Trucking is both one of the most crucial jobs in America and, unfortunately, one of its most dangerous.Time Magazine ranked truck driving number 8 on its 2014 list of the ’10 Most Dangerous Jobs’. To make matters worse, too many drivers on the highways do not alter their driving skills, when driving in poor weather conditions, on snow-covered or icy roads.
To keep you aware and moving, as we roll into this wintry season, here’s a list of truck driver safety pointers perfect for both drivers new to their vehicles and savvy pros looking for a quick refresher.
1.) BE PREPARED
It’s important to be ready for whatever you run into. Make sure you pack:
- warm clothing
- A flashlight
- A blanket
- food and water
- A bag of sand or salt and extra windshield washer fluid
- A windshield scraper
- Jumper cables
- Tire chains or traction mats
- Maintain at least a half tank of gas at all times during the winter
2.) DO YOUR PRE-TRIP INSPECTIONS
Professional drivers are required to inspect their vehicles before every trip. We do a visual, hands-on inspection and check all important items, including tires, wiper blades and fluid and lights. Check your vehicle often to make sure everything is running correctly before heading out.
3.) SLOW DOWN
Many accidents occur because drivers are going too fast for road conditions. A slower speed gives you more time to react if something occurs. Extra patience and care for other drivers can help a lot.
4.) GIVE YOURSELF EXTRA SPACE
Allow for more room between yourself and other vehicles. You should always have enough space and time to move out of harm’s way.
5.) HOLD YOUR STEERING WHEEL FIRMLY
Sudden, sharp moves can quickly cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Keep your vehicle steady through ruts in the road, heavy wind and on ice.
6.) WATCH FOR BLACK ICE
Black ice is a dangerous road condition. It is a thin layer of transparent ice that forms when the temperature is close to freezing and sometimes makes the road look slightly wet. It is difficult to spot, so when the temperature gets close to freezing, look for clues:
- Ice build-up on mirror arms, antenna or the top corners of the windshield
- The spray from tires on vehicles in front stops
7.) BRAKE AND ACCELERATE LIGHTLY
Try not to do anything forcefully in bad weather. When you need to slow down quickly in slippery conditions, try lightly pumping your brakes. This reduces your chance of locking your tires and spinning out of control.
If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), press and hold the brake down as far as possible in an emergency. The ABS prevents the wheels from locking, enabling you to steer around obstacles.
8.) BE CAREFUL ON BRIDGES
Elevated structures, such as bridges and highway overpasses, usually freeze first, and many are not treated with ice-/snow-melt materials (salt, sand) like the rest of the road. I’ve seen many vehicles traveling fine on the highway, but as soon as they get on a bridge, they spin out of control. Bridges often have black ice.
9.) OBEY TRAFFIC CONTROL DEVICES
A simple, yet effective tip. Safety authorities post this information for a reason. I’ve seen many drivers get into trouble just by ignoring a sign.
10.) IF STUCK, STAY IN YOUR TRUCK!
If you get stuck in a bad storm or blizzard and you can’t see a close place to seek assistance, stay put! It’s easy to get confused in a bad storm, and you may get lost.
This is a time to use those supplies mentioned in Tip 1. You should also keep moving to stay warm. To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation. Run your engine for only 10 minutes each hour.
11.) IF CONDITIONS LOOK BAD, GET OFF THE ROAD.
Don’t push your luck. Use your best judgment. Listen to weather reports and warnings and react appropriately. This tip can help you avoid having to use Tip 10.