Did you know that about ⅔ of on-the-job truck driver deaths are caused by traffic accidents?
Nearly 700 truck drivers or passengersdied in crashes in 2012, and fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses cost the U.S. economy $40 billion in the same year, according to one estimate.
On-time delivery is absolutely essential for keeping customers happy. But the drive to get there fast often makes it tempting to cut corners when it comes to safety.
It’s important to look for up-to-date safety features when purchasing any new or used semi truck. In addition, practicing a few simple habits while driving can reduce your risk of an accident and make the roadways safer for everyone.
Always Buckle Up
One of the easiest safety measures you can take is to buckle your seatbelt. Every trip, every time. Whether you’re driving across the country or across town. And no matter how fast or slow you’re driving.
Up to 40% of truck drivers or passengers who died in accidents in 2012 could have been saved if they had worn a safety belt. Buckling up helps you maintain control of your vehicle, reduces the likelihood of being knocked unconscious and protects you from being ejected from the truck in the event of a collision.
Say No to Distracted Driving
Commercial truck drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to be involved in a safety-critical event, such as a crash, near-collision or unintentional lane deviation.
Even something as simple as carrying on a conversation — over the phone or with a passenger — takes your attention off the road.
A 2017 study found that distracted truck drivers make more unsafe maneuverssuch as running red lights, speeding and drifting out of their lanes. They are less likely to wear a seatbelt and are even less energy efficient: distracted truck drivers get 6% fewer miles per gallon than non-distracted drivers.
Stay safe by keeping your eyes and your mind on the road:
- Never text while driving
- Do not use a dispatching device while driving
- Don’t dial a handheld phone while driving
- Don’t read, write or use paper maps while driving
- Avoid eating or drinking while driving
- Don’t be distracted by objects outside of the truck
If you’re delivering cargo to a city you’ve never been to before, plan your route before heading out, so you’re less tempted to spend time reading maps when you should be watching the road.
Keep a Safe Distance
Tailgating is never a good idea.
Always maintain proper space between your truck and the vehicles in front of and behind you. Leave plenty of stopping distance and make sure your brake lights are working so that other drivers will have time to react to your maneuvers.
Leave enough space for safe braking and unexpected maneuvers in response to sudden slowdowns or debris in the roadway. During adverse driving conditions such as bad weather, double your normal following distance.
Respect Other Drivers
One of the most common mistakes truck drivers make is failing to look before making a maneuver, or failing to see a hazard when they do look.
Practice defensive driving so you can respond to other drivers and changing road conditions at a moment’s notice.
- Be familiar with your “no zone” — blind spots that are big enough to hide another vehicle from view.
- Look far enough ahead so you have time to react if another vehicle stops, slows down, or pulls in front of you.
- Use care when approaching and entering intersections.
- Check your mirrors often.
You’ve also got to make it easy for other drivers to respond to you. Signal early if you need to turn or change lanes. Use your flashers if you must drive below the speed limit for an extended length of time.
Use Extra Caution in Hazardous Road Conditions
If you’re running loads during the winter, pay extra attention to poor weather conditions.
- Keep your tank full when driving in cold weather. A full tank protects your fuel lines from water condensation.
- Truck driving in snow and ice increases your stopping distance — so you’ll need to leave more space between yourself and other motorists.
- Drive below the speed limit when bad weather hits.
- Use extra caution when crossing bridges during wintry weather — they freeze faster than other road surfaces.
In addition to weather, pay attention to other dangerous situations. Slow down when driving through work zones — it protects you, other drivers and the workers.
If you’re driving through mountainous terrain, have tire chains ready if needed.
Know When to Take a Break
Physical and mental exertion cause driver fatigue, which impairs your performance and can lead to an accident.
Simply getting enough sleep is another easy way to be safe. There are other ways to avoid fatigue:
- When possible, avoid driving when your body is naturally tired, such as late at night or in the late afternoon.
- Eat a healthy diet. In addition to choosing the right foods, avoid skipping meals or eating at irregular times.
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness. Ask your doctor about alternative treatments that let you stay alert while driving.
- If you feel a bout of drowsiness coming on, take a nap — sometimes a few minutes is all you need to restore energy and drive more safely.
Getting some exercise also helps. Don’t just sit in your cab when you pull into a rest stop. A short walk can give you an energy boost for staying alert when you get back on the road.
Be Kind to Your Truck
Keeping your truck in good condition has many benefits. And safety is one of them.
Regular preventive maintenancemakes your truck less likely to suffer breakdowns that could contribute to accidents. In addition, failure to keep your maintenance up-to-date could expose you to liability in the event that an accident does occur.
If you do experience mechanical problems while driving, use caution if you must pull over. Turn on your flashers, place reflective triangles on the pavement and use road flares if necessary so that other drivers can stay clear.
You probably already know that you must never exceed the posted speed limit. But there will be times when you’ll need to slow down further.
You should be ready to drop below the posted speed limit under the following conditions:
- Wet or wintry weather
- When entering a curve
- Before entering ramps
- When hauling a loaded trailer
- When driving through a work zone
Interested in learning more about commercial driver safety? Are you looking for a rig with advanced safety features?