Semi-trucks and 18-wheelers were involved in over 112,000 vehicle accidents that caused a serious injury in 2018. Any accident involving a large truck or tractor-trailer can cause serious, life-altering injuries to drivers and passengers. Semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, and tractor-trailers serve an essential purpose to businesses everywhere. Yet, they are also some of the most dangerous vehicles on the roads and highways. Truck drivers must practice safe driving techniques to prevent serious accidents from happening in the future.
Here are some valuable trucking tips to know and practice for safer driving.
1. Always Inspect Your Truck Before Driving
Pre-trip inspections are possibly the most important step for every truck driver. Truck drivers should inspect their tractor-trailer, tires, engine, cab, and other truck areas before beginning their trip. Faulty tires or engine failures can create serious road hazards to other drivers and cause accidents. Make sure anything that is broken or damaged is fixed or replaced before starting your drive.
2. Know Where You Are Going
Know the exact route that you plan on taking with alternative routes. Knowing ahead of time the roads and highways you need to take to reach your destination safely can help prevent careless mistakes. It can also help cut down on travel time. Invest in a good, hands-free GPS if necessary. This can help prevent you from feeling stressed if you make a wrong turn and spend time backtracking.
3. Do Not Swerve to Miss an Animal
Animals jump out onto highway roads all the time. This causes many vehicle accidents all across the country. Many drivers’ first instinct is to swerve to avoid the animal. This is more likely to result in hitting another neighboring vehicle or causing a serious car accident. Always maintain steady control of your truck or tractor-trailer, even if an animal jumps out onto the road. Your life and those around you are more important.
4. Master Backing Up Your Truck
Accidents do not only happen on highways and busy roads. They can also happen in parking lots and at loading delivery docks. Trucks drivers should make sure they are comfortable and confident backing up their trucks the correct way. Have a spotter to help you in tricky, tight spaces if you need it. This can help prevent injury or property damage.
5. Maintain Safe Speeds
Always maintain safe speeds when driving your truck or tractor-trailer on the highway. A key part of road safety is following the speed limit. Truck drivers are also able to stop more effectively and safely when they are not driving too fast. Know your stopping distance, as it is essential. Driving slower allows you to stop your truck in plenty of time and avoid rear-ending another driver.
6. Don’t Rush Yourself
Leave plenty of time for each of your trips. When you feel rushed or agitated about missing your delivery deadline, that is when mistakes and unsafe driving practices are most likely to occur. It is reasonable to expect some traffic. However, traffic can also be very unpredictable at points. If you leave enough time to get to your final destination, unexpected traffic is less likely to cause stress.
7. Leave Space in Between You and Other Drivers
Always be sure to leave several car lengths in between you and the car in front of you. Do not tailgate. Leaving space between the cars surrounding you will help give you precious seconds to react if something unexpected happens.
8. Be Careful on Turns
A truck flipping over on its side can cause a deadly pileup. Be sure to slow down to the appropriate speed on slopes, hills, and angled turns. You want to prevent flipping your truck by all means necessary. Follow the posted speed limit for turns and make sure you are in the correct gear. Stoplights at intersections can also present challenges to inexperienced truck drivers. Know the angles and turn limits of your truck. This can help prevent hitting another car and prevent causing serious vehicle damage or personal injury.
9. Help Out Other Truck Drivers
Truck drivers have to be supportive and considerate of other truck drivers on the road. If you see another truck or tractor-trailer trying to merge lanes, leave them plenty of room to get over safely. Helping other truck drivers out is one way to promote road safety and keep other drivers safe.
10. Keep the Inside of Your Truck Clean
As the famous phrase goes, “a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind.” Keep the inside of your truck clean and clear of distractions. If the inside of your truck cab is messy, dirty, or filled with trash, you are more likely to become distracted. A clean truck cab can also give you peace of mind, which can lead to safer driving.
11. Check the Weather Beforehand
Be prepared for any weather conditions while driving on the road. Check the weather radar to be on the lookout for any thunderstorms or severe weather in the area that could impact driving conditions. During the colder winter months, make sure your truck is properly equipped to handle snowy conditions and icy roads by having the proper tires. Be prepared for flash flooding if you are driving through an area that experiences heavy rains. Knowing the weather before you go can also help mentally prepare you for other unexpected traffic conditions and other drivers. Other drivers may not be as prepared as you are for severe weather. This will give you an extra layer of caution to be ready for anything.
12. Do Not Use Your Cell Phone
Cell phones rank among the biggest distractions for drivers everywhere. Truck drivers are no exception. Distracted driving accounted for almost 3,000 vehicle accident deaths in 2018. It is against traffic laws in many states to use your cell phone while driving. Texting while driving is one of the worst cell phone distractions. Avoid possible tickets and accidents by putting the phone down while driving.
13. Do Not Drink and Drive
Not only is drinking and driving illegal for truck drivers, but it is one of the most dangerous combinations while operating a semi-truck, 18-wheeler, or tractor-trailer. Commercial truck drivers are held to a higher standard when it comes to drinking and driving. The normal legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) while driving is .08 percent, but truck drivers can receive a DUI with a BAC of .04 percent. Impaired driving of any sort is dangerous, reckless and should be avoided at all costs.
14. Know Height and Weight Requirements
Check overhead clearance limits and weight restrictions for your path before going on a certain route. Weight limits are strict for a reason. Getting caught going over the weight limit will cause a significant delay in your delivery. Overhead clearances are also there for a reason. The best-case scenario is that you approach a low clearance bridge and have to turn around. That can be cumbersome. This will waste more of your time and will leave you feeling rushed. Worst case scenario is that you will hit a low clearance bridge. The top of your truck will be damaged, and you might cause an accident or injury to the other drivers around you.
15. Take Care of Yourself
A healthy, alert driver is a safe and aware driver. The best thing you can do is take care of your personal health to make sure you are in the best possible shape while on the road. Get plenty of rest to prevent fatigue and drowsiness. Avoid driving long hauls if you are sick or under the weather, as your reactions can be slower. Do your best at eating a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise on breaks when you can.
Know Accidents Do Happen
Despite following road safety rules and practicing good driving techniques, accidents can still happen. A good truck accident lawyer can be the difference between costly medical bills and having peace of mind after a minor or serious accident; if the unfortunate truck accident happens to you, partner with an experienced legal team that will fight for you.
Road Safety for Everyone
Every truck driver can help contribute to safer roads. Following the trucking tips above can help keep the roads and highways safe for everyone and prevent accidents. Know the traffic laws of the states you are driving through in case something happens. The safe driver is prepared. If you are looking for more information about how to protect you and your family in the event of a truck accident, reach out to our legal team to get expert legal advice.