how to handle cargo. When loading and unloading cargo, it is crucial to ensure it is balanced and adequately secured. If not, it can cause dangerous cargo shifts. These shifts can cause the wheels to lose grip on the road, leading to severe or fatal accidents.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) handles the regulations for weight limits for commercial fleets. All truck drivers should be trained in these regulations and how much their vehicle can handle. Compliance with these regulations and those set by the Department of Transportation (DOT) is an essential part of truck driver safety training.

Driving with a load of cargo that exceeds these limits can be dangerous because drivers may not have as much control of their vehicle with that amount of weight, and it can cause dangerous shifts when turning or changing lanes.

Pre-Trip Safety Checks Are Vital 

Safety training helps both new drivers and veteran drivers maintain safe driving habits that keep them and others safe on the road. However, safe driving practices start before you buckle your seatbelt and start your engine.

A pre-trip inspection can help you identify potential hazards that may impact your vehicle on the road. For example, checking to ensure that your brake fluid, power steering fluid, and gas tank are all at acceptable levels can prevent you from losing control of your vehicle on the road or losing power and getting stuck on your route. 

Whether you are starting a new trip or you are simply stopping at a truck stop, make sure that you complete a basic safety check to ensure everything is working as it should, from your exhaust system to tire issues that can lead to severe accidents. 

The Dangers of Driver Fatigue

Many safety training topics include various reasons for large truck crashes, including drunk or distracted driving. However, one of the biggest dangers for truck drivers is drowsy driving. Drowsy drivers are one of the major causes of large truck crashes in the United States—and they may also endanger other drivers.

Many drivers try to maintain a perfect driving record and ensure they meet all their goals, even if it means driving more than their hours of service (HOS). However, the strict regulations about how many hours you can drive in a day should not be crossed. These are not arbitrary regulations. These instructions are meant to prevent driving drowsy, which can lead to a loss of judgment and control over a vehicle.

Safe Stopping Procedures 

Regular maintenance and the driver’s ability to avoid accidents make a big difference in the dangers they may face when driving commercial trucks. Taking care on the road to act accordingly based on your vehicle is also essential. For example, commercial trucks cannot stop as fast as a passenger vehicle, even in the best driving conditions.

Because of this, you need to be aware of the distance between you and the other drivers. You also need to maintain safe following distances so that you have more than enough time to stop if the other driver has to stop suddenly. 

Speeding Can Be Deadly 

The number of accidents caused by speeding is staggering. Speeding can cause more devastating accidents than other conditions. This is especially true for commercial vehicles, where the force behind the vehicle is much higher.

Because of this, truck driver training should include warnings against speeding. Training topics for new and experienced drivers should include following the speed limits carefully to avoid being put in this specific position of causing a devastating or even deadly accident during your drive.

Unsure What Your Drivers Need to Know? We Can Help 

Commercial truck drivers have a dangerous job, and many safety concerns—from using turn signals to following at a safe distance—need to be part of their safety training. This can lead to a deep conversation with your drivers about their practices behind the wheel and how they maintain their vehicles. 

If you are preparing your training materials and you need assistance, Simplex can help. We offer guidance for clients who need help with their trucking company administration, ensuring all your needs for training and other services are met. Have questions about what to teach in your truck driver safety training? We can offer personalized aid when you call or complete our online contact form.