Last week we took a deeper look at what it means to safely drive a semi-truck. We were reminded that operating these large commercial vehicles comes with an added level of responsibility. Being a professional trucker is being a safe trucker.
So now that we have covered the first five safety attributes, what’s next? Plenty. Likely there are more than we can discuss even in this series, but we will certainly try.
Next up we will take a look at the following safe driving factors:
- Inclement weather
- Vehicle momentum
- GPS Guidance
- Following distance
- Backing up
Ready for a deep dive into big rig safe driving techniques? Well then get in, sit down, strap in and let’s hit the road!
Experienced and professional commercial truck drivers know that the weather changes stopping distance considerations, among other things. When there is precipitation on the ground, whether it’s rain, snow, or ice, you’ve got to give yourself extra stopping and turning time.
If you do lose traction, the key is to prevent the vehicle from not responding to your control over acceleration, braking or steering. Above all, keep this one thing in mind: Never use an engine brake in wet weather, lest you flirt with losing complete control of the vehicle.
Wet roads are not the only weather consideration. Fog, wind, blowing sand, snow and extremely bright sunlight can all be very problematic for a trucker behind the wheel. For drivers of high-profile vehicles, cross-winds can be especially dangerous.
So, what is the secret to safe driving in inclement weather? Slow down, take your time, and pull over if necessary. Better to wait it out than risk the safety of you and others on the road.
Large Class 8 commercial vehicles are large and heavy. Their sheer size, when combined with a fully loaded trailer or other heavy cargo, makes for a massive amount of momentum. Because of this, a big part of truck driver training is instilling into them the need to be looking farther down the road than would other drivers.
Since judging longer distances is harder on hilly or curvy roads, truck drivers have to take extra care in lowering their speed. Also keep a close eye on what vehicles in front of you are doing, as that will give you a clue as to what the road is about to do.
You may see this category and wonder how in the heck anything about a GPS unit could be unsafe. Consider that many truckers who have not been using a carrier’s unit have either had part of their roof peeled back or gotten stuck in a tunnel or under an overpass.
Not only must you make sure you are using the carrier-approved or other “trucking-ready” GPS units, but you have to be paying attention to road signs and carefully reviewing the motor carrier’s atlas.
Remember that space cushion from part one of our series? You’ll need to make sure you have a space cushion between your truck and all of the vehicles and objects around it. While tailgating in a passenger car can be unfortunate, tailgating in a semi-truck can be deadly.
No matter the size and weight of the vehicles around you, never tailgate. Is someone tailgating you? Generally a slow reduction in speed takes care of that as they move to get around you.
It is also particularly dangerous to cut in between large trucks. Doing this automatically reduces the following distance of whichever truck is at the back of the line, setting things up for a potential collision.
Backing up is an intrinsic part of a truck driver’s job. Not only does it occur at the shipper’s docks, but it happens at truck stops and fleet headquarters.
Do you practice safe backing up techniques? If so, then you know this familiar acronym: G.O.A.L. When all else fails, remember to Get Out And Look. This is even more important when you are backing up from your blind side.
You also need to be very aware of your trailer’s pivot points and tandem positions. If you encounter a difficult backing situation, try having someone “spot” you as you pull in. Above all, never try to squeeze your truck into a spot not big enough for it. Better to be safe than sorry.