Between long hours, tight timelines and little margin for error, the stresses truckers encounter on the job are vast. But following safe driving protocols and best practices is the best way to mitigate the potential hazards associated with the job. Here are some tips for keeping truckers safe on and off the road.
- Put on your turning signal promptly, when approaching an intersection, to be sure that other motorists know which way your truck is turning.
- Slow down well in advance when making a complete stop. Other motorists may not realize how long it takes for a truck to come to a full stop, but seeing the brake lights early can help avoid an accident.
- Keep changing lanes to a minimum as trucking “no zones” or blind spots pose a threat for accidents.
- Always check your headlights, brake lights and turn signal lights to make sure they are working properly.
- Use your hazard lights when driving slower than the speed limit when you are driving with a heavy load or in bad weather.
- Use the parking spaces designed specifically for trucks. Big rigs need four times the space as an average passenger car.
- Follow the necessary protocol if your vehicle is disabled and you must pull off to the side of the road or highway. Drivers should keep flares, flashers and safety triangles in their vehicles to alert other motorists when necessary.
- Do not park your truck near driveways or side streets, as the tractor trailer can obstruct a motorist’s view of oncoming traffic.
- Never park facing oncoming traffic.
- Conserve fuel. Do not let your truck idle for more than five minutes at a time.
- Do not idle your truck while sleeping, loading or unloading. Not only does it burn fuel, it has also been linked to lung cancer in truck drivers.
- Never leave an idled vehicle unattended. This is how theft happens.
- If idling is necessary, keep the windows closed or wear a safety mask so you don’t inhale the fumes, which can pose a health risk.
- Idling may be necessary in temperatures below 20 degrees F to avoid fuel-gelling. This can be for as long as 10-20 minutes as necessary.
- Keep plenty of space between your truck and the vehicle in front of you during rain or snow conditions in case of an emergency stop.
- Slow down in bad weather to avoid rollovers, jackknifes and collisions.
- Always keep tire chains on hand in case of snow or ice.
- Keep the fuel tank full during the colder seasons as water condensation can build up in the fuel line.
- Remember to take extra precautions on bridges as they freeze before roads do.
Long haul driving
- Do not tailgate. Although long haul trucking can aggravate frustrations on the road, keep emotions in check.
- Take sufficient breaks and actually get out of the truck in order to stay fresh and alert on long hauls.
- Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing as sitting for long periods of time can cut off circulation and cause serious health problems over time.
- Recognize when you are fatigued. Driving while exhausted can be more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
- Trucking regulations prohibit driving more than 11 hours continuously with a subsequent 10-hour off-duty break. However, this is not always enough rest time, so be sure to pay attention to your body’s fatigue levels.