Delays, compliance, health problems, compensation, competition. The list of things truck drivers worry about goes on and on. With 150,000 people injured in truck crashes every year, focusing on safe driving is a necessity for all truck drivers.
One of the main elements of safety for truck drivers is defensive driving. Truckers spend long hours behind the wheel and face a huge variety of dangerous road situations. Since you never know what is waiting around the corner, defensive driving skills should become an integral part of a truck driver's arsenal.
What is Defensive Driving?
Defensive driving is a set of skills and techniques that help drivers come out of dangerous road situations without a collision. These skills involve knowing how to deal with bad drivers and poor weather conditions.
Defensive driving is not always about your driving skills. It involves knowing how to be ready for poor decisions made by others on the road. Learning the basics of such driving can help increase the chances of staying safe regardless of other drivers' behavior.
Leave Expectations Behind
Don't expect another driver to be smart, experienced, sober, in good mood, alert, or responsible. You have to be ready to react to another driver acting unexpectedly illogical. That involves slamming breaks, veering off the road, cutting in ahead of you, and much more. Remember, you are the only driver you can trust.
Use Signals Properly
When you are planning a maneuver, use the necessary signals to let other drivers know your intentions. Since it can take a large truck more time to complete a maneuver than a small car, start signaling well before making a turn or lane change. It's always better to annoy the other drivers with your signals than rob them of a chance to react.
Watch Weather Conditions
Roads often become dangerous before the human eye can catch any changes occurring on the surface. That's why it's vital to check the weather in advance. As it starts raining during the cold season, you need to assume that it's freezing rain and drive accordingly. When the ice starts forming on the windshield, it's best to get off the road immediately.
If the weather predicts heavy snow, you should have tire chains available, if permitted where you are driving. In case you carry a lightweight load, strong winds may also be a signal for you to stop. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration calls for exercising extreme caution in tough weather conditions and stopping the vehicle when necessary. The driver is solely responsible for the decision to stop operating a truck in hazardous conditions.
Focus on Driving
Sounds obvious, doesn't it? However, studies have shown that lack of focus is the top cause of accidents related to distracted driving.
Using a smartphone, adjusting the stereo, smoking, and eating while driving is also dangerous. It seems obvious but simply keeping your mind on the road is extremely important.
Use the GAFROW Rule
What is the GAFROW rule, you ask?! Since you are always on the lookout for dangerous drivers, you are likely to spot them before they make a bad move. Once you see such people act foolishly, use the GAFROW (Give a Fool the Right of Way) rule and yield.
It's important to realize that yielding to a poor driver is not capitulating. It's a way to keep both of you safe. Meanwhile, with road rage on the rise, by acting aggressively you don't just jeopardize your safety, but also the safety of innocent drivers and passengers.
Know your Truck’s Stopping Distance
To ensure safety on the road, you must know your truck's stopping distance. In a dangerous situation, it can help assess your options properly.
It's important to remember that the stopping distance depends on weather conditions, your speed, and many other variables, including your load. For example, when you double the speed, the stopping distance can quadruple.
While focusing on the road is vital, your eyes have to move to catch whatever is going on around the vehicle. Make sure to scan all available mirrors as often as possible. It can help you prevent dangerous situations and account for all potential hazards.
How is it possible to miss a semi-truck? More possible than you might think. Extreme weather conditions can make you virtually invisible. Meanwhile, tired/drunk/upset/newbie drivers may simply not be attentive enough. Keep your lights on, break slowly, and take wide turns to ensure high visibility to other traffic participants.
Focusing on defensive driving can help you keep yourself and others on the road safe. A truck can turn from a money-earning tool into a deadly weapon in under a second. The leading line of defense rests with your ability, as a professional truck driver, to identify, understand, and mitigate a potential disaster on the roadway.
Safety on the road is more important than the paycheck. That's why defensive driving should be on every truck driver's agenda.