It’s just the nature of the beast that the trucking industry has a tendency to be in a really big rush. Driving a truck involves skill, as well as taking responsibility for everyone’s safety and – most importantly – common sense
These truck driving safety tips from the Smart Trucking website are intended as general guidelines for big rig drivers:
1. Be alert. Know everything going on around you. Always look well ahead down the road and around your rig. When rolling down the highway, especially in heavy traffic, always plan an “escape route”. Be aware of what is in front of you, beside you and behind you at all times. Be aware of everything, so that you can act accordingly, if and when necessary.
2. Check weather reports. Be aware of weather conditions prior to departing on a trip, and check the reports as often as you’re able to while travelling. Keep an eye on your outside temperature to watch for changing road conditions. Knowing what to expect helps a trucker to be better prepared for bad weather driving and the necessary precautions can be taken. Good trip planning is essential.
3. Avoid traffic. Whenever possible, avoid travelling in high-volume traffic and at peak traffic times. The more traffic, the greater the odds of an accident.
4. Check out delivery spots, on foot. Of all driving safety tips, this one is most often ignored by truckers. When delivering – especially to a new customer – find a place to park safely, leave your rig for five minutes and scope out the place. Depot managers will too often say, “Oh, we have trucks in here all the time. It’s okay”. Many times a truck can get trapped in a place and unable to turn around or the docking facility isn’t suitable for big rigs. Check for yourself. This way, you’ll see obstacles that may be in your way, such as low fire hydrants, posts, ditches. Take a mental picture of the area. If you just drive in, you will not see the hazards.
5. Be extra cautious at night. Always exercise additional caution at night, especially in tight manoeuvring situations. Too many truckers leave a truck stop at night, thinking they’re headed for the road, and drive straight into a ditch, slam into the back end of a trailer or hit light posts head on. Again: be alert, be aware and move slowly and cautiously.
6. Leave room in front of your rig. Always, always leave plenty of room in front of your vehicle. This “buffer zone” in front of your rig will protect you and your truck. Usually, if anything goes wrong, there’s a good chance it will be ahead of you. The more empty space you have in front of you and your unit, the more time you’ll have to slow down and take evasive action if necessary.
7. Change lanes as little as possible. Pick a lane and stay in it. Cars will dodge and change lanes no matter what. If you do find it necessary to change lanes, move over very carefully, being aware of your blind spots and constantly check your mirrors. The odds of an accident increase dramatically, each time a vehicle makes a move to another lane. If you have maintained your lane position, in the event of an accident, the other vehicle will most likely be at fault, not you.
8. Use a trucker’s GPS. A GPS designed especially for truckers will show vital information such as: which exit to take, distance before exit, when to change lanes and traffic reports. These units can be a huge help and can alleviate a lot of stress for the driver, especially when travelling in an unknown area. They are well worth the cost.
9. Slow down. This is perhaps the most important of all driving safety tips for truckers. Always take the corners and ramps very slowly. Speed signs on ramps are for cars, not big rigs. It doesn’t matter if you hold up traffic. The main focus is to get around a corner and be upright. Always drive with care and ensure that you’re in control of your vehicle. A good rule of thumb is: don’t drive as fast as you think you can get away with.
10. Take breaks and check your rig. Stop and stretch yourself as needed. Do a walk around the vehicle and trailer. Check your load, too, especially if you’re hauling a flatbed. Look for soft tyres, air leaks, and check under the truck for any dripping coolant or oil.
Remember, no matter how “hot” the load is, it’s always better to arrive safely. Nothing is worth risking your life for ... not even your job.