Driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) can be a difficult and even dangerous career path. Being a professional driver requires a great amount of skill, and requires constant vigilance for safety.
Being safety focused and aware of your surroundings could be the difference between life and death when tense situations arise.
Common sense is your best line of safety. When in a tense or potentially dangerous situation use your best judgement in how to be as safe as possible. When in doubt refer to specific rules or instructions laid out by your carrier.
Being alert means knowing your surroundings. Unfortunately for truck drivers are the biggest vehicle on the road, so in turn if you are to crash into another vehicle the threat is much higher. If you notice unsafe drivers around or ahead of you plan a route of escape and try to avoid them. Check your mirrors frequently to see all sides of the vehicle.
Check For Weather
Ahead of your drive, check weather reports for both local and for the route you will be taking and continue to check throughout your drive. Driving in extremes, both hot and cold, poses different difficulties and potential hazards. Watch for changing road conditions and keep an eye on the outside temperature and weather conditions.
Drivers have to drive in all types of road conditions, and unfortunately this often includes traffic. If possible try to find an alternate route to avoid traffic as the odds increase exponentially for an accident to happen in heavy traffic.
Use Extra Caution at Night
Driving at night can be dangerous for a variety of different reasons, but most importantly because your vision is drastically impaired. So many drivers lose focus for a second and drive into the ditch or into the back of the vehicle in front of them. Stay alert, stay aware and use extra caution.
Proper Following Distances
CMVs take a lot longer to stop than other passenger vehicles on the road, which is why leaving plenty of room between you and the car in front of you is crucial. When other vehicles get between you and the car in front of you, slow down and allow them the proper space. If anything happens in front of you, this will minimize your chances of impact.
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Stay in Your Lane
Changing lanes in a CMV can pose a threat to others on the road because of the abundance of blind spots big rigs have. Cars will "bob and weave" through traffic and into your blind spots constantly, so if you do need to move over make sure you do it carefully while checking mirrors. Many cars have lost the common courtesy to hug the right side of the lane, and often do the opposite, which makes merging that much more dangerous. Pick a lane and stay in it, unless you absolutely have to get over.
Use a Trucker’s GPS
You have probably heard of them, if not used them for yourself, but a truckers GPS is a GPS designed specifically for truckers. This shows vital information for truckers that most GPS systems do not show, like when to change lanes and traffic reports. They can be costly, but can also alleviate a lot of stress when traveling to unfamiliar areas.
This is THE best piece of advice we can give you with being safety focused while operating a CMV. In your vehicle you aren't able to take corners nearly as fast as you could in a car, and if you did the likelihood of you crashing are very high. Traveling at slower speeds also allows you to have more control over your vehicle. SLOW DOWN!!
Check Your Vehicle
As you stop and take breaks, do a quick walk around your vehicle and do a quick inspection. Make sure your trailer is still connected properly, your load is still secured, your tires aren't low and that you're not leaking any fluids. Taking breaks and stretching will also help you wake up and be more alert as you continue your shift.
Don't skip any safety steps while operating your commercial motor vehicle, if steps are skipped you are making a conscious effort to compromise the safety of you and everyone else on the road. You also risk the reputation and safety scores of you and your company. Things do happen that are out of our control, but as long as you are doing everything in your power to ensure you're operating your CMV with safety in mind you're on the right track. Nothing is worth risking your life.
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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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