10 Ways to Be a Safer Commercial Truck Driver
By Diane Tait
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
Driving for a living is a daunting occupation. Not only do you have to be alert to what is going on around you, but these days you have to beware of distracted drivers on the road near you. While the fatality rate for commercial vehicle collisions has steadily declined during the past 20-years, there are still more than 500,000 truck accidents every year. Of those, 16% are deemed the fault of a commercial driver. That means 84% of accidents involving commercial vehicles are caused by motorists who aren’t paying attention to the vehicles around them. To help all you commercial drivers out there avoid accidents, I’ve come up with a list of 10 things you can do to avoid becoming a statistic.
1. Avoid Distracted Driving – Just as personal transformation has undergone a technological transformation in the past few years that makes it all too easy for a driver’s attention to wander from the road, so too have commercial vehicles. That means commercial drivers need to make sure they aren’t distracted by cellphones, GPS maps, and snacking while on the road. Studies have shown that distracted driving is responsible for 80% of commercial vehicle crashes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibits commercial drivers from dialing or texting while driving. So seriously does the FMCSA take this rule that it levies stiff fines to both drivers and commercial carriers who don’t get the message.
2. Avoid Distracted Drivers – Even if you follow all the rules, that doesn’t mean the other drivers around you will too. Everything from the use of a cellphone by a driver, to those who are typing info into a GPS or fiddling with the audio system can result in an accident. That means you have to provide more distance between your truck and traffic than you might think.
3. Do you know the correct amount of braking distance between your truck and traffic? – To provide enough of a cushion between your truck and other traffic, you need to add the following three factors: Perception distance plus reaction distance plus stopping distance. The time it takes a driver to see a hazard and react to that hazard is ¾ of a second. The time it takes your brain to tell you to brake is an additional 3.4 of a second. The time it takes a truck to stop is about four seconds. For a truck traveling at 55 MPH, it can take nearly 400 feet to come to a complete stop. Since a truck going 55 will travel 75 feet per second, you need to allow a lead time of 5.5 seconds between your truck and the traffic ahead if you hope to stop before you a vehicle that brakes hard.
|Image courtesy Pixabay|
4. Do you know the turning radius of your truck? - Due to the wider than normal turning radius of a truck, you need to be aware of the space around you. Everything from stationary objects to traffic near your truck can cause you to collide with or be hit by other vehicles. Your best bet to avoid conflict with traffic or obstacles is to take the right-hand lane, since other vehicles and obstacles are more visible from the left-hand side of a truck.
5. Skids & Slides - As a rule, skids happen because of Newton’s first law of motion that states that objects in motion tend to stay in motion until it is acted on by an external force. That means a fully laden truck is going to stop much slower than a passenger vehicle. It also means that hitting the brakes on a loaded truck is likely to exceed the stopping power of its brakes which typically results in a skid or slide. To stop or slow a skid, ease off the brakes and downshift to a lower gear. The engine may help you regain control. If your vehicle slides sideways, stop braking and turn in the direction you want to go before counter-steering the other way to avoid spinning out in the opposite direction.
6. Stormy Weather – As dangerous as driving a fully laden truck through a storm can be, driving after a storm has passed can be just as challenging. Slippery roads, debris and flash floods can turn a road into an obstacle course. If you do encounter ponding or hail on the road, don’t hit the brakes. Take your foot off the accelerator and push in the clutch. Reduce your speed to avoid hydroplaning as well as reducing the risk that your truck will be flipped by crosswinds.
7. Downhill Racer – Driving a truck down a steep incline isn’t for the faint of heart. Take a steep grade too fast and you risk driving off the road. You also risk burning out your brakes. The best bet when heading downhill is to use dynamic braking by relying on the engine to help slow down your truck as opposed to hitting the brakes.
8. Calamity Corner? - Another danger faced by commercial drivers is cornering too fast. Take a turn with too much velocity and you not only risk a skid, you could also shift the cargo in the back of your truck which can affect your vehicle’s center of gravity. Your best bet to avoiding calamity when you corner is to reduce your speed on the straight away before you begin a turn.
9. Fear of the dark. – Driving in the dark also poses a number of challenges. At night, not only is your vision impaired, but so is your depth perception. On top of that, if you have a long haul after dark, you’re prone to dozing off at the wheel. The best way to avoid white line fever is to make sure you’re fully rested before beginning an overnight long haul. No amount of caffeine can beat the fatigue and sensory deprivation of night driving.
10. When was the last time your truck was serviced? – While a service stop may cost you time, traveling down the road in a truck that has mechanical deficiencies can cost you much more. The last thing you need on a long haul is a brake line to fail or a tire to blow while you’re barreling down the interstate. If it’s been some time since you had your truck serviced, the time to make the time is now.
Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance. To find out more about how you can save money on boat insurance, go to her site.