Tips for Safe Truck Driving
At Cowboys and Engines, we appreciate the integral role truck drivers and owner-operators play in sustaining the Texas economy. We also understand how demanding the truck driving industry is in many ways—financially, physically, and emotionally. Our desire is for you to be safe on the road and feel as comfortable behind the wheel as possible. So, we sat and wrote down some tips for avoiding accidents and injuries and want to share them with you. You deserve to come home in one piece, and better yet, your family expects you to return from whatever run you are making.
Here is what we came up with to ensure you have a safe haul:
- Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t allow anyone or anything to distract you while driving. If driving becomes difficult due to weather, road conditions, you find yourself lost, or are having personal issues, slow down or stop if necessary. Safe driving means maintaining awareness at all times and having full concentration on the road.
- Pay extra attention when turning. Never assume other vehicles will give you the right of way or that they fully understand a truck’s limitations. A truck’s weight, length, and height make it difficult for you to maneuver tight turns (especially right turns) like conventional vehicles. Signal early and make sure you have the distance necessary to complete the turn safely. Always consider pedestrians and fixed objects when turning.
- Pay extra attention when backing up. BEFORE you begin to back up, walk completely around your truck and look for any obstruction. Walk all the way to the point where you plan to stop and check for any potential hazard. Then from that point, visualize the backing maneuver. It’s good to have spotters, but don’t just rely on them. You are the sole person responsible for backing your truck up safely. When you get back in your truck, and you begin to back into your spot, if you have any doubt, STOP. Get out of your truck and go look. If you don’t have spotters, and it’s a tight spot, you may have to do this several times. It’s better to get out ten times than to assume and back into something.
- Park with your load in mind. When possible, back your trailer doors against a wall or fence to hinder access to your load. You can also set your trailer brake and put tension on the fifth wheel pin. This prevents a potential thief from pulling the fifth wheel release.
- Check your tires constantly. Get in the habit of always checking your tires. Do this religiously: before you begin your trip, every time you stop, and after you complete your trip. Something can quickly go wrong with a tire, even on a short trip. When the tread separates from a tire, it creates a dangerous road hazard and causes a serious accident. Inspecting tires is part of your required pre-trip and post-trip checklist. Don’t skip it.
- Stay in one lane. It is essential to understand the laws of the state you are driving in. In Texas, cities, and sometimes counties govern lane restriction laws. So, pay attention to signage as you approach major cities. For your safety, it is always best to drive in the right-hand lane, and remain in the lane you’re traveling in. If an incident occurs ahead of you, like traffic congestion, you’re cut off, or you strike an animal, stay in your lane, especially if you need to come to a stop. Sudden action and swerving into another lane could cause a serious accident. Also, switching lanes unnecessarily could make traffic situations worse. Pick a lane and drive in it until you need to change lanes to exit.
- Don’t forget about those blind spots. Most other vehicles are unaware of where your blind spots are located. As a result, they unintentionally place themselves in harm’s way. It is wise to check and recheck your blind spots continually. Never assume that a driver switched lanes or exited the highway before you change lanes. If in doubt, these spots are just beside you, behind your side doors and directly behind you.
- Keep your cool behind the wheel. Many times, as a professional truck driver, you will need to take the high road emotionally. There will be motorists on the highway who will display less than acceptable behavior, or act downright irresponsibly, and you will feel the urge to respond accordingly. Understand that they are acting out of ignorance of your truck’s limitations and dangers. Don’t allow emotions to escalate and cause their behavior to cause you to make a decision you will regret.
- Ensure your cargo is properly secured. Just like your tires, check all walls, ratchet straps, winches, chains, wedges, chocks, and other load securement methods every time you stop. Ensure that your load is not going anywhere. Even one loose fitting can cause your load to shift, and depending on what you are carrying, could cause debris, your trailer to tip, or load to fail.
- Follow all hours-of-service rules. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have many hours-of-service regulations to help prevent accidents caused by driver fatigue. Do not exceed these limits or attempt to make a run if you know you are unable to make it within your available hours. You, as the driver, are solely responsible for abiding by hours of service regulations.