Joe Mlynek, CSP, OHST
TRUCK DRIVER SAFETY GUIDE
Truck drivers carry a great deal of responsibility on the roads. Having the right skills and knowledge to safely operate their vehicles keeps them safe and protects other motorists. While truck drivers undergo a specific exam to get their commercial driver's license, additional trucking safety and compliance training can upskill drivers to operate their vehicles with added confidence.
Trucking Safety Training
Truck drivers face unique challenges on the roads. They must drive large vehicles with care and comply with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) standards to keep everyone on the road safe. Trucking safety training focuses on the issues that professional truck drivers face and provides them with skills and defensive strategies to avoid accidents and truck-related incidents.
After completing a truck driver safety program, drivers can navigate the roads more safely. Enrolling in this training can reduce your truck driver-related risks and teach drivers how to better manage any situation they may face.
Essential topics of professional truck driver safety include:
Collisions: This area covers how to avoid crashes under various circumstances and environments.
Backing up: Drivers learn how to avoid backing, and if a driver does need to back their truck up, they are made aware of the hazards.
Following distance: The safe following distance will vary depending on the weather conditions. It's essential that truck drivers know how to measure this distance.
Bad weather: Poor weather conditions require extra care and drivers to pay attention to traction and visibility.
Lane changing: This topic covers procedures like signaling well in advance and correctly checking blind spots.
Truck Safety and Compliance Standards
If your truck drivers are traveling from one state to another, they must be aware of the rules and regulations in each state. Most states follow the safety rules and regulations implemented by the FMCSA. Having a clear understanding of the laws will keep your truck drivers safe on the roads.
While the FMCSA has many important rules that govern carrier, vehicle and driver safety, the following are essential for truck driver safety:
1. Commercial Driver's License (CDL)
A professional truck driver must have a commercial driver's license to drive a large truck. Operating a commercial vehicle like a truck requires expertise and mental and physical abilities that are tested through an appropriate exam and driving test. Business owners must also ensure that drivers don't have a history of negligence or reckless driving.
2. Driver's Log Book or Electronic Logging Device (ELD)
Truck drivers are only allowed to drive for a maximum of 11 hours following 10 off-duty hours and may not drive for more than 70 hours over eight consecutive days. The drivers record the hours worked and the miles traveled in the log book or ELD.
3. Vehicle Maintenance
Maintaining the truck is required by the FMCSA and keeps your truck drivers safe while traveling. Truck drivers need to be aware of the condition of components like tires and lighting devices and the braking system must be in working order. Cargo must be secure, mirrors and vision assistance must be available, and emergency equipment needs to be on hand.
Truck Driver Safety Issues
Education and awareness of potential safety issues help you and your drivers prepare for what may come. Safety training for trucking companies should cover concerns like:
1. Weight Limits
Federal weight limits clearly state how much weight trucks may carry. Overloading a truck, even by a small amount, makes a big difference. The regulations are in place to ensure your vehicles can safely transport their weight in any environment and weather condition. Securing the load is also important. Loose cargo is a hazard that can cause injury or accidents.
2. Speed Limit
It's tempting for truck drivers to exceed the speed limit to make deliveries quickly. Trucks are significantly heavier than motor vehicles, which makes braking at high speeds challenging. Maintaining the correct speed limit keeps truck drivers and other motorists safe.
Driving for a long time is unsafe for any driver, especially commercial truck drivers. Fatigued drivers are more likely to have an accident, which is why adequate rest and breaks are vital. Truckers must find a safe place to pull over and take a break at the first sign of fatigue.
4. Driver Distraction
Driving a large truck requires concentration. Being on the phone or texting distracts truck drivers and puts the lives of others at risk. Staying informed on the roads is essential, but drivers need to take care that telecommunications don't take their attention away from the road.
Safety Tips for Truck Drivers
Before heading onto the road, truckers need to feel comfortable and confident operating their vehicles. The better equipped they are to face the challenges on the road, the safer they can be. Safety tips include:
Always wear a seat belt: Safety starts with wearing a seatbelt. It helps prevent injuries and fatalities should an accident happen.
Check blind spots: Vehicles in a truck's blind spot aren't immediately visible. Drivers must check their mirrors every 8-10 seconds.
Consider stopping distance: Leaving a distance of up to two football fields between the truck and the car in front gives drivers enough space to stop safely.
Make wide turns: A large truck needs more space and time to make a wide turn. Drivers should carefully slow down and signal in advance to safely make a wide turn.
Always signal: Truck drivers must signal well in advance to show their intent.
Plan ahead: Being prepared can help your drivers arrive safely. They can plan their trip by looking up the weather, road conditions, detours, and height and weight restrictions.
Remain calm: Other cars may cut off your driver on the road. It may be tempting to react, but road rage never solves anything. Encourage your drivers to stay calm and create distance between themselves and the angry driver.
Prepare for emergencies: Long-distance travel is unpredictable. Drivers may encounter bad weather, a breakdown or road closures. Drivers can prepare for their trip with emergency kits, refreshments, and an overnight bag with toiletries and a change of clothes.
Do pre- and post-trip inspections: The FMCSA requires these inspections. To help protect the safety of your drivers, it is wise to enroll them in training to help them carry out these inspections thoroughly.
View Our Driver Safety Courses Today
Enrolling your truckers in a truck driver safety program helps provide them with added skills and knowledge, such as defensive driving for commercial drivers, which can decrease their risk of being in an accident. Safety Made Simple offers safety training to equip your drivers with the necessary knowledge and expertise. Check out our courses online to enroll today.