Be alert! Know everything going on around you. Always look well ahead down the road and around your rig. When rolling down the highway, especially in heavy traffic, always plan an ‘escape route’. Be aware of who’s in front of you, beside you and behind you at all times. Be aware of everything, so you can act accordingly, if and when necessary. Being well rested keeps you at your best.
Check weather reports
Be aware of weather conditions prior to departing on a trip, and check the reports as often as you’re able while traveling. Keep an eye on your outside temperature to watch for changing road conditions. Knowing what to expect, helps a trucker be better prepared for bad weather driving and necessary precautions can be taken. Good trip planning is essential.
Whenever possible, avoid traveling at high volume traffic and peak traffic times. The more traffic, the greater the odds of an accident.
Check out delivery spots, on foot
Of all driving safety tips, this one is most often ignored by truckers. When delivering, especially to a new customer, find a place to park safely, leave your rig for 5 minutes and scope out the place. Shippers will too often say, ‘Oh, we have trucks in here all the time, it’s OK. Check for yourself. Many times a truck can get trapped in a place and unable to turn around or the docking facility isn’t suitable for big rigs. This way, you’ll see obstacles that may be in your way, such as low fire hydrants, posts, ditches, etc. Take a mental picture of the area. If you just drive in, you will NOT see the hazards.
A large percentage of big rig accidents happen when backing up. Accidents are costly for everyone, and can seriously impair your driving record.
Be extra cautious at night
Always exercise ‘extra’ caution at night, especially in tight maneuvering situations. Too many truckers leaving a truck stop at night, thinking they’re headed for the road drive straight into a ditch, slammed into the back end of a trailer and hit light posts head on. Be alert, be aware, move slowly and cautiously.
Leave room in front of your rig
Always, always leave plenty of room in front of your vehicle. It can be very frustrating if you are only traveling 50 mph, and everyone else is doing 65 mph, BUT it can keep you out of trouble. This ‘buffer zone’ or ‘cushion’ in front of your rig, will protect you and your truck. Usually, if anything goes wrong, there’s a good chance it will be ahead of you.More empty space you have in front of you and your unit, the more time you’ll have to ‘correct’ and slow down, if necessary.
Change lanes as little as possible
Pick a lane and STAY in it. Cars will dodge and change lanes no matter what. If you do find it necessary to change lanes, move over very carefully, being aware of your blind spots and constantly check your mirrors. The odds of an accident increases dramatically, each time a vehicle makes a move to another lane. If you have maintained your lane position, in the event of an accident, the other vehicle will most likely be at fault, not you. When entering a city from the freeway, take the 2nd lane from the right, to avoid merging vehicles. Cars love to hug the right lane and dodge all over…. they tend not to merge. Merging seems to be a ‘lost art’. This tip should also appear at the top of driving safety tips for cars too.
Use a trucker’s GPS
A GPS designed especially for truckers will show vital information such as which exit to take, distance before exit, when to change lanes, traffic reports etc. They are well worth the cost. These units can be a huge help and can alleviate a lot of stress for the driver, especially when traveling in the unknown area. They are another great tool, but not to be relied upon…. compare results with a good old fashioned map.
THE most important of driving safety tips for truckers. Always take the corners and ramps very slowly. Speed signs on ramps are for cars, not big rigs. It doesn’t matter if you hold up traffic. The main focus is to get around a corner and be ‘upright’.
Take breaks and check your rig
Stop and stretch yourself as needed. Do a walk around the vehicle and trailer. Check your load, too, especially if you’re hauling a flatbed. Look for soft tires, air leaks, check under the truck for any dripping coolant or oil.