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8 Safe Driving Tips for Truckers
Whether or not you’re new to driving a semi or experienced, it’s always important to practice safe driving techniques. If you are driving alone or carrying passengers with you, safe driving should always be your main priority.
Don’t Be Distracted
- Driving long distances can take a toll on your eyes, if you ever feel like you need to look away from the road for whatever reason, pull over in a safe location, your company would rather you run a little behind over causing a wreck or worse, a fatality.
- Distracted driving doesn’t mean just looking at your cell phone, it could be changing the radio, checking the GPS or map, and even eating or drinking.
- It is recommended that you look 15 seconds ahead of you, not just at the vehicle in front of you.
- Looking this far ahead allows you to see if traffic is backing up and you should be prepared to stop. At 55mph with good brakes and dry pavement it will take you approx. 390 feet to stop compared to a car at 130 feet; you need that extra time.
Watch for Hazards
- A hazard can be anything from something in the road to a vehicle parked on the shoulder.
- If a vehicle is on the shoulder you should attempt to get at least one lane over while passing it as you do not know if they are going to merge back onto the road.
- Debris in the road is the most common hazard you will come across whether it be a blown tire, animal, or some other miscellaneous material. All of these can cause damage to your vehicle and have you waiting for roadside assistance if you run it over.
Use Your Signals
- As simple as it sounds, I see drivers whether it’s 18 wheelers or passenger vehicles not using signals. No one is a mind reader and it’s your way to let other drivers on the road know your intentions.
- You may not feel like this should be on a safe driving tip list but when everyone on the road is able to see what your next move is, it makes a difference.
Move Your Eyes
- Have you ever heard Quote “Too much of anything is bad.” Well it’s similar with driving, when you just stare directly ahead you get tunnel vision which means you lose your peripheral vision.
- The general rule of thumb to avoid tunnel vision is to look at the left sidewalk, straight in front of you, and then the right sidewalk. Rinse & Repeat. If you keep focusing on your surroundings you should not have to worry about tunnel vision. You will be more aware of what is happening around you.
Leaving Yourself an Out
- People tend to be pack animals when driving. Cars tend to clump together when driving down the freeway. Try to avoid this when possible. Slow down and try to keep at least 4 seconds between your truck and the vehicle in front of you. This is an excellent safe driving tip to follow when you are a truck driver.
- It’s good practice to not drive next to cars, so you are able to change lanes if that need arises perhaps a vehicle is parked on the shoulder, or there is debris in the road that you need to avoid.
Safe Driving Tips for Bad Weather
- Driving in good weather conditions is always ideal, but not always the case. Bad weather may include rain, snow, icy roads, and even heavy winds.
- During rain or snow, you should bare minimum double your follow distance to at least 8 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you and reduce your speed.
- As a general rule, if you have to use your wipers do not use cruise control, you can hit a puddle of water on the road and cause a wheel spin which can result in loss of control over the vehicle.
- If there is ice on the road, always try to avoid driving. Let your company know the situation. Again, it is better to practice safe driving than run your truck and cause an accident. You are the captain and your truck is the ship, you are in control on the road and no one can force you to drive in unsafe conditions.
- Wind can be tricky, and if you are pulling an empty trailer it can be harder to keep your vehicle in your lane, stay cautious when driving in heavy winds and reduce speed.
Pre-Trip Your Truck and Trailer
I have switched to the maintenance side of transportation a little over 5 years ago and to this day I still can’t believe how many drivers avoid doing pre-trips. They just hook to a unit or hop in their truck and take off.
I know that doing a pre and post trip can be tedious at times, but this is initially where your journey begins and you can put eyes on your rig, and it is important that you do a proper pre-trip to ensure that your vehicle is safe to operate. These are the main ones that I see several drivers overlooking.
- Check all your fluids at the beginning and end of each day. (Most trucking companies will provide you with a spare gallon of each type of fluid in case you need to top it off).
- Check your tires with a proper tire gauge, don’t get into the bad habit of kicking your tires to make sure they have air.
- Check the lights on your tractor and trailer! I can’t stress this enough, if you do not have brake lights, rear turn signals, or tail lights you can and most likely will be put out of service until they are fixed.
A lot of truck drivers ask me how they can check their brake lights, if your truck has a trolley valve in it for the trailer brakes you can engage that, and it will activate your brake lights. If you do not have a trolley valve back up near a wall and apply brakes and use your mirrors to check for lights on the wall. Ask someone to watch your brake lights and apply the brakes. The Department of Transportation doesn’t play games when it comes to safety lights.
Safe Driving shouldn’t be an option, it should be a life style. In this article we went over distracted driving, looking ahead, watching for hazards, and several others. If you apply these 8 tips for truckers for safe driving daily it will make you a safer driver and help avoid any un-necessary collisions or accidents.
I have talked to multiple drivers who have over 1 million safe driving miles each and they all stated that they use these rules daily. One day if you practice these safe driving tips you could be in that notorious group as well.
What safe driving habits do you practice? Leave it in the comments below.