The Trucking Experience: 8 Ways to Stay Safe on the Road
Indispensable to the economy, truckers are a necessary unit in our society, but their job does not come without risks. With great jobs come great responsibilities, and truck drivers are no different. Statistics show that over the last ten years, accidents involving big rigs have continued to increase. You might think that you’re a great driver, you’re careful on the road, and you’ve got a lot of experience. That may all be true. However, even the most experienced drivers are not exempt from getting into an accident. Unpredictable factors, split-second decisions, and overconfidence sound like a recipe for disaster where there could instead be life-saving cautiousness. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the numbers.
- In 2016, 4,213 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes. According to MCMIS, 55,633 large trucks were involved in injury crashes, and 99,911 were involved in towaway crashes (FMCSA)
- The U.S. suffers the most road crash deaths of any high-income country, about 50% higher than similar countries in Western Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan (ASIRT)
- The critical precrash event for 73% of the large trucks in fatal crashes was another vehicle, person, animal, or object in the large truck’s lane or encroaching into it. 23% of the large trucks in fatal crashes had critical precrash events of their own movement or loss of control (FMCSA)
- Collision with a vehicle in transport was the first harmful event (the first event during a crash that resulted in injury or property damage) in 73% of fatal crashes involving large trucks (FMCSA)
- Road crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people aged 1-54 (ASIRT)
- Singles (truck tractors pulling a single semi-trailer) accounted for 62% of the large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2016 (FMCSA)
As you can see, getting into a potentially fatal accident is not that far-fetched of a fear, after all. So what can you do to combat these numbers? Anything you can. Every decision, especially the small ones, are what may eventually build up to a life or death moment for someone on the road. Below are eight ways to keep yourself and others safe.
1. Wear your seatbelt
- It seems obvious, doesn’t it? It’s the first thing we teach children when they climb into a car. However, in 2016, 13 percent (662) of large truck occupants in fatal crashes were not wearing a safety belt, of which 285 (43 percent) were killed in the crash. In contrast, only 307 (8 percent) of the 3,849 large truck occupants wearing safety belts in fatal crashes were killed (FMCSA). Be smart and take care of yourself. It takes only a few seconds to click your seatbelt in, and those few seconds could save your life.
2. Maintain your truck
- According to Policyadvice.net, “Tire defects account for around 30% (the most common cause) of all truck-related accidents.” Driving is already a risky endeavour with the long hours and heavy loads drivers have to transport. It is critical that drivers exercise proper maintenance of their vehicles, especially concerning wheels, brakes, and steering wheels. Double check your loads to make sure everything is securely strapped in. Checking up on your vehicle and getting necessary repairs will save you pain and costs down the road in the event of the worst case scenario.
2. Plan your route/GPS
- Speaking of worst case scenarios, they will become much easier to avoid if you can spend a little time planning your route before beginning the drive. You will likely feel much more comfortable if you have a basic idea of where you are going, and how much time you have to drop off your shipment. Investing in a trucker’s GPS might be the right choice for you if you are willing to make the purchase. They can help alleviate stress by informing you when to change lanes, how far away the exit is, and reporting traffic information.
4. Watch out for weather conditions
- It takes a couple minutes, but it sure beats going into a snowstorm blind and empty-handed. Being aware of weather conditions in the areas you are headed into is a great asset. It will help you figure out your time management, and what weather or terrain-related equipment you will need to bring with you.
5. Limit distractions
- Not only is it illegal, but being on your phone while driving is a significant risk factor that only increases when you are driving a big rig. “The odds of being involved in a crash, near-crash, or unintentional lane deviation are 23.2 times greater for truck and bus drivers who are texting while driving” (FMCSA). If you need to use your phone for GPS-related reasons or similar, invest in a car mount for your mobile device. Most of them run under $20, and they are incredibly convenient and efficient to use. Limiting distractions also applies to other things, such as eating or drinking. If you have to do something that requires your attention, safely pull over and take care of it.
6. Leave a cushion in front of your truck
- This is very important. Truckers know that at the size and speeds they travel, it takes a longer time to slow or stop than many drivers sharing the road with them may realize. Because of this, it is highly recommended that you leave as much room for cushion as possible. In other words, try to leave empty space between your vehicle and the road in front of you. In the event that a car in front of you suddenly hits the brakes, or there is something happening in traffic up ahead, you will need to have plenty of room in order to safely bring your truck to a stop.
7. Stay slow
- It can be frustrating when you’re running late for a load drop-off, and you’re stuck going 55 when everyone around you is going 70+. You may think that you have good enough control of your truck to slightly increase your speed on that ramp, or to merge into that faster lane. Don’t do it. It is absolutely vital for truckers to avoid speeding at all times. The danger outweighs the possible pros of getting to your destination just a little faster. Is it worth getting there twenty minutes earlier, and risking your life for it? The answer should always be no.
8. Take breaks
- It is common knowledge that for those of us on the road, fatigue is a hovering inconvenience, especially when driving at night. If you’re feeling tired, sleepy, or just unwell overall, the best thing you can do is take a break. Stop your rig and stretch for a few minutes. Eat a hot meal. Give yourself a rest. A tired or inattentive driver is much more likely to make mistakes and endanger themselves or others. Furthermore, it is bad for your health to chronically lose sleep or not eat and rest properly. Truckers work hard to make sure that their families and customers are taken care of. It is important that they do the same for themselves.