Over the past couple of weeks we have been taking an in-depth look at safe driving techniques for truckers, and we aren’t done yet. Honestly, this is a topic that we can’t talk enough about. After all, there’s nothing wrong with safe trucking.
This week we will move on to the next two factors in safe truck driving:
- Road hazards and visibility
- Distractions and alertness
The first stop in our safe trucking journey is an area that is both in – and yet not in – our full control.
Road Hazards and Visibility
Here’s a common joke among truckers: There are only two seasons – winter and road construction. And though we all know that isn’t the truth, to a trucker trying to stay safe, it’s a mantra.
Regardless of what time of years it is or what the road conditions are, you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled for things like:
- Road hazards, such as ruts, pot holes, rough patches of road, and uneven lanes;
- Foreign objects in the road, such as pieces of tire, various items of trash and animals – whether dead or alive;
- Heavy traffic or major congestion;
- Construction zones;
- Lane restrictions;
- Vehicles, whether operational or broken down, on the side of the road or off to the shoulder, and;
- Pedestrians walking along the side of the road.
Compounding the need to stay vigilant are times where you are driving at night or in inclement weather. For these reasons, it’s important to make sure you are never out-driving your headlights. Furthermore, always be prepared to stop or act quickly in the event a road hazard unexpectedly pops up.
Part of keeping safe in times of low visibility or inclement weather includes keeping your windshield, side windows, and mirrors clean so that you can easily see out of them.
Also keep in mind the principle of “see and be seen.” Make sure you are always appropriately using your lights. In many cases it is even beneficial to use your lights not just during nighttime hours, but during daytime as well. Also pay close attention to the surfaces of those lights. Are they clean?
We understand, it can be time-consuming to go around and clean all your glass and reflective surfaces, but it’s important. From a visibility standpoint, it is time well spent. Finally, are you using reflective strips on your vehicle? If not, it might be time to.
When talking about visibility, you must also consider your visibility to other truck drivers and passenger cars. If you are ever in a situation where you encounter a quick slow down in traffic, or when you are hauling a heavy load up a hill and traveling at speeds under 40 mph, use your flashers to alert those around you.
While things like visibility and weather are important, it is what is under your complete control that really matters, which leads us to our next consideration in safe driving techniques.
Distractions and Alertness
The fact is these factors are completely under your control. Just because you are sitting for extended periods of time while you are on a run doesn’t mean you can watch a full-length movie.
As a truck driver, you can be distracted by many things, not the least of which including:
- Electronics, smartphones, and other mobile devices;
- Talk radio;
- GPS units;
- Personal computers;
- Eating, and;
- Drinking a beverage.
Almost anything can be a distraction, provided you allow it to be. Professional drivers of commercial vehicles and buses are not allowed to text while driving. Many fleets even disallow the use of cell phones in the cab. Just remember that when you are driving you should be concentrating on driving.
In regards to alertness, it is important that as a trucker you take proper care of your health. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly and try to get plenty of sleep.
Finally, be aware of any medication you are on and certainly never drink alcoholic beverages or take controlled substances while you are behind the wheel of a big rig.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this dive into safe driving techniques. Join us next week when we conclude our series with a look at the final factors in safe driving techniques.