Driving a big rig may be one of the top ten most dangerous jobs, but the trucking industry is the lifeblood of America. Without truckers and their rigs out on the road, life as we know it would quickly grind to a halt. While only sixteen percent of on the road accidents involving truck drivers are found to be the fault of the trucker, with a little precaution and a lot of common sense you can increase your chances of not becoming a statistic. Use our quick 'truckers safety checklist' to make sure you're ready to get behind the wheel of your tractor and start hauling.
Trucker Safety Checklist
You are the most important piece of equipment that you work with day in and day out. Take care to follow these easy steps to ensure that your company's most irreplaceable piece of equipment, you, stays in top condition.
Comfortable Clothes – Tight clothes can hinder the circulation of your blood through your body and this can lead to a host of health problems, some of which can creep up while you're hauling. Avoid tight belts and opt for suspenders. Stay away from skinny jeans. Keep comfortable, loose fitting clothes and supportive shoes on and bring a pair to change into.
Well-Rested and Well-Fed – Make sure you're doing the most important pretrip check: the check on your health. Make sure that you're well-rested and eating properly so that you can avoid distractions from driving tired and hungry!
3-Points Rule – Always keep three points of contact between you and the truck at any time while climbing in or out. Never jump from the cab to the ground, especially if you've been driving for a long distance!
Use All Available Tools – If you're responsible for unloading your vehicle don't be 'macho'. Make sure that if you feel a load is too heavy that you find the proper equipment to assist in unloading. Don't try to move it yourself.
Your pretrip inspection is a crucial part of keeping yourself and your equipment safe on the road. Don't skip steps and feel free to add anything that you have learned, from experience, should also be checked!
Cab Comfort – Make sure that the steering wheel, seat and backrest are comfortable for you. Make sure you have room to move and that you have adjusted everything so that you can avoid cramps or muscle aches.
Complete a comprehensive pretrip checklist on all your equipment!
Cargo – Load your cargo carefully. Try to avoid stacking cargo in tall stacks and instead go for shorter stacks evenly spread throughout the trailer. It'll help with your fuel costs!
Before You Pull-Out
While many of these are the same precautions you should take before you get behind the wheel of any vehicle, behind the wheel of a semi-truck they can be even more deadly if they cause an accident. Worse, if one of these causes you to be at-fault for an accident you could lose your ability to do your job!
Buckle Up – More than 40% of crash-related deaths annually are caused by not wearing your seat belt, yet studies have shown that one out of every six truckers doesn't wear their safety belt!
Don't DUI – Avoid medications, alcoholic beverages and narcotics that can impair your ability to drive. If you're taking medications with side-effect warnings be sure you know how they influence you before you try driving!
Plan Ahead – Check the traffic along your route. Google Maps offers a traffic projection option that lets you see what the average traffic is in a location at any given time of the day. Taking steps to avoid traffic can help decrease the likelihood of ending up in a traffic accident.
Know the Weather – Like with traffic, knowing the weather along your route can help you be prepared for any challenges along the way such as snow, heavy rains, and high winds.
On the Road
Even with prep before your tires hit the highway, you want to make sure you follow some simply, mostly common sense, ideas while on the road to stay safe!
Avoid Distractions – Put away your cell phone, set your GPS and do a couple minutes of meditation before your truck rolls onto the roadway. Any distraction while behind the wheel is just a recipe for disaster. If you must answer the phone while driving be sure to use an ear piece or speaker phone function and if you must make a call use your voice activated or one-touch dialing.
Stop for Breaks – It's not just good for you, it's good for your truck! Take a moment to pull over, get out and walk around your truck to make sure everything still looks good. This change of posture also gets your blood flowing again which helps with road fatigue.
Watch Speed – Always follow the speed limit, especially if there is a speed posted for trucks!
Slow Down – Don't overdo with on-ramps, off-ramps and turns. It's always better to be cautious than to have an accident, tip or spill. This is especially true at night where it is more difficult to see obstacles! You'll save more time using a little caution and slower speed than you will rushing off and ending up in a ditch!
Minimize Lane Changes – Pick a lane and stick with it for as long as possible. The less zig-zagging on the road the less chance for another driver to cut you off, be in your blind spot, and cause problems.
Big City Lanes – Avoid being in the far right lane when coming into a city. Many drivers seem to have forgotten, or never learned, how to properly merge onto the freeway. Avoid the entire mess by being in the second lane so that merging traffic doesn't have to fight you and won't be hiding in your blind spot. Move back into the slow lane once traffic has thinned and you're out of the city limits.
Give Yourself a Cushion – Just like when driving your car, you want to have enough space between you and the car in front of you to stop.
Watch for Work Zones – Work zones are full of hazards with everything from big machines to people wandering the road way. Reduce your speed and drive with caution.
Park and Check Before Delivery– Don't just pull in to a new delivery location. Park, if able, down the street and inspect the delivery location on foot first. This is especially important if you've never visited a delivery spot before. Most accidents happen while backing up, and being aware ahead of time of the obstacles at the delivery site can save a lot of headache.
Difficult Driving Tips
If you are headed into difficult weather use these tips to stay safe.
Use winter tires or chains if the weather will be below 45 degrees to improve traction. Be aware of state laws regarding chains and winter tires.
Pull off the road if snow becomes severe. DO NOT stop on the shoulder, especially if visibility is low!
If you find yourself hydroplaning DO NOT apply the brakes; take your foot off the accelerator and push in the clutch.
If your truck is touched by a downed power line DO NOT get out, stay inside and call for help.
Keep both hands on the wheel during a severe thunderstorm watch. Severe thunderstorm watch can mean hail and winds up to 58 MPH. These storms can last up to an hour.
Tornado Watch means that tornados may develop and you should be prepared to take cover, however Tornado Warning means a tornado has been spotted and you should take cover IMMEDIATELY. Do not stop under bridges or in tunnels and stay low to the ground.
When ascending a mountain pass you should keep track of your RPM's, and downshift so that you maintain enough pull to keep from stopping or shifting gears constantly.
When descending a mountain pass use a lower gear than you did on ascension and if your foot brake fails keep both hands on the wheel, look for a runaway truck ramp, keep your truck as straight as possible, and prepare for quick deceleration.
We here at There and Back Logistics want you to stay safe out there on the road! We realize that trucking isn't just a job, it's a career and it comes with challenges all its own.