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Safety Tips for Truck Drivers

11/05/2021 02:54

As an owner-operator or truck driver, you want to keep yourself safe on the road. It isn't just essential your their health and well-being. Your safety directly impacts other motorists on the road, as well as your bottom line. That's why we wrote this safety tips for truck drivers article to help you out with the best tips we have. 

The Department of Labor (DOL) singles out trucking as one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. In fact, transportation and logistics fleets have some of the highest numbers of injuries and fatalities on the job and those numbers seem to only grow year over year.

By improving the safety of your drivers, you not only ensure their protection, but you can also reduce costs associated with accidents, claim payouts, and rises in insurance premiums. The good news is that you can improve your truck drivers' safety by creating a work culture that actively coaches, trains, and rewards the safest drivers.

Here are 8 essential safety tips for truck drivers to keep them protected on the road.

1. Encourage your truckers to practice defensive driving

Defensive driving is a form of driver training that teaches truckers how to anticipate and avoid potential dangers. It helps drivers make better decisions and reduces the risk of accidents. Here are a few key defensive driving strategies and practices to encourage your drivers to use.

Watch out for blind spots:

For drivers who operate tractor-trailers or refers, being in such a large truck that's so high off the ground can make it difficult to see cars behind or even next to their vehicle. A blind spot is an area around a vehicle that cannot be directly seen by a driver. Don't lose your driving job because of this! 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 840,000 accidents per year are directly due to blind spots. Most of these accidents occur when drivers are changing lanes. Since rear-view and side mirrors aren't always effective when checking for blind spots, make sure you're encouraging drivers to look over their shoulders and out the windows when changing lanes. Also, encourage them to leave plenty of room around their vehicles when merging.

Also, seat belt on, please! 

Practice the three-second rule:

When it comes to avoiding forward and rear collisions, a best practice is for drivers to follow the three-second rule. This rule states that truck drivers should allow three full seconds to pass between the time the car in front of them reaches a particular spot on the road and the time it takes the truck driver to reach that same point.

If heavy rain or winds are present, drivers should increase the follow time to five seconds. If the roads are icy, drivers should increase the follow time to 10 seconds. 

Don't be a distracted driver.

Be prepared for emergencies:

When driving, especially over long distances, conditions can rapidly change. Encourage your drivers to be prepared for a variety of potential emergency situations like bad driving conditions or breakdowns. Drivers who stock their cabs with water, snacks, a first aid kit, a change of clothes, and blankets can comfortably and safely weather unexpected conditions that may require them to pull off the road or wait long periods for vehicle repairs.

Make sure to have contact with the respective trucking companies you are working with. The trucking industry is an unpredictable industry.

Stay calm, cool, and collected:

Road rage is a serious threat to safe driving. When truckers are cut off, honked at, or otherwise harassed by other drivers during heavy traffic, it can be tempting to indulge in road rage behaviors, like tailgating or weaving between lanes. Don't exceed the speed limits! Professional truck drivers and commercial drivers should be cool-headed.

Drivers who allow their anger to control their driving put themselves and others at risk for accidents. Encourage your drivers to de-escalate road rage situations by increasing the safe distance between themselves and angry drivers. This is what a professional driver does,

Always signal:

For drivers who operate on long stretches of roads or during non-peak traffic times, it can be tempting to complete lane changes and exit highways without signaling. Hello, commercial vehicles or tractor trailer who love lane shifts! Safety guidelines should be strictly followed.

But failing to signal can increase the likelihood of collisions. Remind drivers that signaling before changing lanes or turning is required by law, and they should still signal even if they don't see any other vehicles nearby.

When in doubt, slow down:

Train your drivers to always default to slowing down in response to changes on the road, including bad weather or poor visibility. There might be road workers too ahead of you. Practice truck driver safety tips regardless of the situation.

Slowing down offers drivers extra time to take corrective action or respond to sudden changes, like an animal running onto the highway or slippery roads when it starts to rain. Slowing down can prevent accidents altogether or, at the very least, decrease the impact and severity if an accident does occur.

Let's continue with more tips for truckers.

2. Develop preventative maintenance schedules

The safety of your drivers really starts with the safety of the vehicles they're in. Trucks and tractor-trailers that aren't up-to-date with their regular maintenance like oil and brake pad changes are more likely to break down on the road. Telematics devices offer real-time visibility into odometer and engine data, including fault codes.

Using this data, your mechanics can build out robust preventative maintenance schedules based on mileage, days, previous breakdown history, and more plus get real-time alerts for critical fault codes.

