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10 Safety Tips for Commercial Drivers

Commercial drivers find themselves driving in a variety of different conditions, whether that's heavy traffic, highway, cities, weather or poorly managed roads. These conditions can sometimes be unsafe or pose hazards for the driver.


Due to these hazards, safety needs to be a number one priority for commercial drivers. To help you prioritize safety, here are a 10 trucking safety tips!

Driver Safety Sign

1. Plan in Advance

Planning ahead, and planning accordingly, will help increase your safety and preparedness for hazards you might run into. Some hazards may be:

  • Congested traffic

  • Inclement weather

  • Restricted routes

  • Construction

2. Defensive Driving

Driving defensively is the best option to protect you and those around you. While you cannot control the actions of everyone else on the road, you are completely in control of your own actions. According to a University of Michigan Transportation Institute study, 81 - 91% of crashes involving a commercial vehicle are caused by cars, rather than trucks.


Often times you will be the largest vehicle on the road which potentially poses threat to those around you. You can't guarantee that the other drivers are operating their vehicle with safety being a priority, so it needs to be yours. Be aware of your blind spots, check your mirrors, maintain a safe following distance and drive the speed limit.

DOT University

Online Defensive Driving Training!

In Defensive Driving Principles for the Commercial Driver, drivers will learn the principles of SAFER and be better suited to see potential danger before it happens. Use code FRCS10 for $10 off the purchase of the course through DOT University!


3. Avoid Distractions

With advances in technology, distracted driving has become the greatest threats on our roads for both passenger and CMV drivers. According to the FMCSA, “the odds of being involved in a crash, near-crash, or unintentional lane deviation are 23.2 times greater for truck and bus drivers who are texting while driving.” The average time an individual takes their eyes off the road is 4.6 seconds. If you were to be traveling at 55 mph you would have traveled 371 feet in those 4.6 seconds. That’s enough time for a thousand different things to happen that could cause an accident, injury and even death. The bottom line is, keep your eyes on the road and use a hands free device if you need to make phone calls or send text messages.


4. Maintenance Schedules

Truck under maintenance

Having a good preventative maintenance program is the key to being successful in the trucking industry. According to the FMCSA, maintenance issues are one of the leading causes for commercial vehicle accidents. If you do not have a maintenance schedule in place for your vehicles, coordinate with a mechanic to develop one. Preventative maintenance will save you thousands in costly repairs and even from potential fines.


5. Pre & Post Trip Inspections

Pre and post trip inspections go hand in hand with maintenance schedules and preventative maintenance programs. Other than routine maintenance, such as oil changes, during the pre and post trip inspection you will be able to see your vehicles defects before they pose a threat to your safety. These inspections are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to be completed at least once per shift, recorded in the hours of service log with a driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) filled out.


Therefore, when inspecting your vehicle pay close attention to:

  • Your braking system which includes your air compressor, air brake lines, brake pads, drums or rotors and calipers, low air pressure alarm and brake lights

  • Your steering system which includes the amount of play in your steering column, rack and pinion components, power steering fluid and your steering tires

Pay close attention to your braking system, steering system, fifth wheel assembly and lights. If you need a more detailed list of things to look for check out our Pre Trip Checklist. Inspections are the first step to safe operations and should not be neglected under any circumstance.

DOT University

Make Safety a priority, enroll in Pre/Post Trip training!

Train your drivers to properly conduct a pre/post trip inspection and fill out the driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) through our online Pre/Post Trip Inspection Training. Use code FRCS10 for $10 off the purchase of the course!


6. Use a GPS or Mapping Device

Traveling with a GPS or mapping device, especially when traveling somewhere you are unfamiliar with, will help you find the best and safest route. These tools can help you to plan alternate routes, avoid traffic or construction zones, and even point out accidents. Many shippers and receivers provide step by step directions into their facilities with the load paperwork. If they do not, and you’re unsure about the route into a facility, contact the facility or your dispatcher to obtain the correct route before reaching your destination.


7. Prepare for Dangerous Road Conditions

This goes alongside planning ahead of time for your trip, but you can never be too prepared. Road conditions can change in an instant and can be a danger to all drivers but especially drivers of large vehicles such as trucks.

