The importance of semi truck safety when on the road can’t be overstated. Even without cargo, semi trailers are large, heavy and move at high speeds on crowded highways. Career drivers understand the potential consequences of an accident. From minor headaches like damaged semi trailer parts to major ones that include injury or worse, safe driving is an essential part of being a semi-trailer operator!
Whether you’re a new driver or a veteran looking to freshen up on safety basics, here are some of the most important tips for semi truck safety when on the road.
#1. Seat Belts Save Lives
It’s news to no one, but it still bears repeating: wear your seatbelt! Despite constant reminders, hundreds of truck operators are killed due to accidents while not wearing their seatbelt every year. Over 50% of fatal semi truck accidents involve rollovers. With a seatbelt, you’re 30 times more likely to survive!
Many drivers feel that the size of their truck keeps them protected. However, even at low speeds, a direct impact can stop your truck instantly, propelling you forward at the same speed you were traveling. Accidents at speeds as low as 10 to 15 mph can still cause life-threatening injuries.
#2. Be Predictable
Safe driving means maintaining your speeds and signaling lane changes early. Erratic driving in any vehicle is dangerous, but when towing a large semi-trailer, it’s important that the other vehicles around you aren’t surprised by your decisions.
It can’t always be helped – sometimes you’ll need to react to other drivers or obstructions on the road. But if you keep a majority of your driving steady and wait for clear opportunities to move between lanes, you can minimize the possibility of winding up in an accident.
#3. Pay Attention for Reckless Drivers
Being the safest driver on the road doesn’t mean much if someone else is behaving recklessly. Unfortunately, impatient drivers can try to maneuver around large trailers even when the conditions aren’t ideal – by speeding up too fast, squeezing into tight gaps in traffic or swerving from lane to lane.
While you’re only responsible for your own vehicle, focusing on defensive driving tactics can help you avoid potential accidents due to another driver’s recklessness. If you see a problematic driver, do what you can to give them space or an opportunity to pass. If they’re driving dangerously, don’t hesitate to contact law enforcement! If they speed past you, it may not be your problem anymore, but they’ll continue to be a danger to everyone on that highway.
#4. Sleep Deprivation is a Serious Risk
If you’re a long-haul driver, you’re likely no stranger to pushing yourself to stay on schedule. Drowsy driving is a serious problem that isn’t always easy to solve. Finding good sleep on the road is a challenge, so it’s important to find ways to minimize how often you drive on little sleep.
One thing to note is that you won’t always be aware of when you fall asleep at the wheel. Microsleep is a brief episode of sleep which can last anywhere from less than one second to 10 seconds. When you’re exceptionally tied but trying to focus, you may experience microsleep episodes several times over the course of minutes or hours. Microsleep episodes tend to go unnoticed and can precede cases of fully passing out at the wheel.
#5. Test Your Brakes & Safety Features Frequently
The momentum behind trailers on the road is massive. Brake technology has come a long way, but all the sensors and equipment in the world doesn’t mean you should skip pre-trip inspections and occasional brake checks along routes that have you traveling hundreds of miles.
A runaway semi-trailer can be a terrifying situation. And they can happen to anyone – even after a pre-check inspection that looks perfect! Frequent safety checks save lives!
#6. Stay Alert in Work Zones
Nobody enjoys traveling through road construction – least of all trailer operators on a tight schedule! But work zones are notorious for springing sudden traffic problems on you. Stop-and-go traffic, sudden lane shifts, unpredictable drivers and workers moving back and forth are all potential hazards.
Slowing down isn’t enough to keep you and others safe. If you’re in a marked work zone, try to increase your alertness. Keep your eyes open for accidents or other unexpected issues.
#7. Be Thorough When Securing Cargo
Great semi truck safety includes double (or triple) checking your cargo before you hit the road. Shifting cargo accounts for about 4 percent of semi truck incidents. While this may seem like a low number, it’s a preventable risk.
Load shift incidents can happen quickly and sometimes the instigating factor is outside of your control. If you have to move to avoid an accident, sudden road obstruction or slip on ice, the quick movement in your trailer could cause load shift. Properly securing your cargo before you hit the road means taking steps to avoid shift.
Whether you have a flatbed or a dry van, nothing should be moving inside the cargo area. Take the extra few minutes to double-up on tie-downs for your tarp or to reposition your cargo area and minimize the possibility of anything moving.
If you have a tank trailer and transport liquids, baffles are a critical part of keeping your liquid cargo under control. Sloshing fluids can sabotage your ability to control your trailer!
We service, repair, install, and upfit all types of trucks, vans, and trailers. Don’t know where to start? We can answer your questions and help you find what you need. Contact us online or give us a call at (801) 895-4419 to get started today!
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