Through regular upkeep and proactive repairs, you can ensure your vehicles are in top shape so drivers can avoid breakdowns on their routes.

3. Ensure comprehensive pre-trip inspection and post-trip inspection

Hand-in-hand with increasing driver safety through maintenance is using thorough vehicle inspections to ensure all trucks are safe before drivers start driving. While pre-trip and post-trip inspections are required by the DOT, not just any inspection will do.

To protect the safety of your drivers, use tools that ensure all inspections are thorough and accurately documented.

4. Make safety a competitive advantage for your business

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has identified distracted driving as the number one cause of accidents for truck drivers. Distracted driving is anything that causes a driver to take their eyes off the road or their hands off the steering wheel. This causes sudden stops resulting in accidents. What if their safety belts are not on? 

Distractions while driving commercial trucks can range from eating lunch while driving to turning out the window to stare at a billboard. But the most common form of distracted driving is mobile phone usage, in particular, texting while driving. This is the worst driving distraction as it is leisurely inflicted. Sorry to say but both seasoned driver and rookie truck drivers do this.

If your vehicles are equipped with dual-facing dash cams that have artificial intelligence (AI) A built-in camera can identify when a driver is distracted based on their head position (like if they're looking down at their smartphone). Using this footage, you can coach drivers on how to correct their behaviors to avoid distractions and reduce their likelihood of causing an accident.

5. Have tools in place to respond to changes in road conditions 

Road conditions are usually unpredictable. Most long-haul drivers work long hours across many regions or states and this is a common concern. Icy roads, road flares, uneven road surfaces, traffic conditions, traffic issues, traffic patterns, and vehicle crashes ahead. These are unexpected road conditions along the way. Bad roads are inevitable. Even there are road signs, it is usually not being noticed on a busy road.

The two conditions most likely to impact the safety of drivers on the road are traffic and bad weather. Bumper-to-bumper traffic causes vehicles to constantly stop and go, which increases the likelihood of accidents. And bad weather conditions like snow, ice, hail, or rain can impact a driver's visibility or can cause roads to become slippery, all of which contribute to a greater chance of an accident. Truck accidents are becoming common nowadays because of these road conditions.

REMINDER TO TRUCKERS: Always tune in to traffic reports. 

Dispatch management solutions, provide live weather and traffic map overlays that allow your dispatchers to see where road conditions may be unsafe for your drivers.

6. It is great to watch over your fleet using a real-time GPS tracking

There is a lot of fleet management platform that provides real-time GPS tracking. The purpose of these is that you can always know the exact location of all your drivers. Real-time GPS is important for ensuring the safety of your drivers. If a vehicle breaks down, it's important that you know its precise location so you're able to assist the driver as soon as possible.

By knowing a driver's exact location, you can either easily reroute them to the closest shop for a repair or can send a maintenance crew or tow truck directly to them. This ability to quickly and accurately respond to breakdowns means that you can reduce downtime and get your fleet back to work. Also, drivers won't have to wait long hours off the side of the road, which can potentially put them at risk for road collisions.

7. Encourage proper rest and breaks

All drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are required to take certain breaks before they can continue driving. For instance, under HOS truck driver limits, all CMV drivers must take a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving and a 10 to 11-hour break before coming back on duty.

An adequate time of sleep is one of the most basic guidelines that a truck driver should give importance.

This is also a way to show care for motorists. An American trucker should remember that you are not alone on the road.  Lack of rest or sleep reduces alert driving and will affect your attention to road signs. 

If caused an accident, medical checks are also done. Post-accident drug and alcohol screening is necessary whenever a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) carrying employee is involved in an accident that meets certain conditions. Here are some Post-accident drug and alcohol screening fees and more you can refer to.

Outside of taking these mandatory breaks, encourage drivers to always prioritize their safety and the safety of other motorists while on the road. This means encouraging your drivers to take additional breaks while en route if they are feeling sleepy or impaired in any way. Although this may require additional time taken out of their “On-Duty” period, it could play a significant part in reducing at-fault accidents due to fatigue. This not only keeps your drivers safer but helps you reduce accident-related costs.

Conclusion

As a professional truck driver, you should always practice good driving habits and adhere to any driver health advice or health tips. This is the Trucker Lifestyle you should be practicing. 

It's not just about safe driving tips but more about a good moral lifestyle as a truck driver. A safe truck driver and adept truck drivers will surely keep our roads safe.

This Safety Tips for Truck Drivers article is just a reminder from Labworks USA. As a DOT drug and alcohol consortium, we value what's best for you as our road partners.  

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