A Complete Guide to Safe Truck Driving

Strong Tie Insurance January 18, 2021 Our Blog

As everyone in the industry knows, truck driving is a dangerous profession. Big rigs are hard to maneuver, breaking can take the length of a football field, and accidents with an 80,000-pound commercial vehicle don’t fare well for anyone involved. Add the long hours, sleepless nights, and endless roads that can turn the best driver into a road-weary shadow of their former self, and trouble is evident.

The sad statistic is that 500,000 truck-related accidents occur every year in the U.S.

The good news is that there are steps truck drivers can take to help ensure their safety as well as their fellow drivers. Let’s take a look at the seven essential safety tips for truck driving.

#1 Maintain the Right Distance From the Car in Front

As part of a truck driver’s defensive driving skills, this is one of the most important. The general guideline is that for every 10 mph, the truck driver should add the length of their truck to the car they’re following.

For a truck going 50 mph, that’s five lengths of the truck that should be between their truck and the car in front of them. That’s a lot of room. The reason for all this room is that trucks travel quite a bit of distance after the brakes are applied.

It’s estimated that a fully loaded tractor-trailer, traveling 60 mph, needs about 370 feet to stop. For comparison, a football field is 360 feet: this just goes to show you how stringent defensive driving safety rules actually are.

#2 Watch Out for Blind Spots

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), almost 840,000 accidents that occur every year in the U.S. are due to blind spots, with most of these occurring when changing lanes. Truck blindspots, also known as no zones, are notorious.

In fact, a trucker has four no zones: directly in front of the cab, on either side, and directly behind the truck’s trailer for around 30 feet. While car drivers should be aware of a truck driver’s no zones and stay out of them, not all drivers are conscious of the potential dangers.

There are, however, a few steps a driver can enacct to help reduce the dangers. These include installing extra mirrors on each side of the hood and the passenger side, making sure mirrors are positioned correctly before departing, and installing back-up sensors, fish-eye mirrors, and wide-angle cameras.

Automotive Fleet magazine reported that the average annual accident rate for commercial fleets is about 20%, and the average cost of a fleet vehicle accident is around $70,000. Ensure you and your truck drivers are covered with comprehensive commercial insurance.

#3 Check Weather Reports

Driving in a torrential downpour with 40,000 pounds of weight behind you can be a recipe for disaster for even the best truck driver. Check the weather report on a regular basis and try to avoid dangerous driving conditions whenever possible.

Of course, it’s also true that unpleasant weather conditions can’t always be avoided. In any case, checking reports beforehand is a safety step drivers always need to follow before heading out to drive the road.

#4 Complete a Pre-Trip and Post-Trip Inspection

Truck inspections are required by DOT, but they can be performed in haste when there are 1,000 miles left to travel. Take pictures of any inspection issues—and if you work for a fleet, make sure to forward them to the management team.

Conducting a pre- and post-trip inspection is important for all vehicles, no matter how new. As mentioned in the previous tip, the unexpected can happen while on the road: it’s common sense to make sure all vehicles are in great shape so that accidents may be avoided.

The team should arrange repairs to ensure driver safety of both their truckers and other drivers on the road. Blown tires are the number one reason for trucking accidents, and you can avoid them with proper care. Make sure your commercial insurance covers these types of accidents.

#5 Stay Healthy and Get Rest

Of all the driving safety tips, this one is often the most challenging. Eating healthy while on the road may require some planning.

Fortunately, today’s health-conscious consumer has made it a little easier. More convenience stores are stocking salads, fruit, and vegetable snacks than ever before. Quick energy bars without loads of sugar are also accessible.

It’s easy to reach for a sugary snack or drink when tiredness descends. However, your best bet is to stop for a quick cat nap: not only will you be able to keep safe while getting some shut-eye, but you can also avoid harming other vehicles on the road when your mind starts getting groggy.

Doing a great job as a trucker isn’t just about getting the cargo delivered in time—it’s also about placing safety as the key priority while on the job.

#6 Avoid Distractions

Let’s face it, truck driving is hard work. As the miles add up across the long distance, it’s easy to let the mind wander. However, there are some driving safety tips to help drivers stay safe on the road and limit distractions while spending hours on the road.

A study conducted in 2009 found that nearly three-quarters of all commercial vehicle accidents occurred due to driver distraction.

Make sure the GPS maps are adjusted before heading out. A GPS designed for truck driving is particularly helpful: these offer vital information such as traffic reports and which exits to take.

Always check that your cell phone is on or on “do not disturb”. Besides being a major cause of accidents, cell phone laws vary by state.

In some states, commercial vehicle drivers will receive a general citation for violating federal laws regarding the use of cell phones when driving. In others, a driver can lose their commercial license.

Truck drivers violating cell phone use while driving face federal fines up to $2,750 for each offense. Commercial vehicle companies that allow drivers to use handheld cell phones may face fines as high as $11,000.

Other distractions include the use of a portable data terminal while driving. These dispatching devices are invaluable, but should not be used when driving. One minute with the eyes off the road can lead to an accident.

Another safety tip to limit distractions is to save replenishment for when you’re not driving. Eating and drinking require taking a hand off the steering wheel and focusing on another task, risky business in a semi.

#7 Be Aware of Speed Limits

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association reports that the highways with the same speed limit for trucks and cars are the safest. Differential speed limits can lead to more exchanges between trucks and cars, including dangerous passing.

Unfortunately, not all states agree. Several have laws in place that reduce the maximum speed for truckers.

Whether a trucker agrees with the speed limit or not, it’s important to stay within the limits. Curves are a major concern and taking them too fast can lead to a jackknife accident.

Another important driver safety tip is to reduce driving speed when road conditions worsen, as this allows drivers to keep control of their vehicles.

Trucking Safety Starts With the Right Insurance

Driving a truck is serious business, and at the end of the day all we can do is ensure preventative safety measures are in place to avoid the worst from happening.

Make sure a commercial insurance plan is in place to protect drivers and trucks. At Strong Tie Insurance, we understand the risks drivers and fleet managers face.

For this reason, we’ve developed a commercial truck insurance program that meets all your needs while saving money. We also guide you through the process of filing a truck insurance claim. Call Strong Tie Insurance for a no-obligation quote today.