How To Maintain Safe And Effective Basic Control

The most important part of being a professional truck driver revolves around the safe operation of the vehicle under their control. The fact is, operating a heavy tractor-trailer is a big responsibility and differs greatly from operating a passenger car or pick up.

Everything about operating a heavy-duty commercial motor vehicle, from cranking up the engine to backing up and turning, requires an entirely different skill set and specific knowledge. After all, you want to be a safe truck driver.

This is why it is so important for truck drivers to have a good understanding of the basic control issues they will run into while out on the job.

Engine Warm-Ups

There are specific procedures that truck drivers must take when first starting up or shutting down the engine. Although new transmission variants are changing the way some engines crank, for most four-cycle diesels, there’s a specific procedure that includes:

  • Applying the parking brake
  • Pushing in the clutch while the vehicle is in neutral
  • Start the vehicle
  • Upon the engine starting, ease of the clutch.
  • Check your gauges

When your engine is warming up, expect it to generally be done at a low revolutions per minute, generally around 8,000-1,000 rpms. This gives the oil time to warm up and circulate, and for the oil pressure to rise.

Usually, a short period of idle time is recommended, but as always, you’ll want to check the operator’s manual for your particular vehicle. When you do need to drive during a warm-up, make sure you keep your RPMs low and don’t rev too high in first gear.  When your engine reaches 170 – 195 degrees Fahrenheit, engine warm-up is complete.

Excessive Idling

When you are operating your vehicle, make sure to avoid excessive idling. New, recently manufactured engines usually don’t need to idle for more than four minutes. Unnecessary idling can increase fuel consumption and engine wear.

Also consider that some states even have specific regulations limiting the amount of time you can let your engine idle. Always make sure you are cognizant of local or federal regulations governing how much idle time your engine can have.

Putting the Vehicle Into Motion

Putting a large commercial vehicle into motion takes a specific set of skills. You will need to test the tractor-trailer hook-up, put the tractor-trailer in motion and then stop it.

Always remember to test your coupling every time you are about to hit the road. When you are steering the vehicle, make sure you are holding the wheel firmly in both hands. Your hands should be positioned on opposite sides of the wheel. Remember, if you don’t have a firm handle on the wheel, the vehicle could pull away from you if you loose control.

Straight Line Backing

Although backing up is considered a basic tractor-trailer maneuver, it is one of the most difficult to master. When you execute a straight line backing maneuver, you must keep the following in mind.

  • Vehicle position: Put your vehicle into position by moving forward until the tractor and the trailer are straight in front of one another.
  • Clear the area: Is the area behind your vehicle clear of other vehicles or obstructions? You may need to get out of your vehicle and do a visual inspection.
  • Watch your speed: First, turn on your four-way flashers, then put your vehicle into reverse. Back up as slowly as possible and make sure you don’t ride your clutch or your brake.
  • Always check behind you: Make sure you are constantly checking behind yourself. Make sure all doors are closed and be constantly checking your mirrors.
  • Maintain proper steering: Always keep the vehicle on path and make sure you don’t over steer.

If you are discovering that the trailer is getting bigger in your mirror, make sure to compensate a little. You only need to move slightly for the trailer to begin drifting.

When it comes to driving a large commercial vehicle, you’ve got to know the basics. With those down, you’ll be ready to proceed on to the more advanced controls and techniques.