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50 Tips for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers travel thousands of miles across the country every year. These 50 tips can make those miles more comfortable and help prevent trucking accidents.

More than 1.4 million people work as truck drivers, making this a popular profession in the United States. For people who enjoy the road, truck driving can be a very fulfilling career. Review the following to make the experience safer and more rewarding.

Safety on the Road

truck driver

1. Wear Your Seatbelt

Seatbelts save lives, and the laws in many states require you to wear seatbelts. Don’t give police officers an excuse to pull you over because you aren’t wearing a seatbelt.

2. Avoid Distractions and Cell Phone Use

If you need to send a text, read a text, or make a phone call, pull over and stop first. Anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road is dangerous. When you are driving a multi-ton truck, you want to avoid any distractions that might cause an accident.

truck driver pressing phone
timer on the road

3. Follow the Hours of Service Rules

FMCSA rules require that you take at least a 30-minute break after eight cumulative hours of driving and require that you are off duty for at least 10 hours a day. Breaking those rules causes fatigue, which could increase the potential for accidents. These are only minimum requirements—the more breaks you take, the safer you will be.

4. Defensive Driving

Stay aware of your surroundings at all times and drive predictably. You can’t control other drivers, but you can reduce the likelihood that they will strike your truck if you drive carefully.

moving truck
truck driver

5. Watch Your Blind Spots

According to a study performed at the University of Michigan, most fatal crashes that involve heavy trucks are not the trucker’s fault. Unfortunately, this just means you need to be extra aware of reckless drivers. By regularly checking your mirrors, you can maintain awareness of the vehicles driving near your truck and take appropriate action.

6. Keep Lane Changes to a Minimum

Lane changes have the potential to be quite dangerous, particularly if a vehicle has slipped into your blind spot. You should change lanes as little as possible and always signal well in advance of making a lane change. This gives other vehicles plenty of time to get out of your way.

highway
traffic signs

7. Be Aware of Local Laws

Traffic laws change with every state you drive through. Familiarize yourself with any laws that specifically affect you before entering a state. If you are unsure, be conservative, drive slowly and stay in the right lane as much as possible.

8. Use GPS Units for Trucking

Google Maps is an excellent resource for regular drivers, but truck drivers should not rely on a car GPS. A truck GPS is specially designed to choose routes that will accommodate the height and weight of your vehicle.

driving and looking at the map
speedometer

9. Drive at a Safe Speed

Speeding is a common cause of truck accidents. Because you have a schedule to keep, you might feel tempted to speed. But you’ll lose a lot more time if you get pulled over for speeding. Stay under posted truck speed limits at all times. Be aware that you will need to slow down even more when going downhill because your truck will naturally speed up. 

10. Watch Steep Hills and Use Auxiliary Brakes

Overusing your brakes might cause brake failure, which is extremely dangerous when driving a truck. If a hill has a steep hill warning or a reduced truck speed, you should probably use your auxiliary brakes to protect your brakes. You should definitely use them on any hill with an emergency runaway truck ramp.

brake pad
weather report on phone

11. Plan Your Trip

A few minutes of planning before you get on the road can save you hours of driving time. Check for upcoming weather conditions or road conditions, and reroute if necessary. Your truck GPS can help you plan a smooth and safe route.

12. Keep a Safe Distance

Large trucks could need up to the length of two football fields to come to a safe stop. Whenever possible, you should keep plenty of room between you and the vehicles in front of you, even if this requires you to slow down to make additional room.

moving truck
moving truck

13. Make Wide Turns Carefully

Nearly all turns for a truck are wide turns. Before making any turns, slow down, signal early and triple-check all blind spots. Even with those precautions, you may be in danger while turning, so make sure you are ready to stop safely if necessary.

14. Use Your Signal

You are driving a cumbersome beast that makes very wide turns. While you can’t control everything on the road, you can give other drivers plenty of warning before you make any turns, giving them more time to get out of the way. The same is true when you are trying to switch lanes.

truck
tired truck driver

15. Get Rest

Many truck drivers are on the road for 14 hours a day and then try to fit a full social life into the remaining 10 hours. This is a recipe for chronic fatigue. Take plenty of breaks and get a full night’s sleep every night.