Safety should always be a truck driver’s number one priority. Whether you’ve been driving for a year, a decade, or more, it’s always good to brush up on safety tips. Here are a few safety concerns common to all drivers and tips to help you keep yourself and those around you safer while on the roadways.
Pay Attention to Weather
When you’re driving in cold climates in winter, chances are that the weather is already on your mind. As we move into spring and summer, it’s easy to let your guard down. But even with the most modern technology, the weather can be unpredictable in any season. Spring rains can cause flooding, blinding conditions, and slick roadways. For OTR truckers crossing the country, be aware of any potential tornado watches or warnings (or storms that might produce them), and watch for summer monsoons and dust storms in the desert southwest.
Tip: Check the weather along your route before you leave. Then, install a weather app on your phone and check it at each stop to make sure nothing has changed that might cause a hazardous driving condition.
Avoid Distractions While Driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving was responsible for claiming 3,142 lives in 2019 on the nation’s roadways. Many people equate texting and driving with the term “distracted driving,” but it’s more than that. Eating, changing a radio station, talking on the phone (even hands-free), and other people in your cab are all common sources of distraction. In fact, anything that takes your attention away from the road is a distraction that could potentially cause an accident.
Tip: Stow your phone out of reach and set your tunes, navigation system, radio channels, and any other devices before you start driving. If you have someone with you in your cab, make sure they respect your wishes for silence when you need to focus on driving. And never, ever text, engage in social media, or browse the internet while driving.
Don’t Drive Tired
“Drowsy Driving” is a dangerous combination of fatigue and operation of a motor vehicle, and it can be deadly. An NHTSA study of crash data from 2011 to 2015 found that drowsy driving resulted in 396,000 motor vehicle crashes, of which 160,000 resulted in injury, and 4,121 involved fatalities.
Tip: Follow your hours of service and required rest regulations, and take your breaks on schedule. And if you’re too tired to drive, let your dispatcher know. It’s better to err on the side of caution than to risk a preventable accident.
Always Wear Your Seatbelt
In 2015, a CDC study revealed that 1 in 6 commercial drivers neglected to wear their seatbelts. The number of unbuckled drivers has declined considerably through awareness campaigns like the CMV Safety Belt Partnership and regulation enforcement efforts. As of May 2020, the FMCSA reported that 86% of drivers now buckle up every time they drive. And that’s good news. Truckers who buckle up are better able to control their trucks in the event of a traffic emergency or accident. Not only does buckling your seatbelt protect you, but it protects the drivers around you.
Tip: Buckle up before you drive, every time, regardless of whether it’s across the country or the parking lot. No exceptions.
Mind Your Following Distance
Did you know that you should leave at least one second of following for every 10 miles per hour you’re traveling? And that’s in the best of conditions. Following distance gives you time to slow down, maneuver, or come to a sudden stop without hitting the vehicle in front of you. Several factors can change the amount of distance you’ll need to maneuver during a sudden change in traffic speed safely. The weight of your truck, weather conditions, nighttime driving, and other factors might call for a little more breathing room between you and the car in front of you.
Tip: When in doubt, leave a little extra space and never follow too closely. If a car changes lanes and takes over your following distance, ease off the gas and allow for a little more room.
There’s nothing worse than being out on the road and not knowing where the next stop for food, restrooms, or a place to park and sleep might come along, especially if you hit road construction or unexpected closures! Planning ahead, particularly when you’re headed out on a new route, can make all the difference for your trip.
Tip: Plan ahead for your next trip, including notes for:
- Alternate/truck routes, especially when driving on country highways that go through small towns
- Planned construction and road closures
- Great truck stops where you can spend your breaks
- Restaurants that you might want to visit while you’re passing through
- Things to do while you’re waiting in layover or detention
Pro tip: If you know you’re going to be waiting on your next route for a day or two, be sure you’re plugged into the F|Staff app. You can use the app to find local jobs. You’ll stave off boredom and get paid by using more of your available hours of service. F|Staff is always free for drivers to use, and you can use it as little or as much as you like. Take a job here and there, or use it to build your career. Either way, you’ll find great job opportunities, build your professional connections, and gain greater control over your career and hours.