We’ve all heard the old saying: it’s better to be safe, than sorry. This is especially true in the trucking and transportation industry. As a driver, your personal commitment to safely operating your commercial motor vehicle (CMV) has a huge impact on others including your fleet and other road users. We’ve pulled together five tips to help you operate safely during the busy summer months.
1. Buckle Up
Seat belts aren’t just for passenger/4-wheel vehicles. Wearing a seat belt is a law for commercial motor vehicle drivers too (under 49 CFR § 392.16). Despite this, almost 20% of CMV drivers still aren’t using one!
What about passengers? It was announced in June 2016 that passengers in large commercial vehicles will also be required by law to wear seat belts. This rule is going into effect on August 8, 2016.
There are many excuses for why people don’t want to wear them: seat belts aren’t comfortable, seat belts take time to fasten, I’m not going to get into an accident, etc. If you watch this video released by the Department of Transportation (DOT), you’ll think twice about making excuses about wearing one!
2. Know Your Surroundings
As drivers of largest vehicles on the road, it’s important that you’re always aware of your surroundings – especially when looking to make a potentially difficult manuever such as turning into high traffic areas or making a lane change on a congested highway. The most recent Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) reported that 14% of large-truck crashes were caused by a CMV drivers inadequate surveillance.
Where Should You Be Looking?
- Look At Least 15 Seconds Ahead
When driving, it’s important that you’re always looking at least 15 seconds ahead of where you are. This will give you additional time to respond if the conditions ahead of you change. This 15 seconds will give you time to make an evasive maneuver if you need to avoid something or brake gradually.
- Always Check Your Mirrors
Watch for vehicles in your blind spots. Not everyone realizes how big your vehicle is or will be courteous enough to give you the space that you need. Be proactive and manage your own space. It is recommended that you check your mirrors every 5-10 seconds.
- Scan Intersections
Intersections can be a dangerous place. When approaching, it’s important to ensure your constantly scanning for changes. Remember that your reaction time in a truck isn’t a fast as it is in a small vehicle. Slowly approach the intersection, check your mirrors, and watch your blind spot for a smooth entry.
3. Drive for the Conditions
Always adjust your driving style to align with the road conditions. Excessive speed for road conditions is one of the major causes of CMV crashes. Not only does speed increase your likelihood of getting into an accident, it also increases the severity of the accident.
Driving for the conditions isn’t just for the winter (snowy or icy conditions). It also applies during the summer months. In the summer the roads are much more congested which leads to more accidents – slowdowns are unavoidable. Additionally, construction season is in full swing. Watch your speed and remember conditions can change quickly.
4. Avoid Distractions
We’ve covered this one a couple times on the BigRoad Blog as it continues to be an issue despite many marketing campaigns against it. When driving your CMV, avoid distractions and focus your attention of safely operating your vehicle.
In 2013, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that over 3,000 people were killed in distraction related accidents with an additional 424,000 injured. Additionally, a study completed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reported that truck drivers who text and drive are 23 time more likely to be in a crash or near-crash!
5. Don’t Drive When Fatigued
This is easier said than done as fatigued driving continues to be an ongoing battle in the trucking industry. The pressure drivers face to drive fatigued continues – from drivers wanting to maximize their time on the road to dispatchers pushing drivers to keep going when they know they shouldn’t. As a
driver, you can help prevent fatigued driving by:
- Taking Breaks and Getting the Rest You Need
If you’re feeling tired and unfocused, pull over and take a break. Get out of your truck and go for a walk or take a quick nap. Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep the night before you hit the road.
- Avoid Medications That Make You Drowsy
Prescription and non-prescription medication can make you drowsy, sleepy, and reduce your reaction time. If it says to avoid operating heavy machinery on the bottle, that means your truck too! You’ll also want to avoid using caffeine to boost your alertness. Caffeine may only wake you up for a short period of time before the effects wear off and you’re back in the same position. Additionally, excessive caffeine consumption can lead to other negative side effects such as nervousness and irritability.
- Eat Well
A healthy, well-balanced diet can also help you reduce fatigue on the road. Avoid skipping meals when you’re in a rush and make sure you eat something before going to bed. Avoid really heavy meals and opt for something on the healthier side. A healthy diet can help you get a better sleep, leaving you well-rested and ready to hit the road in the morning.
How BigRoad Can Help
BigRoad focuses on making the lives of drivers easier, not harder, so they can focus on the task at hand: driving. The BigRoad Mobile App helps make the roads a safer place by tracking your hours, notifying you when you need to take a break, and simplifying inspections, reporting, and logs. Give it a try today – download the BigRoad Mobile App for free!