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5 reliable ways to remain safe while driving truck

7/18/2022

Crashes involving trucks are frequently deadly.

Nothing is more important in trucking than safety. Although rare in comparison to passenger drivers, thousands of crashes involving commercial truck drivers occur every year on the nation's highways and byways. Because trucks weigh so much more than traditional passenger automobiles — up to 30 times as much in a number of cases — the accidents that do occur are frequently deadly, more often for the other driver in crashes involving more than one vehicle. According to the most recent statistics available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, over 4,000 people were killed in large truck crashes in 2020. Of these, more than two-thirds were those in the light vehicles.

Unfortunately, these fatal crashes are happening more often. IIHS data shows the number of people who died in 2020 from these accidents was 28% higher than in 2009, when highway deaths involving commercial vehicles reached an all-time low.

With all these sobering statistics in mind, here are a few tips that are important to follow as a truck driver. They may all be things of which you're fully aware, but everyone could use a reminder:

1. Observe the speed limit
Speeding is the leading cause of accidents on both back roads as well as highways. Behind the wheel of a big rig, everything takes longer to do when you're moving along at an accelerated clip, be it adjusting the wheel to coming to a stop. And because trucks are as heavy as they are — upwards of 80,000 pounds in gross vehicle weight — it takes significantly longer to slow down compared to a light vehicle that weighs a fraction of what a single axle or tandem axle truck.

With this in mind, observing the speed limit is uniquely important to safe driving.

2. Increase your following distance
Because braking takes as long as it does, maintaining or increasing your following distance behind the vehicle in front of you is key. As recommended by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, best practice for tractor-trailer is leaving one second of space for every 10 feet of vehicle length when traveling at speeds less than 40 miles per hour. For speeds beyond 40 mph, it's two seconds per 10 feet of vehicle length.

3. Exercise caution when turning
Just as it takes more time to stop in a tractor, it takes more space to make right or left turns onto adjacent streets, especially when stopped at stop signs and intersections. Therefore, try to make those turns as carefully as possible and be mindful about when you start turning the wheel as you gently accelerate. Making sure to use your directional is also important so other drivers can react accordingly. 

4. Check your blind spots regularly
Blind spots for truck are far broader than the typical car for obvious reasons, that's why it's imperative to check your side mirrors routinely. FMCSA suggests once every 10 seconds or so.

5. Avoid distracted driving
Be it smartphones, food, beverages or navigational systems, they can all take your eyes and attention off of traffic. Keep your focus where it belongs: on the road ahead of you.

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