Tips for Truckers to Avoid Accidents

As you head out on a delivery, keep these tips in mind so you can help to prevent a truck accident:

  1. Drive at a legal and reasonable speed. A speed limit is just that… a limit. Not a suggestion, and not a minimum. It’s the maximum speed at which you’re allowed to drive on that particular stretch of road. You’ll need to adjust your speed if you’re driving in bad weather or if there are other conditions that would make it safer to drive more slowly. You have a job to do. Getting your cargo to its destination quickly is definitely part of doing your job well. But no one benefits if you don’t get it there safely — not your employer and certainly not you.
  2. Plan ahead. Part of being a trucker is making deliveries to new destinations. Just like any driver, it’s important to be familiar with your route before you leave. Since a truck might not be able to use the same roads, entrances, exits, and underpasses as passenger cars, it’s important to get the lay of the land ahead of time if possible. A GPS is great, but it’s often not designed for the needs of a big rig. It’s also not a one-stop-shop for mapping. It’s always a good idea to check a map ahead of time and then compare with the GPS so that you have a full picture of your route. Know your bridge and trestle clearances ahead of time so that you don’t cause an accident because your truck gets stuck somewhere it can’t fit.
  3. Connect with the customer. We hear about fatal truck accidents happening mostly on highways, but every truck needs to exit a highway to get to the warehouse, retailer, or other delivery destination. Sometimes the local roads can be just as tricky to navigate (if not more so) than highway driving. Reach out to the customer or manager at your delivery location. Call ahead, let them know approximately what time to expect delivery, and ask if there are any particular road hazards or special conditions that might affect your driving. This will take an extra minute or two upfront, but it will save you hassle and potential danger when you arrive.
  4. Conduct a pre-check. Similar to planning your route, you should plan your delivery. If you’re pulling into the rear of a crowded shopping area or any other populated space, know that passenger cars might take short-cuts in places where they don’t belong. Or there could be other delivery vehicles coming and going. If you don’t have a clear sight line of where you need to go, park your truck, get out, and look at where you need to be and how you’re going to get there. This can prevent you from blind-siding another car, rolling your truck, or even hitting a pedestrian.
  5. Rely on your spotter, but only to a point. Having a spotter is helpful in a lot of situations. But remember that, often, the spotter is only watching one part of the truck. Maybe they’re looking for overhead clearance and not the front right corner. Or maybe they’re watching the back end of the trailer and not checking for overhead clearance. The spotter is just one person, so you need to also be watching all of the points yourself. Again, if you need to get out of the driver’s seat to get a visual, then do so. Better safe than sorry.
  6. Follow the rules about driving hours, and get plenty of sleep. There are strict regulations about how many hours you can be behind the wheel, the number of breaks you need to take, and the amount of hours you need to sleep. These might be the most important rules you follow as a truck driver. A drowsy driver is a dangerous driver. You have quotas to fill, deliveries to make, and deadlines to meet. It’s not an easy job, and doing it well means being efficient. But it’s important to be efficient in ways that don’t cut corners on your sleep times.
  7. Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It’s tempting for some weary truckers to use amphetamines or cocaine as stimulants while driving, But this is not a safe solution to driver fatigue. When you use these drugs to stay awake unnaturally, it raises your likelihood of taking risks like speeding, unsafe lane changes, or other poor maneuvers. Plus, you’re actually more likely to fall asleep at the wheel when the stimulants wear off.
  8. Stay focused. Just like any driver, you need to avoid distracted driving. Never send or read a text message while driving, or perform any task other than driving. Follow the same rules as any other driver — plan your radio station, playlist, or other entertainment before you leave so you’re not searching for something on your phone or on the radio while behind the wheel.
  9. Know your vehicle. You must have a valid CDL (commercial driver’s license) in order to drive a truck. It’s important that you’re familiar with the type of vehicle you’re driving, how it operates, and how to know if something’s wrong. Maintenance issues are a common cause of truck accidents. Brake failure, broken cargo restraints, and steering problems can mean tragedy on the road. Know when a noise or rattle can be an indicator of a maintenance concern that needs to be addressed.
  10. Know what you’re hauling. It seems like common sense to know what’s in the truck you’re driving, but if you’re an independent contractor or you work through an employment agency, you might drive for different companies every day. However, it’s crucial that you know what to do if there’s an emergency and you’ve got a truck full of hazardous material. Even a minor accident can become a big problem if you’ve got cargo that includes substances that are harmful if released into the air or water.