50 Tips for Truck Drivers
Truck drivers travel thousands of miles across the country every year. These 50 tips can make those miles safer and more comfortable.
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
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 anything that might cause an accident.
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.
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.
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.
9. Drive at a Safe Speed
Because you have a schedule to keep, you might feel tempted to speed. But you’ll lose a lot more time if the police pull you 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.
11. Plan Your Trip
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.
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.
15. Get Rest
16. Eat Healthy
17. Watch OTC Drugs and Know Their Effects
If you have allergies, you may feel tempted to take Benadryl to deal with the symptoms. But Benadryl also causes drowsiness, which presents a danger while driving. Pay attention to the side effects of all over-the-counter drugs before taking them.
18. Take Enough Breaks
Regulations require that you take one 30-minute break a day, but taking just one break isn’t great for your health. You will be less fatigued and more comfortable if you take regular breaks throughout the day, especially if you get a little exercise or stretching done during those breaks.
19. Wear Comfortable Clothing
20. Consider the Effects of Road Vibrations
21. Have an Emergency Kit
All trucks should have an emergency kit with medical supplies, blankets, food and water. This kit is your lifeline if you get hurt or if you get stuck somewhere for a few days.
22. Take Breaks in Parking Lots or Rest Areas (Not on the Shoulder)
23. Be Cautious in Work Zones and School Zones
24. Scan Ahead
25. Have a Dash Cam
26. Communicate Whereabouts to Dispatcher and Friends
At the Truck Stops/Parking
27. Get Out and Look (G.O.A.L.)
Before backing your truck, get out of the truck and look around. This ensures that you are aware of—and can avoid—any dangers while backing up.
28. Lock Your Loads
An unaccompanied truck is often a target for robbery. Any time you stop, confirm that your truck is securely locked. This is doubly important if you intend to walk away from your truck.
29. Lock All Doors to Avoid Break-Ins When at Truck Stops
Your cargo isn’t the only thing that can get robbed when you stop for a break. Somebody might break into your truck for the money, supplies or even your radio. Lock every single door whenever you leave your truck.
30. Check Out the Delivery Spot
Just because a customer or shipper says your truck can fit in a delivery spot, don’t take their word for it. Check it out on foot first, confirming that your truck can safely fit into and exit the spot and won’t block traffic.
31. Choose Your Truck Stops Wisely
Not all truck stops are safe. If a truck stop doesn’t have good lighting or is empty, it could be dangerous. Plan to stop only at safe truck stops and always park near other trucks when possible.
32. Careful When Unloading Freight
There are multiple dangers when you unload freight. You could injure yourself, damage the freight or even be robbed. Take care to protect yourself and your cargo when unloading freight.
33. Secure Your Doors When Sleeping at Night
Your truck is in roughly as much danger while you are sleeping as it is when you aren’t present. Fully secure your doors while you sleep to prevent anyone from robbing your truck or assaulting you while you sleep.
34. Don’t Talk About Your Load in Public or Over the Radio
You are less likely to be robbed if nobody but you and your client knows the value of your load. Avoid telling anyone what you are carrying. A potential thief is much less likely to try to steal your load if they can’t be certain that your truck isn’t empty or carrying something of minimal value.
Checking Your Truck
Watch Out for Weather
44. Don’t Drive in Poor Visibility
Remember that it takes roughly 600 feet to stop your vehicle. If you can’t see at least that far ahead of you at all times, you shouldn’t even consider driving. Always drive slowly when visibility is reduced in any way.