Driving a tractor trailer requires a lot of skill, patience, responsibility for others’ safety and most importantly, common sense. Good safety practices are what’s going to keep you alive in those crucial moments so here are a few trucking safety guidelines while you’re out on the road:
Be alert and avoid distractions. Pay attention to everything going on around you. Always look well ahead down the road and around your truck. Be attentive to who’s in front of you, beside you, and behind you. Just be aware of everything so you can react accordingly, essentially. Getting a good night’s sleep is important for you to be awake and alert on the road. Keep cell phones out of sight and keep both hands on the wheel at 9 and 3 to give you the most control over your rig.
Slow down. Big trucks do not handle or corner like cars. Always take ramps and corners very slowly as the idea is to get around a corner and be upright, even if you hold up traffic. Maintain control at all times and travel slowly. Don’t drive as fast as you think you can get away with but instead, adjust your speed to the road conditions.
3 Points of contact. This tip will help you avoid any potentially nasty falls in and out of your rig. This means that you must always have either both hands and one foot, or both feet and one hand in contact with the truck at all times when entering or exiting the tractor, trailer, or climbing down from the catwalk.
Check the weather. Before going on your long haul trip, be aware of the weather report and conditions. Pre-trip planning allows you to know what to expect and take the necessary precautions. Also, keep an eye out on your outside temperature for any changing road conditions as good trip planning is essential.
The 7 second rule. Seven seconds should be considered the minimum safe following distance that you should follow in perfect conditions. Remember to leave lots of extra space in between you and other vehicles as this “cushion” or “buffer” will be what will protect you and the truck. For the most part, if anything goes wrong it will most likely be in front of you so the more space you leave, the more time you will have to correct yourself and slow down.
Keep your lights on. Keep your headlights and clearance lights on at all times while driving and make sure they’re clean. Driving with your lights on allow other motorists to see you and your equipment and gauge your size. Being visible is a very important part of truck safety.
Check out delivery spots on foot. This is an often ignored tip by truckers. Take the extra 5 minutes and get out of your rig to get a feel for the place. You’ll hear a shipper say, “Trucks come in here all the time, it’s OK.” but always go for yourself and check. The last thing you want is to get stuck or trapped in a too-tight space or docking facility not suitable for big rigs.
Load and unload safely. When loading and unloading freight, make sure that the vehicle and freight are properly stored and secured. Apply your tractor trailer parking brakes and turn off your truck. If you have them, use chock blocks for extra security. Never pull out of a loading dock until the dock plate has been removed and you have double checked that no equipment or people are working in the trailer.
Use a trucker’s GPS. This is a GPS designed especially for truckers which will show you vital information like distance before exit, which exit to take, traffic reports, when to change lanes etc. These are well worth the cost and can help alleviate some of the stress that comes with driving to unknown areas. Although it’s a great tool, don’t solely rely on it.
Take breaks and check your rig. Take a break to stretch your legs and do a quick walk around the truck. Check the load, especially if you’re hauling a flatbed. Check under the truck for any dripping coolant or oil, soft tires and air leaks to say the least.
These are just a few of the truck driving safety topics that I felt were important but I know that there are many more which I will cover in a future post. What are your tried and tested safety tips? Please let us know below and share this with your networks. A refresher never hurts.