If there is one thing professional truck drivers dread dealing with, it is unsafe conditions. There is enough to deal with out there on the nation’s roads, from other truck drivers to passenger drivers to weather and just about anything else. So, what is a truck driver to do if they are faced with an increasing barrage of road hazards or tough weather conditions?
With the winter in America this season sizing up to be one of the coldest and most dangerous on record, keeping two eyes firmly on potential road hazards can make the difference between life or death on the road. That’s why we wanted to take a moment to bring up an important topic, road hazards, long-haul safety and preventative measures.
But first, let’s look at road hazards. The question is, what kind of road hazards must you look out for as you traverse our nation’s roads. First, let’s look at road hazards that are not weather related.
What to Look For
Road hazards don’t give you an opportunity to wait for them to move out of your way. The fact is, you must be proactive in spotting them to keep catastrophe from happening. The primary factor is maintaining control of your vehicle always.
There are specific aspects of road hazards that make them standout from one another. Whether it be a pavement drop-off or road construction, it is important to ensure you are maintaining a solid line of visibility. The last thing you need is for a road hazard to pop up out of nowhere.
Are you keeping an eye out for road debris? Whether it be a shredded tire or a construction cone, you could be putting yourself or others around you in great danger if a piece of road debris collides with your vehicle or causes an unwanted blowout.
Even simple aspects of road design can present themselves as road hazards if they are not properly navigated. Take off-ramps and speed bumps as an example. If you aren’t paying close attention to the trajectory and clearance of our vehicle, the varying heights and entry vectors that roads are built to could present a major problem.
The same goes for intersections and common streets. Consider that a road hazard does not necessarily have to be an object or aspect of road construction. It could also be something as simple as traffic or parked vehicles. If a passenger car is stalled out on the side of the road, and you aren’t paying close enough attention, you risk slamming into the car and creating a major accident.
The final aspect of potential non-weather-related road hazards lies in other people who you share the road with. Whether it be a driver who doesn’t know where he or she is going or is simply operating their vehicle in an overly aggressive manner, if you aren’t staying constantly alert to what is going on around you, this could present another accident danger.
How Long-Haul Truckers Stay Safe
While road hazards are one thing, long-haul truck drivers face other obstacles they must be constantly on the lookout for. Operating a heavy-duty commercial motor vehicle over long distances can cause problems not just with those driving around you, but also with yourself. Are you well rested? Have you been behind the wheel for too long?
When you are behind the wheel for many hours at a time, road hazards and potential driving pitfalls come in many forms. Take blind spots as one example. There are certain no-go zones on a heavy-duty commercial motor vehicle. Are you aware of yours?
The common blind spots that long-haul truck drivers should always be aware of include those in front of the cab, to the side of the cab, directly behind your cab’s side mirrors, and directly behind the vehicle itself. It is important to consider that others on the road likely aren’t aware of your vehicle’s blind spots. This is when your own awareness comes into focus.
Is someone driving too close to your vehicle? Does it appear someone might swerve into one of your blind spots? As a professional truck driver, it is your job to ensure these factors are always accounted for. While this can be frustrating for someone trying to get their freight to its destination as quickly as possible, in order to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you, these are rules that must be followed.
Consider work zones as one example. When an accident happens in a construction work zone, it is usually because a commercial motor vehicle is involved. As you enter and exit potential work zones, are you taking extra care to ensure you are operating in a manner that won’t create the potential for an accident?
As a long-haul truck driver, highway construction zones can be particularly dangerous. If you aren’t scanning the road in front of you on a near-constant basis, you may find yourself entering a work zone without a proper understanding of any potential road hazards that construction zone may present.
Road Conditions and Pedestrians
While road hazards can present themselves in the form of road design or debris, the road itself can also become a hazard if it is not properly maintained. Take bad road conditions as just one example. Whether it be from potholes or uneven lanes, not every road is built or kept up to the same standard.
It is important to not only scan the road for debris or other passenger drivers making poor decisions, but to also watch for problems with the road itself. Some states also follow different road exit and entry rules. Are you making sure you are fully aware of the road conditions and rules in the states you operate in?
Another consideration for a professional truck driver seeking to operate with maximum safety is that of those who aren’t behind the wheel at all, but are rather walking down the road. Heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles are wide, heavy, and not easily maneuverable in a quick pinch.
Whether it be adults, children, or even animals, potential hazards on two or four legs are things every professional truck driver must be on the constant lookout for. This is especially true if you operate in a regional or city environment. If you are operating your vehicle anywhere near pedestrians, make sure you slow your vehicle down enough to react if someone steps out quickly in front of your vehicle.
While you might consider it common instinct to swerve if you see someone or something in front of your vehicle, that action may lead to an even more serious accident than if you had just slowed down enough to react in a different fashion.
Driving with Prevention on Your Mind
If there is one way to ensure road hazards don’t cause a major problem for the every-day truck driver is to always have prevention on the front of one’s mind. There are plenty of preventative steps a truck driver can take to ensure they aren’t operating in an unsafe manner.
As we mentioned before when discussing how long-haul truckers can get through their run safely, no matter what type of freight they are hauling. Part of proper preventative truck driving includes proper self-care. Are you taking enough breaks and getting enough sleep? Furthermore, how focused are you on wellness?
Another preventative safety measure too few truckers consider is what to do with the vehicle when they are sleeping, loading and unloading. Ensure the vehicle is shut off, flashers are turned on, and triangles are pulled out in the case of any mechanical problems or delays.
- Using flashers if you are driving below the posted speed limit (for whatever reason).
- Signal early to ensure those around your vehicle have ample warning that you are about to make a move.
- Keep your fuel tank full during the cold winter months (like right now) to make sure water doesn’t build up in your fuel lines.
- In wintery conditions or blustery weather make sure you lower your speed.
- During rain or snow, make sure to increase your following distance.
- When driving conditions in mountainous regions become icy or treacherous, make sure you have chains on hand.
- Bridges freeze faster than roads during winter months, so make sure to take extra care when traversing them.
- Because others on the road may not be aware of your blind spots, try to minimize lane changes as much as possible.
- When you are idling, make sure to have your windows closed, which will reduce your exposure to fumes and increase your overall level of health and wellness.
We could probably spend another thousand words or so covering so many other aspects of safe truck driving and preventative safety measures, but for now, we will leave it here. Just remember, as a professional truck driver, it is your responsibility to ensure you are operating in a manner that is safe to both you and those around you on the roads. If you keep these principles in mind, you will set yourself up for a long, safe, and rewarding career as a professional trucker.