11 Steps To Improving Truck Driver Safety
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the fatality rate for occupants of large trucks involved in crashes rose from 0.17 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009 to 0.25 just four years later. The nearly 50 percent increase shows that this hazardous occupation is growing even more risky. However, there are several steps drivers can take to reduce their risk of injuries.
- Practice good vehicle maintenance. Check the truck's condition every morning, especially the condition of the brakes. Report any unusual conditions to the dispatcher.
- Stack cargo in low piles spread evenly through the trailer. This reduces drag on the truck and makes it easier to handle.
- Drivers should always wear seat belts. Passengers not wearing seat belts make up the majority of those killed in car accidents. Government data shows that drivers who do not wear seat belts are 25 times more likely to be killed if they are ejected from their vehicles.
- Slow down in poor weather, at night, on curves and highway ramps, in work zones, and when hauling loaded trailers. One quarter of speeding-related large truck fatalities occur when the weather is poor. Another 40 percent occur on curves, and 20 to 30 percent of large truck crashes occur on entrance and exit ramps.
- Plan out routes on unfamiliar roads in advance. Avoid making sudden corrections after missing a turn or exit, and always signal when changing lanes or turning. Statistics show that 22 percent of large truck crashes happen when drivers are not familiar with the roads.
- Drive defensively and be aware at all times of what is on all four sides of the truck. Be alert to cars that may be in the driver's blind spot. Watch for brake lights. Use caution when approaching intersections.
- Change lanes infrequently. If it is necessary to move over, do so carefully, checking mirrors and staying aware of what may be in blind spots.
- Avoid driving while tired. Get plenty of sleep before a trip, eat healthy meals, watch out for signs of fatigue, and take naps when necessary. Tricks such as turning up the radio or unrolling windows may help for a short time, but they do not solve the problem. Also, coffee takes time to provide an energy boost.
- Resist distractions. Dialing a phone, texting, using a dispatching device, reading maps, eating and drinking, and watching objects outside the truck can all divert the driver's attention and increase the risk of a crash.
- Leave plenty of distance between the truck and the vehicle ahead. Experts advise one second of driving time for every 10 feet of vehicle length, plus one extra second at speeds above 40 mph. Double that in poor weather.
- If possible, avoid driving during heavy traffic times and at rush hours.
Driving is a dangerous activity, especially when driving a loaded rig. Any driver may be prone to acting in ways that increase the hazards of driving. Following these suggestions will reduce those hazards and better protect drivers if crashes happen.
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