Safety is a big concern to everyone on the road.
According to the 2018 Driver Safety Risk Report, trucking collisions cost fleets nearly $57 billion. The downtime affects everything from medical bills to vehicle repairs to lost productivity. Annual insurance rates could also increase by about a third for collisions that damage both the driver and the vehicle. Even a crash without injuries could raise insurance rates by almost a quarter.
However, less than half of all carriers use commercial truck driver safety programs to reduce the risk of road collisions and accidents.
1. Avoid distracted driving
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of road collisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 2,841 lives were lost in 2018 due to distracted driving, and over 23,000 between 2012-2018. Distracted drivers made up 9% of fatal crashes in the past seven years. Delayed driver reaction causes 90% of rear-end collisions.
Drivers can get distracted. Grabbing a bite while driving to save some time. Lighting a cigarette. Talking on the phone or texting.
Truck drivers operating larger vehicles need to be extra vigilant. These vehicles are harder to maneuver. Take longer to decelerate. And have more blind spots or “no zones.”
2. Know your blind spots
Visibility is paramount for truck driver safety and preventing road collisions. Especially when operating a large commercial vehicle, which has more blind spots than a standard passenger vehicle.
This infographic will help you understand a commercial driver’s limited visibility.
Increasing safety and awareness can save lives. Identify not only your truck’s potential blind spots but also other vehicles’. Keep lane changes to a minimum. Check your side view mirrors at least once every 10 seconds.
3. Use a dashcam to improve driver safety
Fleets of all types and sizes benefit from using dashcams. They protect their drivers from false claims. Expedite insurance processes. Increase accountability. And improve driver behavior and fleet safety.
Truck dashcams can spot other vehicles changing lanes without signaling and braking harshly, among other things.
The dashcams can be mounted on either the windshield or dashboard. They can also be single-facing or dual-facing. The important thing is that they show what really happens on the road.
Within just a few months of installing a dashcam, a driver was involved in a collision and deemed at fault. His team remotely downloaded footage from the incident and exonerated the driver.
“Footage from Motive’s Smart Dashcam exonerated our driver on the spot and saved us what could have been close to $50K in damages. From this one incident, the dashcam paid for itself.” – Rod Conrad, Terminal Manager, D&A McRae Transportation
4. Know your safe braking distance
For drivers of smaller vehicles, it might take time to get used to the much larger braking distance of a large commercial truck.
It really comes down to simple physics: The bigger the rig, the longer it takes to stop.
For example, compared to an average-sized car, it takes an 18-wheeler 40% longer to stop. A fully loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 55 mph on dry pavement will travel approximately 390 more feet in 4.5 seconds before stopping.
Fleet safety managers should ensure that drivers complete a driver training program. Create training videos or offer defensive driving techniques that compare the differences in braking distances.
Road-facing dashcam footage can also be used to identify if a driver is driving too close to a vehicle. That dashcam video can trigger a driver coaching program to remedy the problem.
5. Follow the Hours of Service rules
The Hours of Service (HOS) rules help drivers minimize fatigue and increase road safety.
Driver fatigue is a leading cause of road collisions. Adhering to your HOS limit reduces this risk. Stay in compliance by following the HOS regulations that apply to you.
6. Be aware of aggressive tailgaters
The main theory behind defensive driving is to steer clear of aggressive and reckless drivers.
Tailgaters won’t be able to safely decelerate if you have to make a sudden stop. The best way to avoid a potential accident is to switch lanes instead of accelerating. This allows the tailgaters to pass you and be on their way.
Also, remember to use your turn signals when you’re changing lanes.
7. Follow all road signs
Road signs are there for a reason. Pay close attention to road signs and local traffic rules in the area where you’re driving.
Occasionally, truck drivers go over the enforced speed limit if they’re running late or detained by a shipper or receiver.
Speeding may cause them to lose control of their vehicle. Especially when maneuvering through sudden, sharp curves; uneven surfaces; construction hazards; and other road irregularities.
8. Avoid hard braking, acceleration, and cornering
Hard braking, acceleration, and cornering are more common than you think. Drivers should avoid excessive acceleration, speeding, hard cornering, and braking to stay safe on the road.
Create driver training programs to reduce the likelihood of these incidents. These driver coaching programs can promote good driving habits and minimize critical safety events.
Following the standard CDL safety tips also helps educate drivers on the basics of commercial vehicle driving.
Fleets can also improve driver safety by using the latest technology to monitor drivers for these critical safety events. Some electronic logging devices can help simplify and automate that process.
For example, the Motive ELD solution has a driver scorecards feature. This feature automatically ranks drivers according to how safely they drive.
Drivers are ranked based on their safety scores — which are calculated on the basis of the critical safety events. Moreover, with the power of AI and DRIVE score, Motive also provides accurate context for critical safety events by considering additional factors, such as location, weather, vehicle make, etc.
With this safety score, safety managers can easily identify at-risk drivers who require immediate coaching.
Truck driver safety tips for different seasons and weather conditions
Truck drivers drive in different weather conditions, locations, terrains, and weather conditions. So far, we’ve covered general safety tips that should apply to most drivers in common conditions.
Here are some specific driving safety tips for different seasons or weather conditions.
Driver safety tips: driving in the rain
You’ll encounter rainy conditions at some point in your driving career. Sometimes very unexpectedly. Driving a car in the rain can be dangerous but driving a large commercial vehicle carries with it even more potential hazards.
