Stay Safe Out There
Although exact numbers are hard to come by, it’s estimated that there are between 2.5 and 3 million big rigs on America’s highways and interstates every day. They’re literally the wheels that keep the country running. Considering that the average over-the-road truck driver racks up somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 miles a year, that’s a lot of driving.
Considering the huge number of miles being driven, safety statistics are better than ever. Much of that it is due to improvements in highway and truck design over the past few decades. However, there is one safety factor that is more important than improved roads and equipment: the human factor.
Because the human factor is such an important part of keeping the truckers who drive our nation’s highways safe, they go to great lengths to practice safety every day, with every mile they drive. It’s a big responsibility. When you’re driving 80,000 pounds of steel, fuel and cargo down the road at 70 miles per hour, there isn’t much margin for error. It requires being constantly aware of road, weather and traffic conditions and any surprises that could be thrown their way. Having said that, what are some practices a truck driver can follow to make sure he or she is safe and doing everything possible to protect themselves and other drivers?
Take Care of Yourself
Get rest when needed and take breaks. Of course staying on schedule is important, but a leading cause of accidents for truck drivers is fatigue. Driving when over-tired can be every bit as dangerous as driving while drunk. No responsible driving professional would consider drinking and driving, but driving tired when trying to stay on schedule can be tempting.
Wear a Seat Belt
Another basic practice is to wear a seat belt. It’s something we all know and hear about all the time, but it’s still one of the most important steps drivers can take to keep themselves safe. Besides keeping drivers safe in case of an accident, it keeps a driver in a safe driving position. In case of an emergency situation that requires a quick evasive maneuver, a seat belt can stop a driver from sliding around in the seat to do what’s necessary to stay in control of the vehicle.
Be Aware of the Traffic Situations
Truck drivers need to be especially aware and alert to what other drivers are doing on the road. Most people don’t understand or appreciate what it takes to safely operate a 35 – 40 ton vehicle the size of a mobile home. That’s why it’s so important for drivers to track where traffic is moving around their truck. Trucks have a much larger blind spot area than a car. It even has its own name – the No Zone. It’s much larger than most automobile drivers realize, and when they’re passing a big rig on the right, they’re virtually invisible for long periods of time. If a truck driver hasn’t been regularly checking the mirrors and making mental notes, a simple maneuver could end in disaster.
Be Prepared for Weather
The last area to mention is how important it is to continually monitor changing weather and road conditions. Like wearing a seat belt, it’s something every truck driver is aware of. But drivers may feel pressure to keep moving, stay on schedule, or get home at the end of a long run. That’s when things can get dangerous. Traveling less than 50 miles can make a significant difference in road and visibility conditions. Drivers have to be aware of thawing and freezing on road surfaces, especially when temperatures are hovering around 32 degrees. Bridge decks may be slick when the rest of the highway is fine. Driving into rain, or a sudden cloud burst, increases the likelihood of hydroplaning.
We all depend on truck drivers to bring us the things we need to live our lives everyday, and truck drivers have families who depend on them coming home safely. Whether you’re driving a big rig down the highway tens of thousands of miles a year or driving the family mini-van on a vacation, watch out for each other and stay safe out there.
Bay & Bay Transportation, one of the largest trucking companies in Minnesota, provides transportation solutions and truck driver jobs in the Midwest and across the US.