Truck Driver Safety Tips to Minimize Risks and Accidents
Did you know that truck driving is the seventh deadliest occupation in America?
Truck driving is a dangerous job with an average death rate of 26.8 per 100,000 people, while on average other occupations see 3.5 per 100,000.
Truck driving is a high-risk occupation because it involves:
- Being on the road for long hours
- Sitting on a non-ergonomic chair for hours
- Carrying heavy cargo that increases accident risk
- Contending with countless irresponsible road users
- Encountering diverse weather conditions while crossing states
- Falling from a truck’s flatbed without a Truck Fall Prevention System
A professional truck driver needs to internalize truck driving safety tips and use them often to minimize risks and accidents.
Among the many driver safety guidelines requirements, there are vital truck driving safety tips that your drivers need to know to preserve their lives and those of other drivers.
Today we’ll look at four crucial truck driving safety tips that’ll reduce your trucker’s risk of accidents by a considerable margin.
TIP #1: Exercise Good Driving Habits
It takes around 21 days to form a lasting habit. Acquiring excellent driving habits is no exception. Your truckers can develop safe driving habits that’ll serve as life-saving practices.
A good driver practices safe, calculated, wise, and tactical driving skills. It's like a ninja warrior on the road who ensures every move preserves their life while preventing blows and collisions from other vehicles.
Here are basic and essential driving habits and tips for truck drivers to adopt.
Always Wear Your Seat Belt
Studies by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that one in six truck drivers don’t wear their seatbelt.
It can become uncomfortable to wear your seatbelt for 7 hours straight. Truckers need to choose discomfort over risking their lives.
The table shows statistics from NHTSA comparing the benefits of wearing a seatbelt for a truck driver and other motorists.
|Wearing a Seatbelt||Truck Driver’s % of||Other Driver’s % of|
|Reduced Risk||Reduced Risk|
Seatbelts protect the truck driver from fatal crashes caused by:
- Distracted drivers
- Blinding caused by flashing lights
- Bad weather conditions
- Ignoring posted speed limits
Avoid Taking Alcohol and Drugs
Due to the nature of the vehicle and the weight they carry, truckers receive heftier penalties for driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Truck drivers with an alcohol level of above 0.04% will receive a DUI compared to 0.08% for other motorists.
The use of recreational drugs like weed or cocaine is strictly prohibited for truck drivers, as they can alter brain function.
Prescribed medications that can cause the following are also banned:
- Reduced mental concentration
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict regulations for truck drivers because drugs and alcohol cause truckers to:
- Miscalculate lane changes
- Exceed the posted speed limit
- Find themselves in blind spots
- Drive carelessly on uneven road surfaces
- Ignore the safe distance requirement
- Easily fall from a truck
TIP #2: Practice Defensive Driving
Defensive driving technique requires truck drivers to always be alert for:
- Potential hazards
- Changing traffic patterns
- Work zone signs
- Poor road conditions like icy roads and uneven road surfaces
Defensive driving as a driver safety tip helps to minimize risk and avoid accidents by anticipating dangerous situations and making calculated moves. The quick decisions truckers make saves lives, time, and resources.
Here are four defensive driving techniques which serve as safety tips for truck drivers.
- Follow the three-second rule: Truck accidents caused by forward or rear collisions can be avoided if truck drivers use the three-second safety tip. The rule requires truckers to wait three seconds to pass before reaching the same spot the previous car was in.
Inclement weather requires drivers to increase the time to five or more seconds.
- Always use signals: Truckers can overlook signaling if they’ve been driving for long hours, when they’re on a long stretch, or when there's light traffic. It's tempting to change lanes or overtake without signaling in such situations.
Adopting this habit can cause collisions or even fatal work zone accidents. Every trucking industry should require all its drivers to use signals at all times.
- Look out for blind spots: A commercial driver operating a large truck can fail to see vehicles behind or next to them. Sometimes side and rear-view mirrors aren't accurate when checking for blind spots.
