According to the U.S. Department of Labor, driving a commercial truck is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Truckers suffer more work-related injuries and fatalities than most other workers in the country do, and those numbers have been rising in recent years.
Unfortunately, when a trucker is injured on the road, the safety of other motorists is threatened as well, and truck crash injuries are among the most serious that vehicle accident victims can sustain. Some tips for safe commercial truck operation are discussed below.
Safe Driving Suggestions for Truckers
In general, it’s vital for truck drivers to be extremely vigilant about obeying traffic laws. They should also bear in mind the important differences between driving a passenger car and driving a large commercial vehicle. A competent and conscientious truck driver will be well aware of the following safety practices when operating their rigs.
Awareness of Road Conditions
Truckers should adjust their speed and driving techniques according to weather and road conditions. Wet or icy road surfaces increase the chances of an accident for all motorists, so it’s essential to slow down and stay focused on safety in bad conditions.
Preventing Distracted Driving
Commercial drivers are more prone to distraction today than they have been at any time in history. Cell phones, radios, laptops, tablets, GPS devices, food, beverages, or cigarettes can easily divert a driver’s eyes and attention from the road and nearby vehicles, increasing the chances of an accident. Commercial truckers are prohibited from texting while driving and restricted to one-button dialing when making a call.
The number of consecutive hours a trucker may spend behind the wheel before stopping to rest is limited by Federal regulations. Commercial drivers should always get sufficient rest between trips and never drive when they’re fatigued, drowsy, or taking medication that makes them tired. The use of alcohol or drugs before driving is strictly prohibited.
Obeying Speed Limits
A semi-truck is harder to handle than a car. For this reason, truck drivers should never exceed the speed limit or drive faster than is safe for road and weather conditions. A fully loaded big rig can weigh up to 80,000 pounds (as compared to a normal passenger vehicle of 4,000 to 5,000 pounds) and has a much longer stopping distance than a car does. Driving too fast makes it even harder for a truck to stop if there’s an accident or hazard on the road. Rear-end and underride accidents can occur if a vehicle in front of a speeding truck slows down or stops suddenly.
Checking Blind Spots
The height and length of a tractor-trailer create very large blind spots around the truck. If it changes lanes with an unseen car in one of its blind spots, an underride or other accident can easily occur. More than 800,000 blind spot crashes take place yearly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). To prevent such mishaps, truckers should not only check their mirrors frequently but should also look out their windows and over their shoulders for nearby cars before passing or merging.
Making Turns Carefully
An 18-wheeler makes very wide turns and needs lots of space to do so. A smaller vehicle “trapped” in the angle created by the cab and the trailer could be invisible to the trucker and end up overridden by the trailer, with disastrous results. Truckers should be extremely careful and cognizant of other vehicles when making wide turns.
Observing Basic Safety and Maintenance Practices
Truckers should always wear seat belts, use their turn signals when turning or changing lanes, use their emergency flashers when driving slowly up steep grades, and make sure all their lights and reflectors are intact and functional. Trucking companies are also responsible for maintaining vehicles properly for safe operation on the roads.
Under ideal conditions, a trucker should stay far enough behind a vehicle ahead to allow three seconds to elapse before the truck reaches the spot the other vehicle has just passed. That length of time should be increased to five seconds on wet roads or in high winds and to ten seconds where there is ice or snow on the road surface. Tailgating a smaller vehicle can result in disastrous rear-end accidents.
Have You Been Hurt in a Virginia Truck Crash?
While most truck drivers are conscientious professionals who operate according to the suggestions above, there are others who ignore traffic laws and safe driving guidelines, sometimes causing serious accidents. If you’re injured by a negligent trucker, an experienced truck accident attorney can help you seek fair compensation for your damages. Contact us online or call us at 540-341-0007 to schedule your free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.