Semi pileup on snowy road

Weather is a huge factor for road conditions, and even if there wasn't supposed to be any weather when you initially checked that doesn't mean you won't encounter any throughout your trip. The best thing to do in the event of bad weather is to slow down and potentially find a place to stop. Below are a few of the most common dangerous road conditions:

  • Icy roads - Iced roads are one of the greatest dangers all drivers face yet is the easiest danger to avoid. Plan your trip around winter weather conditions and pay attention to changing weather conditions throughout your trip.

  • Snow - When driving on roads that haven't been plowed, slow down and use your best judgement when changing lanes, exiting the highway or taking corners. Make sure you have chains in your vehicle, certain areas of the country require CMVs to carry chains during certain times of the year.

  • Rain - Rain conditions can make the roadway slick because of oil and other things that may be on the road. If the rain continues long enough, water pooling on the road also poses a threat of hydroplaning. Rain may also bring fog or low visibility. Turn headlights on low beams, slow down and stay alert.

  • Vehicles on side of road - When you come up on a vehicle on the side of the road, move over and slow down. If you are unable to move over, slow way down. The same goes for accidents, especially if first responders haven't arrived on the scene.

  • Construction - When entering construction zones, pay attention to posted speed limit and other signs. Be aware of the potential changes to the road and all construction workers. Failure to follow the rules in the construction zone can result in steep fines and even potential suspension of your CDL.

  • Animals on the road - Never swerve or slam on the brakes if you suddenly notice an animal in the road, this may cause you to crash. It is recommended that if you are unable to slow down to avoid the animal the best course of action is to strike the animal. The animal won't hurt your vehicle as much as making unsafe maneuvers could potentially damage yours and cause damage to those around you.

8. Take Adequate Breaks

Driver fatigue is among the leading causes of accidents in the trucking industry. Which is why the FMCSA has hours of service (HOS) regulations for drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) in place. The regulation is simple and straightforward:

Hours of service

  • 14 hours of on duty time in a 24 hour period

  • 11 hours of driving time in a 24 hour period

  • 8 hours of driving time before a required 30 minute break

  • 10 hours of sleep time is required to reset your 14 hour on duty time and 11 hour drive time

It’s important to remember that the effects of operating a vehicle while fatigued are similar to operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you are feeling fatigued or tired, stop and take a break.


9. Keep Your Cargo Secure

Cargo securement is extremely important, and among the most common violations carriers face in roadside inspections. Improperly secured cargo or machinery can cause your CMV to jackknife or roll over. If hauling cargo on a flatbed trailer, if it's not secured properly you're not only threatening the load you're hauling but everyone around you. Make sure you are using the proper securement devices for your load and trailer type.

DOT University logo

Cargo Securement and Securement of Machinery online!

Ensure your drivers are properly trained in the requirements of cargo securement by enrolling them in our online training! Cargo securement training is required by the FMCSA.Use code FRCS25 for $25 off the purchase of the course!


10. Maintain Safe Following Distance

Knowing the time it is going to take for your vehicle to stop or at least slow down will help you determine the proper following distance. There are various factors that play into stopping distance, to include vehicle weight, speed, and road conditions. Pay attention to the space around your vehicle, not just in front of your vehicle.


Safety is the number one priority of the industry, and should be your number one priority every time you get behind the wheel. Keep in mind that no load is worth your life and drive accordingly. When in doubt, slowing down to keep control of your vehicle is the best practice. Stay alert, pay attention to others around you, check your blind spots, stop if you’re tired, and always drive defensively.


Enjoy this post? Check out our other blog posts or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to be the first to know when new classes are made available or for other updates like this! You can also opt-in to our newsletter for exclusive offers, regulation changes, and industry news!

Make sure to check also out our online DOT Training platform, DOT University! We currently are offering Reasonable Suspicion for Supervisors, Cargo Securement, Defensive Driving, and Pre/Post Trip Inspection. In the coming months, we plan on releasing DOT Compliance Essentials and Periodic Annual Inspection Qualification Training (Appendix A).

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