Truckers who look out the window and look over their shoulders before making lane changes get a higher safety score.
- Be extra careful on work zones: National Work Zone Safety estimates that a third of all work zone accidents involve trucks. Work zone areas present a challenge to truckers because of moving people, sudden stops, vehicles entering, and impatient road users changing lanes.
A safety-conscious driver will practice safe driving by slowing down or wait at the parking lot until the commotion subsides and it’s safe for huge trucks to proceed.
TIP #3: Perform Frequent Pre-Trip Inspections
Truck drivers sometimes overlook pre-trip inspections because of tight schedules and pending targets. These truckers undermine the crucial role pre-trip inspections play in keeping drivers safe.
A competent trucker performs a thorough check of their truck to ensure all parts function correctly before heading out. The inspection process involves checking the:
- Shock absorbers
- Height and weight limitations
- Ballpoints, kingpins, and gauges
Truck drivers shouldn’t put off vehicle repairs once a problem is detected. Experienced truckers can repair minor issues, while complex defects need to be addressed by a mechanic before leaving.
The United States Department of Transportation has six levels of inspection regulations. Level one DOT inspection is the most important, and your truck driver can receive penalties like a written warning, fines, and suspension.
The table below gives you a basic checklist of DOT level one inspections for drivers and trucks.
|Truck Driver’s Inspection Checklist||Truck Inspection Checklist|
|☐ Alcohol and drug use||☐ Fuel system|
|☐ Logbook record||☐ Safe loading|
|☐ Hours served||☐ Brakes, tires, wheel, and rims|
|☐ Medical certificate||☐ Cruise control|
|☐ Working seat belt||☐ Lights and signals|
|☐ Coupling devices|
Advanced technology has enabled trucking companies to use digital apps like the Samsara Driver App to simplify pre and post-inspection processes.
TIP #4: Watch Out for Changing Traffic Patterns and Speed Limits
Truckers would have an easier time if they could use the roads without the unpredictable traffic patterns and the varying speed limits.
Whether your truckers drive intrastate or interstate, they must know the local speed limits and driving laws.
Some states have significantly varying maximum posted speed limits. Dakota, for example, has a speed limit of 80mph for trucks, while Georgia’s is 55mph.
Your drivers may find themselves paying heavy fines and being delayed for hours due to violations of the local speed limits.
Safety tips for truckers they can adopt when they encounter changing traffic patterns include:
- Avoid heavy traffic by planning trips when traffic is low
- Listen to radio reports and check local newspapers for road conditions
- Leave a safe following distance at all times
- Avoid distractions and frequently changing lanes
- Use a truck navigational device to find the best route
Experienced truckers can identify changing traffic patterns and can anticipate traffic problems in towns and states.
They can prepare emotionally and mentally, which helps them moderate their reactions to heavy traffic. Uncontrolled and panicky responses from new drivers cause truck accidents.
What Equipment Should Truck Drivers Have For Safety?
Truckers should always have with them an emergency kit, high visibility safety vest, tire pressure gauge, suitable hand gloves, first aid kit, durable LED light, and an up-to-date road atlas.
Installing the NoFall Flatbed Truck Protection System also plays a vital role in keeping truckers safe when unloading or loading cargo.
Do Truckers Get Occupational Diseases?
Yes, long-haul truck drivers experience occupational health problems such as obesity, heart diseases, spinal injuries, joint pains, mental disorders, and digestive illnesses.
Eating healthy while on the road for days is a challenge for many drivers. Truckers also experience stress from being away from their families for long periods. They also sit for hours on a non-ergonomic seat and carry heavy cargo, which affects their spine.
What Can Trucking Companies Do to Ensure The Safety of Their Drivers?
Trucking companies can keep their drivers safe by:
- Giving frequent truck driving safety training.
- Scheduling reasonable working hours that don't exceed the required limits by law.
- Installing a Flatbed Truck Prevention System.
- Ensuring requested repairs are done before every trip.
Take this risk assessment quiz to see if their drivers and vehicles are up to industry standard.