How to be a Safe Commercial Driver

Commercial drivers command far more responsibilities on the road than the average driver. Due to the nature of commercial driving, drivers must concentrate fully on the road at all times. On top of hauling massive and sometimes dangerous loads, commercial drivers must deal with various weather conditions, other motorists, and wildlife. One mistake could prove fatal for all parties involved. To aid commercial drivers in driving safer, here are some safety tips.

Tailgating

Tailgating with an average sized sedan is ill-advised. Tailgating with a commercial vehicle is downright foolish. As a commercial driver, you have to learn to be patient. Never tailgate under any circumstances. You should always maintain the proper spacing with the vehicle you’re following. Studies have shown that most accidents involving commercial vehicles occur due to a tailgating incident. Always remember, the bigger the vehicle the harder it is to pump the brakes and stop.

Signaling

Give motorists plenty of time to move out of the way when you’re ready to merge lanes. Signaling early is a good way to let everyone around you know which direction you intend on heading. Don’t worry; if your truck is big enough people will get out of your way.

Minimize lane changes

Commercial vehicles are large and have plenty of blind spots. Thus, you should keep your lane changes to a minimum. Your side mirrors will play a huge role in eliminating blind spots if they’re set properly. It’s practically impossible to eliminate every blind spot for massive trucks, but setting your side mirrors properly will give you the coverage and visibility that you need to drive safely.

Give yourself time to slow down

Commercial vehicles are high in mass and take longer than most vehicles on the road to come to a complete stop. Always give yourself sufficient time to brake (even if that means driving significantly under the speed limit). Most motorists aren’t aware of how long it takes for large commercial vehicles to stop, so you should use your brake lights as early as possible. If you’re driving below the posted speed limit for an extended period of time, you should use your flashers.

Idling

Big trucks put out large amounts of fumes when idling. If you must idle the truck, always keep your windows up to avoid overexposure to fumes. You should never idle your truck when sleeping, loading or unloading.

Mechanical problems

Inevitably, you’re going to run into mechanical issues at one point or another. If you’re forced to pull to the side of the road, highway, or interstate, you should always warn other drivers. You can do so by using your flashers, reflective triangles, or even road flares. This will let drivers know to give you enough space to fix what needs to be fixed so that you can get your vehicle up and running once again.

Tire chains

You should always have tire chains at the ready, especially if your route takes you into a mountainous region. Tire chains allow you to maintain traction or wet and slippery roads.

Winter Safety Tips

Despite the obvious reasons for maintaining adequate diesel during any season, it’s a good idea to maintain a full tank as often as possible during the winter months to avoid water condensation building up in the fuel lines. While on the subject of winter driving, commercial drivers should make it a point to drive below the speed limit in winter conditions. This will give the driver sufficient time to brake, merge, or pull to the side of the road in a safe manner. You should put extra space between yourself and other motorists during the winter and exercise extreme caution when approaching bridges. In many cases, bridges tend to freeze faster than roads and can make it extremely difficult to locate black ice.

Work Zones

Work zones/construction zones tend to be dangerous because of one major issue; speeding drivers. Drivers who are speeding have less time to swerve or avoid an unwary worker. This goes double for commercial vehicles as it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to turn fast enough to avoid a worker. As many as one-third of all fatal work zone traffic incidents involve big rigs. Also, you can lose your commercial drivers license if you’re cited speeding in a work zone.

Take care of yourself

In many cases, accidents involving commercial vehicles have less to do with the vehicle itself, and more to do with the driver. Take plenty of breaks while driving. This is especially the case when driving cross-country as this will keep you alert. Eye-fatigue is a sign that it’s time to take a nap. It’s far better to arrive at your drop off point late as opposed to getting into an accident because you were too tired to operate your vehicle properly. Finally, you should adhere to commercial driver hour restrictions. The law states that drivers can’t drive more than 11 hours at a time. Nothing beats a good night’s rest, even a cup of coffee. If caught violating this law you could risk your career as a truck driver.

Finding work as a truck driver

The lifeblood of the United States economy is the trucking industry. If you’re looking to receive a job as a commercial driver, there are thousands of trucking companies with apprenticeship programs across the country to get your foot into the door. There are plenty of jobs to choose from:

Receiving the best training

There are plenty of trucking jobs with training. After all, these companies don’t want to be sued if their drivers are involved in too many accidents. Truck driver trainers are numerous in number, but it’s best to research your local area to find one near you. If you’ve been out of the truck driving game for a while and you’re looking to get back in, there is a ton of trucking companies with refresher courses that you can take. Trucking companies that offer a refresher course aren’t difficult to find. A quick online search will get you on track quickly enough.

What you can expect to find from the best training programs:

Trucking jobs training isn’t something to take lightly. As this article should have made quite evident, commercial drivers have far more responsibilities on the road than average drivers and training properly will make you that much more effective as a good truck driver.

Commercial Truck Driver Schools

There are a number of great driving schools to choose from, throughout Canada, including:

Flatbed Trucking

In terms of safety, flatbed trucking can be more dangerous than most forms of commercial driving due to its lack of sides or roof. Due to its large bed, flatbed trucking is best for hauling massive or irregularly shaped cargo. There are plenty of flatbed leasing options that are available for those who are interested in driving a flatbed truck. Local flatbed jobs aren’t difficult to find, especially if you live near a transportation hub.

Military driving jobs

If you’re thinking of joining the armed forces, there are plenty of military trucking jobs available. In fact, the United States Armed Forces owns and operates over 50,000 heavy trucks and buses. There are even private companies who receive funding for military apprenticeship programs. For those who have already served their time in the military, there are also veteran trucking jobs available.

Dry Van

Dry van trucking is one of the most popular methods of shipping because it can be used to move a wide variety of goods (i.e., electronics, manufacturing, consumer goods, entertainment, health & beauty, and cleaning products to name a few). As a dry van driver, you’ll likely be hauling a significant amount of goods, thus driving safely should be your top concern the moment you pull away from the yard. Dry van trucking jobs are among the most common across the country because goods, such as those already mentioned, are moved by the tens of thousands every day. Check with your employer to look into dry van leasing options.

Team drivers

We’ve talked briefly about the dangers of fatigue on the road and why you should stick to the 11-hour rule. However, if you want to eat up more miles on the road while sharing the burden of driving long distance with a partner, you might want to consider team driving. Driving teams consist of two people who swap out shifts when driving the same truck. That means the truck keeps moving day and night because one driver would command the day shift and the other would have the night shift. Good team driver trucking companies try to match drivers with a compatible partner. After all, you’ll be stuck together for countless hours. This is why many driving teams consist of spouses. Team driver pay, however, is one of the downsides of driving with a partner. As you might have guessed, all earnings are split down the middle 50/50. So even if you drive more miles and earn more money than a single truck driver, you’ll still individually (between you and your partner) make less than a single driver would. Team driver pay scales may be unattractive to some, but when it comes to the safety aspect of driving, sharing the burden with a second driver means both drivers receive more rest and will be more coherent during longer treks.

Conclusion

As a commercial driver, the burden of safe driving should weigh heavily upon your shoulders. No matter what type of vehicle you drive, safety should always be your top priority. For those who wish to get into the trucking industry, there are nearly endless opportunities for you if you search hard enough. Safe driving!