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Driving a Big Rig: Eight Safety Tips for Truck Drivers

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Zachary Shewmaker

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The American trucking business is a multi-million dollar industry. According to the American Trucking Association, trucking collected $726.4 billion in gross freight revenues, which makes 81.5 percent of the nation's freight bill in 2015.

Unfortunately, thousands of trucking accidents take place in the United States every year. According to a report published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 342,000 large trucks were involved in road crashes in 2013, killing 3,964 and injuring almost 95,000 people. When in an accident, trucks usually cause huge property damage and serious injuries due to their massive size.

Driving a big rig requires a great deal of skill. It also involves a huge responsibility for the safety of others as well as the truck driver. Here are eight safety tips for big rig drivers that can keep you safe on the road:

1. Be Aware of Your Truck's Blind Spots

Truck drivers' blind spots are areas around the truck where the driver does not have a clear view of nearby objects. Although truck drivers are higher off the ground, they still have serious blind spots. These blind spot areas include the side directly in front of the cab, area right behind the truck, and along each side, especially on the right side.

Most car and bike drivers are not aware of these blind spots, which can be quite frustrating for truck drivers. Unfortunately, there is nothing a trucker can do if the other driver stays in his/her blind spot. So, other drivers on the road should stay out of these blind spots to avoid a fatal collision. Nonetheless, truck drivers should also take precaution when changing lanes and taking a turn.

2. Plan Your Trip in Advance

Knowing the terrain, traffic, and weather conditions along your route can help you plan your trip well in advance. When planning your trip, make sure to avoid routes with a higher likelihood of accidents. In short, you should avoid hilly or mountainous terrains and roads with frequent stop signs, where you may have to face long lines of impatient drivers. Avoid driving at peak hours. More traffic means higher chances of an accident.   

Bad weather is arguably the biggest safety threat to a trucker. Make sure to check the latest weather reports before starting your trip. If necessary, check the reports as frequently as you can when traveling. There are numerous weather websites as well as mobile apps offering regular updates of local weather conditions. You should also be aware of weight restrictions on bridges and height clearances under bridges and through the tunnels on your route.

3. Perform Pre-Trip Inspections

Drivers are supposed to conduct a thorough check of their truck, trailer, and the load before starting a long haul. Nonetheless, a pre-trip inspection, even for a short trip, is necessary for your safety. Check for oil or coolant leaks running down the side of the engine. Carefully inspect shock absorbers, ball joints, and kingpins for wear and proper lubrication.

Circle-check the vehicle to make sure all lights on the truck and trailer are working properly. Look over the entire vehicle for body damage. Make sure that vital parts such as engine, electric system, wipers, steering wheel, brakes, tire pressure, landing gear, and crank handle, among others, are functioning properly. Carry out repairs immediately. Click here to read about the most commonly overlooked pre-trip inspections.

4. Avoid Improper Loading

The importance of avoiding improper loading can't be stressed enough. It is the leading cause of truck accidents. Improper loading can cause a truck to tip over, especially around sharp turns and curves. It can also lead to a mechanical failure, bringing the truck to an abrupt halt.

The heavy load can also fall off the truck on the road, resulting in an accident. This is particularly dangerous if the truck is carrying hazardous cargo such as chemicals, metals, and highly inflammable products.

5. Change Lanes as Infrequently as Possible

Changing lanes too frequently can increase the chances of an accident. When changing lanes, move over slowly and carefully. Make sure to check your mirrors and blind spots to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. Avoid changing lanes around curves or turns and during heavy traffic.

The legal and financial consequences of a truck accident can be devastating. If you are in a truck accident, contact a local lawyer specializing in truck accident law as soon as possible. For example, if the accident took place in Albany, you should contact a Georgia truck injury attorney immediately to seek proper legal advice.

6. Avoid Drowsy Driving

It is better to pull over and take a nap if you are feeling tired. Driver fatigue is a major cause of truck accidents. The bottom-line is that your drowsiness can contribute to an accident. So, make sure to get a good night's sleep before going for a long haul. You should also take regular breaks during the trip. In fact, according to the new hours-of-service safety regulations, truck drivers are required to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

7. Drive Cautiously around Curves

Truck drivers should remember to slow down around curves and turns. A truck can easily tip over when taking a turn without maintaining a proper speed. Speed limits posted on curves and ramps are mostly meant for cars and light vehicles, certainly not for trucks. So, make sure to drive slower than the recommended speed limit. Drive with extra care at night, especially in tight maneuvering situations.

8. Use a Trucker's GPS

Compared to car drivers, truckers have to face several driving challenges such as height, weight, and hazardous cargo restrictions, etc. Relying on a personal GPS can be potentially dangerous for truck drivers. A personal GPS will choose the shortest route without identifying truck-restricted roads. A trucker's GPS, on the other hand, can provide a comprehensive analysis of your route with detailed truck-specific mapping data.

Sadly, truck accidents are a common occurrence in the United States. Because of the massive size of the commercial vehicles, truck accidents can be much more devastating than normal car crashes. A truck accident usually involves fatalities, severe injuries, traffic jams for long hours, and thousands of dollars in property damage. Big rig drivers are skilled and patient, but still are required to exercise extra precaution to avoid potentially dangerous collisions. These eight safety tips can keep truck drivers, as well as others, safe on the road.

 

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