As a trucker, your journey to becoming a successful and responsible driver does not just stop once you achieve your CDL. Safety is a 24/7 duty that comes with the job. Truck drivers are responsible for operating large and powerful vehicles that can cause significant damage if not handled properly. Prioritizing safety not only protects the trucker, but also ensures the safety of other motorists on the road. Although you might remember all safety procedures from your training, we’ve put together some useful tips for you. Refresh your knowledge before heading on your next haul!
Vehicle Inspection: Never skip routine maintenance and inspections! Conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection of your truck to check for any issues with brakes, tires, lights, and other essential systems. Communicate any concerns with your maintenance team if you are a company driver.
Load Securement: Ensure your cargo is properly secured and balanced to prevent shifting during transit. Overloaded or unbalanced trucks can be difficult to maneuver and control. Loose materials can also present danger to you or other vehicles on the road.
Rest and Sleep: Get enough rest before your journey. It might not always be easy given the fast-paced nature of the job, but it is imperative for your safety. Fatigue can impair your reaction time and decision-making abilities.
Weather Check: Be aware of the weather conditions along your route. Adjust your driving speed and technique in adverse weather, such as rain, snow, or fog. Although you should not check your phone for weather updates while driving, it is smart to do so when you are at any stops or breaks. You can also set alerts in a weather app to notify you of any severe changes, but be sure to only look at the alert when you are at a stop.
Plan Your Route: Use GPS systems designed for trucks to plan your route, taking into account height restrictions, weight limits, and road conditions. It is also helpful to identify alternative routes ahead of time in case of road closures or unexpected delays.
Pick Stops Ahead of Time: When planning your route, it is useful to pick your stops ahead of time, especially ones where you will be spending the night. Your safety is a priority, and the cargo you are driving can be a target for robbery! Pick reputable stops in well-lit areas with other truckers nearby to avoid dangerous situations that will put you in danger.
On the Road:
Maintain Safe Following Distance: Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. A larger following distance allows for better reaction time in case of sudden stops. According to the FMCSA, a semi truck can take up to the length of two football fields to safely come to a complete stop! When the weather is bad and the roads are slick, this stopping time can be increased. Play it safe and keep your distance from other vehicles to reduce your risk of crashes.
Speed Control: Obey speed limits and adjust your speed according to road and weather conditions. Avoid speeding, especially on unfamiliar roads. Any time you are unsure about road conditions, traffic changes, or other drivers, play it safe and keep your speed slow.
Wear your Seatbelt: This might seem like common sense, but it can be easy to forget your seatbelt when you are caught up in a stressful situation or time crunch. However, a seatbelt can be the difference between disaster and a close call. Wearing a seatbelt will reduce your risk of injury or ejection from the vehicle in the case of an accident. It is a non-negotiable for your safety!
Make Wide Turns Carefully: Semi trucks need extra space to make wide turns safely. Slow down to about five to ten miles per hour and make turns carefully, especially on ramps, to avoid rollovers or crashes.
Use Turn Signals: Indicate your intentions by using turn signals at least 3 seconds in advance of switching lanes. This helps other drivers anticipate your movements. Take at least 10 seconds to change your lane to ensure it is gradual and slow.
Stay Alert: Avoid distractions like texting, talking on the phone, eating, or adjusting the radio while driving. Stay focused on the road and give driving your full attention. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, so practicing defensive driving is extremely important. The primary goal of defensive driving is to reduce the risk of accidents and promote safety for the driver, passengers, and others sharing the road. Defensive driving involves being aware, prepared, and ready to act to avoid dangerous situations. Even if you are focused completely on driving, other drivers on the road may still be distracted and taking dangerous actions.
Beware of Blind Spots: Trucks have large blind spots. Be aware of other vehicles around you, especially smaller ones that might be difficult to see. The FMCSA advises truckers to check your mirrors every 10 seconds to stay aware of the vehicles, traffic issues, or any surrounding dangers.
Take Regular Breaks: Take regular breaks to rest and stretch, especially on long routes. Fatigue impairs your ability to drive safely. Take these breaks in designated areas such as rest tops or parking lots, but not in shoulder areas!
Check the Delivery Site: Always check out the delivery site on foot before going to park. Just because a customer says your vehicle should fit, doesn’t mean it will! As a professional driver, you will have the best insight on if your truck can safely park, turn, and exit a delivery location. This safety rule is often referred to as “G.O.A.L.” (get out and look).
Double-Check Before Leaving or Sleeping: Before you walk away from your truck, always take a second look back to ensure everything is all set. Make sure your truck is in a safe spot, the lights are off, and the doors are locked. This is important for avoiding damage to your truck, running down the battery, or even avoiding robbery. If you are going to sleep for the night, make sure your doors are locked and give a second look at the surrounding environment before getting some shut-eye.
Unload Safely: Unloading safely is a crucial aspect of a trucker's job, ensuring both personal safety and the integrity of the cargo. Open the doors very carefully in case of any loose cargo to avoid falls. Look for any obstacles, uneven surfaces, or hazards in the unloading area and ensure there are clear pathways for moving goods. Depending on the cargo, wear safety gear such as gloves, a hard hat, steel-toed boots, and reflective vest for visibility. Once you are done, double-check all cargo, people, and equipment are out of your truck and take a look around for any damage your rig may have incurred during unloading.
Emergency Kit: Emergencies on the road can be anything from breakdowns, accidents, or storms. To be ready for any situation, keep an emergency kit in your truck, including items like water, non-perishable food, blankets, first aid supplies, a flashlight, and basic tools.
Know Emergency Procedures: Some accidents and emergencies are unavoidable, so be prepared to handle them calmly. Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures, including how to handle accidents and what to do in case of mechanical failures.
Communication: Stay in communication with your dispatcher or someone aware of your route. Check in regularly, especially during long trips. In case something happens to you when driving, it is crucial for dispatch to know your approximate location to communicate with emergency services.
Safety is a shared responsibility among all drivers and is the cornerstone of the trucking industry. It ensures the well-being of truckers, the safety of the public, legal compliance, positive reputation, and career growth opportunities. Prioritizing safety is a win-win for everyone involved in the transportation sector!