A person is killed or injured in a motor vehicle accident involving large truck approximately every 15 minutes. Being safe on the road comes down to a lot of factors, but when you drive a truck, you’re controlling a lot of those factors yourself. Trucks have significant size, power and a longer stopping distance. Simply put, tractor trailers are dangerous and increased care is needed to keep us all safe.
The cars, motorcycles, pedestrians and bicyclists that share the road with tractor trailers are at risk for being seriously injured or killed if a truck driver is not careful. Understanding how you, as a truck driver, can avoid accidents (either causing them or just avoiding them by driving defensively) can ultimately make the roads safer for all involved. According to industry experts, here are some tips you should know for how to avoid accidents.
1. Be slow and cautious
Truck drivers may face pressure to get from point A to point B in a certain amount time. Driving slowly and cautiously is one rule that can help you avoid accidents and get to where you are going safely, and without hurting someone else. Fear of a late delivery is no excuse for hurting someone.
Of course, make sure you’re going with the flow of traffic, but don’t feel the need to go dangerously fast on highways. Being cautious is safer for your vehicle and those around you. When you drive trucks as your profession, it’s not all about the speed at which you deliver, but how safely you can do so.
2. Plan your trip thoroughly
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of accidents. Yet, it can also be easily avoided. When you’re on the road alone, it might be tempting to check your phone, GPS, physical map or other directions from a customer to ensure you’re going the right way. However, experienced truck drivers know that this is not only stressful to try to navigate while driving but also incredibly dangerous. Planning your trip thoroughly before you get behind the wheel is one of the best steps you can take to ensure that you avoid accidents and remain safe while driving.
To do this, make trip planning part of your daily routine. Fit it in whenever it feels best for you. Do you get on the road really early in the mornings? Perhaps do it at lunchtime or when you get done driving at night. Do you find you’re exhausted when you get done at night? Do it during breaks or lunchtime. Find a regular time that you can integrate every single day so that you can keep everyone safe on the road around you.
3. Talk to the people receiving your load
When you’re going to deliver, part of your planning process should always be calling the customer directly. Talking to the people receiving your load will help cut down on some of the uncertainty that can cause accidents. When you call the customer, aim to talk to the people who know the ins and outs of where you’ll be delivering.
You want to talk to the people who guide trucks in and out and can tell you how to get exactly where you want to go. Planning your trip comes down to knowing all the unexpected twists and turns that might occur. You don’t want your GPS to guide you to a residential area or somewhere that trucks don’t belong. This is how accidents happen. As great as technology is, talking to the people who have been doing this long-term will get you the information that you need faster and more effectively.
4. Do a dry run
Before you go to deliver your load with your truck, get familiar with the area you’ll be delivering to. You might feel this is a waste of time, but in the spirit of being cautious, you want to know exactly where you’ll be backing the trailer. If the first time you’re seeing the space is when you’re backing into it, you’re asking for an accident. Take your time. Get out and look at the space. Ask yourself: Where are my blind spots? Where are the obstacles in this delivery? Do I need a spotter? Don’t be so eager to deliver your load fast that you overlook necessary safety precautions.
5. Don’t become tired or fatigued
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, driver fatigue was a factor in 13% of all accidents involving large trucks. Research indicates truck drives who drive for more than 8 hours straight are twice as likely to be in an accident. Obey hours of service rules and get adequate rest. Stay safe and don’t hurt others because you are tired or pushing to get a delivery done.
6. Only trust others so much
If you’ve done all of the above to stay safe during driving, the final step is delivery. However, delivery isn’t a time to get complacent either. When you did your dry run and took a look at your delivery space, you may have evaluated some obstacles and blind spots that necessitate a spotter.
That said, accidents still happen with spotters and their presence doesn’t put you in the clear whatsoever. In order to avoid an accident, only trust your spotter so much. Chances are that your spotter isn’t watching for everything you need them to be watching for. They might be watching the back of the truck, but are they watching for overhead clearance? What about the front corners of your truck?
Spotters are useful, and you should use them when you need them, but remember that they aren’t a full-proof way to avoid an accident. Like all the other tips on this list, spotters are just one way to stay safer. Spotters can help you just like having knowledge of the space can help you. Rely on your own knowledge just as much as you rely on your spotter and only trust others so much.
Preventable accidents happen far too often in the trucking industry. The majority of these accidents can be avoided by utilizing the tips above. Slowing down and being cautious helps many drivers avoid accidents produced by excess speed—remember—you’re not the only one out on the road. Get enough rest and follow all hours of service regulations.
Planning your trip thoroughly, so you know exactly where you’re going without having to look while you’re operating a heavy vehicle is also a crucial element of truck safety. The best way to guarantee this is to integrate regular truck driving into your everyday routine. Finally, understanding the area and space you’re actually driving to also makes a significant difference for safety.
Calling the customer ahead of time to see if there’s any additional delivery information, looking at the space itself before you attempt to deliver, and using caution even while using spotters will help you minimize the chance of any incident.
If you’ve been involved in a truck wreck in Buncombe County NC or anywhere in Western North Carolina, contact the truck accident lawyers at Fisher Stark, P.A.