Having the right technology is only half the battle
With roads becoming increasingly more dangerous, it’s important that we do everything we can to mitigate risk and stay safe. We can’t control what other drivers do, even though we can alert them with life-saving products like Intellistop. However, that’s not all we can do—let’s make sure you have the right tools and knowledge to get your job done safely, effectively and efficiently.
Every trucker knows the importance of the official safety checklist: tires, lights, brakes, mirrors, reflectors, and more. It’s something that gets done and needs checking before every haul. Though in today’s world, that’s simply not enough. So, in lieu of that, here are 27 tips and tricks for truck driver safety:
- Take care of your body—that means exercising, eating healthy foods, and eliminating high saturated fat and inflammatory items. The more quality the food, the easier it will be to stay alert and high-functioning on long hauls.
- Take care of your mentality—if you aren’t in a good mental space, that can greatly affect your ability to handle the complexities of driving. If you’re experiencing intense emotions, then wait to start the vehicle. Breathing exercises, relaxing music and meditation are just a few things that could help you calm down from a stressful situation.
- Check everything—ensure you’re performing every aspect of the official safety checklist. We know it can get tedious to do every time, but just one malfunction could mean the difference between you getting home or not.
- Check the cargo for driving—not everyone loading your cargo will understand how important a balanced trailer is, and uneven loads can cause major issues. Bumpy roads can cause more movement, which makes the truck more difficult to control and can even bend the vehicle’s frame. Suspension, tire, axle housing and wheel bearing failure are just some of the problems shaky loads can cause. Too much weight in the back of a trailer can reduce pressure on the front tires and make the vehicle very difficult to steer. Too much weight to one side can cause trucks to flip over, or to spin out of control when on slippery surfaces.
- Check the cargo for loading and unloading—double-check that your vehicle and freight are properly secured before moving any cargo in or out of the trailer. It’s common for items to shift and move, or to originally be placed poorly. Taking a few moments to ensure all items are secure can make a world of difference.
- Plan a detailed route—take special precautions to note any low bridges, tunnels and overhangs where there might be an issue with getting under safely. Ensure all roads you’ll be travelling on can afford the weight of your load, and allow dangerous chemicals if you’re hauling any. Avoid morning fog, poor weather and other hazardous conditions.
- Avoid Dense Traffic—this goes hand-in-hand with planning your route. Consider the times of day you’ll be driving through major cities and roadways, so you can avoid heavy traffic like rush hour.
- Take regular breaks—when planning your route, be sure to include enough destinations for regular breaks. Even with a lot of planning, things can change on the road. So, make sure you’ve chosen a few backups if “Plan A” places happen to be closed, overbooked or inaccessible. If you’re travelling through the night, bring healthy food and snacks with you in case all healthy restaurants are closed.
- Stretch often—on every break, and before getting back into your truck, be sure to take a few minutes to gently stretch. This will help your body with those long hours of idleness inside the cab.
- Turn on recording devices—your welfare after an accident is just as important as before. Be sure you’re recording what’s happening on the road, so your job is protected and fault isn’t incorrectly attributed to you.
- Ensure you have all required legal documentation—safety comes in all forms, not just physical. To ensure you get where you need to go without legal issues, double-check that all the “i’s” have been dotted and all the “T’s” have been crossed. Eliminating the stress of legal issues can also have a positive effect on your mental and physical state.
- Work Together—if you need help, be strong enough to ask for it. Lights go out, brake lines break, and loads shift during travel. If you need a second set of eyes, be sure to find someone who can help you. On the flip side, be willing to help your fellow truckers with any issues that may come their way. It always feels good to help someone out who’s in a pinch.
- In poor weather, increase your following distance—less than ideal road conditions means less than ideal stopping speed. The heavier your load, the worse it’s going to get. Keep in mind that even if you’re being cautious, it doesn’t ensure other drivers are, too.
- When skidding, lean into the skid—to do this, you must first remain calm. Then, slowly steer back into the direction of the skid. Keep your feet off the brakes, and let your vehicle slow down on its own.
- Clean your lights—while it’s important everyone sees you, in poor conditions it becomes much more difficult to see other vehicles. A small car parked on a freeway shoulder is difficult to see at night. You’ll want every foot of visibility those lights can bring, so you can avoid these kinds of accidents.
- Keep your windshield clear—fogged up, dirt-covered, bug-filled, and debris-ridden windshields can cause serious visibility issues. At every stop, ensure your windshield is clean and clear of anything which may reduce visibility. If you aren’t quite at a break, but the windshield needs cleaning, make an exception to your plan and get it clean as soon as possible. This goes for mirrors, too.
- Pull over—no amount of planning will ever be enough to avoid all accidents. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, pull over. Wait there until conditions have improved and it’s safe to continue driving.
- Know your blind spots—semis have some of the largest blind spots on vehicles today, thus extra caution needs to be taken. Make sure you know the blind spots of the vehicle before turning on the ignition.
- Be wary of medications—when taking on any new prescriptions, it’s important to first understand their effect(s) on your body and any possible reactions with other medications you are taking. It would be very dangerous if your medication made you drowsy, confused, anxious and many other things. Be sure to consult with your doctor to ensure you can safely and effectively drive a large motor vehicle without having issues resulting from your medication(s).
- Stay Focused—avoid distractions like texting, phone calls, and target fixation. Being vigilant can save your life, and avoid hurting others.
- Make way for lane changes—when others wish to change lanes and merge, be sure to safely do what you can to accommodate them. It’s important to share the road with all other drivers, so everyone can reach their destinations safely.
- Avoid sudden motion—unless required for safety, do not brake suddenly, swerve or change lanes abruptly. Be sure to allot at least 3 seconds with your blinker before slowly changing lanes.
- Wear Polarized Sunglasses—not all sunglasses are created equally. Polarized sunglasses dramatically reduce glare, which effectively increases your visibility in bright driving conditions.
- Keep lane changes to a minimum—the odds of an accident increase dramatically each time a vehicle makes a lane change. So pick a lane and stay in it, so long as it is safe to do so.
- Use Trucker GPS—this is GPS designed specifically for truckers, which reports vital information like traffic reports, when to change lanes, distance to an exit and more.
- Take corners slowly—no matter how familiar you are with your rig, others are not. Drivers, pedestrians, animals and more may move into your way while turning. Slow down to allow enough time to adjust for unforeseen circumstances.
- Tread Lightly—one of the most common injuries for truck drivers is slipping and falling. This can happen during deliveries, when carrying items up and down stairs, or simply when getting in and out of the vehicle. Be sure to check the steps of the cab before entering or exiting.
We hope you found these tips and tricks helpful.
Did we miss something? Have a tip or trick you’d like to share? Simply leave a comment below to share with others.
Stay safe out there!