Important safety guidelines during rainy conditions include:
- Always wearing your seat belt
- Keeping your lights on
- Keeping your radio on with low volume
- Changing speeds gradually
- Avoiding driving into water over the roadway
- Driving more slowly
- Increasing your following distance
- Not using your cruise control or engine brake
- Not overdriving
Driving safety tips: driving in winter
Winter driving can be beautiful and dangerous at the same time. Follow some basic guidelines when it comes to driving in the winter weather:
- Wear your seat belt.
- Before you drive, make a contingency plan to account for poor weather conditions.
- Pay attention to your dashboard warning lights. Extreme temperatures can wreck havoc on your emissions control system as well as other temperature-sensitive functions.
- Be aware of conditions that might limit your visibility. Keep your headlights on at all times if visibility is low.
- Make sure you have plenty of room between your vehicle and the others. Don’t ride alongside snow plows. Leave at least 200 feet of space between you and other snow service vehicles on the road.
- Sudden braking can be dangerous with slick road conditions. Don’t use your cruise control and make sure to avoid abrupt driving maneuvers.
- Use caution and slow down when approaching curves and intersections to reduce the chance of losing control. Icy conditions occur most often on bridges and overpasses.
- Don’t let your truck idle in cold weather. The Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) tank freezes at about 10 degrees Fahrenheit when the vehicle isn’t in motion.
- Remove ice and snow from your rooftop before driving to improve visibility.
- Make sure you have solid footing when entering and exiting vehicle cabs. Wear appropriate footwear for the weather conditions, and be aware of ice and snow on surfaces.
- If you have to stop, find a safe spot to do it. If you can’t get off of the road, make sure your truck is as visible as possible. Use your emergency triangles, cones, flashers, and a reflective vest.
- Always try to keep at least a half tank of gas during winter. Along with the correctly blended fuel, this will keep your fuel lines from freezing.
- If you find yourself in a skid, remember to turn into the skid. Depress the clutch quickly. Look in your left mirror. Steer and counter-steer as fast as you can to get back in front of the trailer.
- Keep an emergency supply of water, non-perishable food, clothes, and blankets in case of a breakdown.
- If you don’t feel comfortable driving, park your vehicle.
Driving safety tips: driving in the summer
Summers seem to be getting hotter and longer. And spending hours behind the wheel in the blistering heat can be dangerous. Your vehicle can also behave differently in extreme summer conditions.
Here are a few driving safety tips for commercial drivers to beat the heat and stay safe during summer driving.
- Keep yourself hydrated. If you’re jogging, playing golf, or simply working outside during the summer, you stay hydrated. The same goes for when you’re driving. Keep a few bottles of water or a sports drink with you while you’re driving, and remember to drink them regularly. Dehydration may lead to dizziness and a change in blood pressure level. Which may affect your driving performance and lead to accidents.
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated. When the temperature rises in the summer, the risk of blowouts increases. Tires that are under-inflated can increase that risk. So make sure you have properly inflated tires before you drive.
- Check the brakes. Check that your brakes are in good working order before driving. Remember, high temperatures often impact friction in the braking system due to extreme heat.
- Be conscious of summertime traffic. Roads tend to be busier during summer with families taking vacations. This presents even more danger than usual for truck drivers. Be extra aware of other vehicles on the road.
Driving safety tips for tow-truck drivers
While we’ve covered many safety issues for commercial vehicle drivers, we can’t overlook commercial tow-truck drivers.
Tow-truck drivers also face inherent risks in their day-to-day operations. Here are some safety tips for tow-truck drivers regarding general tow-truck safety:
- Be prepared: Before heading on the road to rescue a vehicle, make sure you and your vehicle are ready to go. Tow truck safety begins with a regular inspection of your vehicle and its equipment.
- Remember your defensive driving training: Always observe posted speed limits. Keep a safe distance from other vehicles on the road. If you have a vehicle in tow, reduce your speed even more. Extend your following distance to give you enough time to stop with the added weight.
- Be safe: Turn on your safety lights. Place down your safety cones, flares, and other markers. And make sure pedestrians and other vehicles are out of the way. Using personal protective equipment is required in many states. Make yourself more visible and safe by wearing long pants and closed-toe shoes. And don’t forget to use your work gloves and safety glasses. Remember, if you’re responding to an accident, there will most likely be broken glass, dangerous chemicals, or fuel on the road.
- Be seen: Make sure everybody knows you’re there and working by wearing your safety vest. The flashing lights and reflectors on your vehicle can also increase your visibility.
- Know your limits: Weight limits are there for a reason. To ensure safe driving, know what your vehicle is capable of handling and then decide if the job is right for you and your vehicle.
Above all, stay safe
Even though passenger vehicles are at fault in almost 85% of truck-passenger vehicle crashes, commercial drivers are more likely to be blamed. That’s why it’s important for every fleet to build a comprehensive safety program that champions the latest technology and data to keep their drivers safe.
Here’s a simple truck safety inspection checklist that drivers can review each time they take to the road:
- Obey all posted speed limits.
- Always practice defensive driving.
- Don’t use distracting devices while driving.
- Wear your seatbelt.
- Be well-rested.
- Check your vehicle before driving.
- Double-check your route and stick to it.
- Don’t drink and drive.
- Make sure you’re carrying all of your documentation.
For more information and driving safety tips, consult the CDL manual.
Learn more about how dashcams can improve fleet safety. Request a free demo of the Motive Smart Dashcam.