Safety is Your Responsibility.
Trucking can be a dangerous job. Every year, approximately 600 truck drivers die in highway accidents, thousands more are injured, and thousands of citizens die or are injured in accidents involving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
With your help, these numbers can shrink dramatically.
Every day, new truck drivers hit the road and join thousands of experienced truckers. In order to be successful, they all need to understand and practice truck safety. That means more than just learning safe driving techniques — safety is a philosophy and an approach that should be the foundation of your career. And no matter whether you’re an industry veteran or just climbing behind the wheel, it never hurts to review the basics.
Make Safety a Priority
Before covering key safety concerns, we want to commend those of you who are already safe truck drivers. It doesn’t matter how long you are accident- or incident-free — a month, a year or twenty years. What does matter — to you and to all who travel the roads of America — is the fact that you have made a conscientious effort to be safe and succeeded.
Take every opportunity to discuss truck safety with other drivers and driving professionals. Listen and think about their comments. Anyone who has driven a Class 8 semi-tractor, if only for a month, realizes the importance of safety and has a healthy respect for the vehicle’s size, speed, weight and maneuverability.
Know Your Limitations.
Stay Attentive. Don’t over-estimate your abilities, especially in substandard conditions, and never let anyone or anything distract you. If you are in any way uncertain of what is happening around you, slow down and stop if necessary. Give yourself time to consider your options, analyze the situation and come to a thoughtful decision.
Logs and Fatigue
Every driver is required to work within the hours-of-service rules and accurately record their time in a driver’s log. Any time spent trying to circumvent the rules is wasted. Today’s technology allows the DOT and carriers to closely monitor hours of service and sooner or later anyone violating the rules will be caught. This is federal law and prosecuted in federal court.
If you receive a log violation, you should voluntarily seek assistance and counsel from your safety director because you can be certain this will eventually be required. Carriers have no sympathy for drivers who get log violations but up to a point will work with them to improve their understanding of the rules.
Parking and Backing
Most minor accidents occur when a driver is parking and backing, so this is no time to let up for even a second. Backing is not easy but it is easy to become complacent. Never begin backing before walking to the rear and looking all around (and up and down) for obstructions. Even if the area is completely clear, you can never assume it is safe to back without looking. Walk all the way to the point where you will stop, turn around, look at your truck and visualizethe maneuver. A complicated backing maneuver may require you to get out and look several times. Never rely on the opinion of spotters (especially at truck stops) because you’re the driver and are responsible for the success of the maneuver.
When possible, back the trailer against a fence or wall, thereby sealing the trailer doors against an obstacle in order to prevent theft. Set the trailer brakes and gently pull forward to put tension on the fifth wheel pin, making it impossible for a vandal to pull the fifth wheel release.
The Merits of One-Lane Trucking
“Stay in your lane.” Translation: It’s normally in your best interest to maintain a single lane of travel until you come to a stop.
What could force you to leave your lane? Reasons under your control may be the fact you are traveling too fast for conditions or lose control due to slick roads, loss of vision, cargo shifts, wind, tire failure or mechanic failure. Or maybe you are fatigued. Other reasons for leaving your lane may not be under your control — for example, the driver of a car intentionally cutting you off or being negligently out of control, or an animal hitting your truck. Whatever the situation, you are in a better position and will likely do less harm to yourself and others and create less property damage if you maintain a single lane of travel during any incident. There may be exceptions, but the general rule is this: You are required to always have your vehicle under control. If this is not clear to you, speak with your safety director.
During an incident your options may be limited. No one can presume to make the decision for you, and you will have little time to decide for yourself. No matter what you decide be prepared for the consequences. If you are ever involved in an accident and are able to say, “I acted wisely and did everything I could within my power to avoid this outcome,” then you made the right decision.
Avoiding Deadly Distractions
Even the best of drivers find that their attention can be easily diverted. Reading a map, talking on a cell phone or CB, listening to audio, thinking about home, or picking something up from the floor are all distractions. However, what is happening outside your vehicle is where your main attention should always be. A good driver is always fully aware of his surroundings and keeps his focus on the road.
Extra Training Required
Certain types of CMVs such as tankers and flatbeds require even more training and care to operate safely. Tankers carry liquids that may be flammable or toxic. In certain circumstances these liquids can push the vehicle in unexpected directions just when it needs to be stable and predictable. The cargo loaded on flatbeds can become dislodged or, in a sudden stop, come loose and be projected toward the driver or others. If you operate these trucks, learn more from competent sources about how to avoid the dangers.
Watch Out for Joe Public
Professional CMV drivers are expected to drive safely and predictably. On the other hand, citizens often drive in an unpredictable fashion, especially when theyare near trucks or are carrying a carload of people. Their poor driving may display ignorance of your vehicle’s limitations, or simply their own impatience.
Recognize their inexperience and use extra care. They may not know how far it takes you to stop, how fast you can accelerate, or how much space you need to turn. Don’t become angry because this distracts your attention.
If you have questions or need more information about safety or other trucking tips, a SelecTrucks Center representative can help.