The most important job a truck driver has is to get there safely and with the cargo in one piece. Safe driving, thus, should be the primary focus of drivers and companies. Here are some tips for driving safely – in all seasons.
1. Keep up on the weather report. Weather is a factor in a lot of accidents, and not being prepared for the weather is perhaps the worst mistake you can make. Make sure you know what to expect for your entire trip and allow for weather delays. Bear in mind that if the weather gets too bad you will have to slow down – and may even have to pull over.
2. Slow down in work zones, even if the law doesn’t require it (in many states it does). One-third of all fatal work zone accidents involve large trucks. On a related note, slow down or, if possible, move over when passing stopped emergency vehicles or tow trucks.
3. Monitor your “space cushion.” Despite signage, people will drive into your blind spots, and it is on you to make sure there is not somebody in the wrong place when you are about to turn. Modern camera technology can help a lot – install what you can when you can. And, of course, be aware of the height of your vehicle.
4. Keep up on maintenance. Check tire pressure at the start of a trip. Blowouts are a common cause of accidents. Check horn, mirrors, and brakes every morning. Never drive if you are unsure about your brakes.
5. Load smart. Distribute your load through the space of the truck and stack no higher than you need to to avoid the vehicle becoming top heavy. Open trucks can also gain drag if cargo is stacked too high, reducing fuel economy and making the truck less agile.
6. Slow down for curves. If you are not sure you can slow down, don’t take the ramp, particularly in hilly or mountainous areas. Remember ramp speed limits are set for cars – you need to slow down even further.
7. Don’t tailgate. Nobody should tailgate, and a heavy truck is even more dangerous. No matter how urgent your delivery, do not try to tailgate to get slower drivers to speed up – remember an accident will make you even later.
8. Allow enough time for your trip. If dispatch keeps rushing you, you might want to try and find another job. An unreasonable delivery deadline can make anyone speed, tailgate, and otherwise drive stupidly.
9. Give yourself space to maneuver, and remember other drivers may not know how long it takes you to stop or turn. Signal as early as you can without confusing other drivers. Use brake lights early. Give those around you plenty of notice.
10. If you have to drive slower than the speed limit, especially in inclement weather, for extended periods of time, use your flashers to increase the chance of faster drivers noticing you. Always use flashers if you have to pull over, and consider road flares.
11. Do not idle the truck while you are sleeping in it. If your APU is not giving you enough warmth to survive a winter night, upgrade it. Idling the truck is expensive and potentially dangerous. Add blankets instead. Also avoid idling while loading or unloading.
12. Use proper lifting technique when loading or unloading. Never lift a box that is too heavy for you – get the right equipment. Truckers are prone to back problems from the combination of extended sitting and heavy lifting.
13. Never drive for longer than the hour restrictions, and never continue to drive when you know you are impaired by fatigue. Take a nap if you need to. Make sure to take regular coffee breaks.
Following these tips will help make sure you arrive at your destination safely – and remember that safe is always more important than fast.