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Truck Driver Safety Tips You Need to Know

The DOT has published its guidelines for truck driver safety tips. Training programs, adhering to truck driving guidelines and getting enough sleep helps.

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ABCO Transportation
October 6, 2020
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If you’re looking for work as a truck driver, or are lucky enough to already be on the open road, it’s necessary to follow specific truck driver safety tips. Being a truck driver has its perks, but while you’re enjoying the scenic route to your destination, you may encounter some dangers on the way. Truck drivers need to use their common sense to deal with bad weather and road conditions. It’s also vital to keep road rage and distracted driving under control. To avoid truck accidents, you need to stay below the speed limit and follow motor carrier safety administration regulations.

Truck driving is a great business to get into, but like many jobs on the road, it’s not without risk. There are important truck driver safety tips you need to know. For this reason, the DOT has published its own guidelines for truck and bus drivers. Here is a more detailed overview of truck driver safety tips and advice on how to be a safer driver.

Truck Driving Safety Topics

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Truck driver safety doesn’t just depend on the safety of truck drivers but also the other drivers on the road. There are many potential hazards caused by things like road rage and drivers not taking proper consideration and caution for each other. The speed limit must be adhered to at all times and it’s crucial for truckers to know when to control their speed. There are also external factors that affect truck driver safety such as weather and road conditions. Here is an overview of some general truck driving tips and safety topics.

Speed limit

One of the most common causes of truck accidents or most road accidents is speeding. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recently published a report detailing some large truck and bus crash facts. Speeding increases the chance of loss of control, overturns, and fatality in truck accidents. The speed limit must be adhered to at all times whether you’re city driving or on a long haul interstate trip.  

The speed limit is a common topic for truck driver training and conferences, for example, due to the fact that it’s imperative that truck drivers abide by the law at all times. With regards to city driving, speeding will only make up a matter of seconds, so really it’s not worthwhile. Long-haul driving may seem safer on the open road, but speeding is still a cause of many truck accidents.

The speed limit for truck drivers varies from state to state from the lowest in California, for example, at 55mph, to 85mph in other states on certain roads. The average is usually somewhere between 55mph and 75mph but truck drivers are advised to double-check state laws.

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Weather Conditions

Bad weather or adverse weather conditions can also be hazardous to truck drivers. Many truck driver safety tips consist of what to do in bad weather. This is another important safety topic for truck drivers because even if the driver is following the traffic laws, weather conditions can still cause accidents.

Wind can be particularly dangerous. Strong winds can even be powerful enough to blow a large truck off the road. Truck accidents can happen if the truck is not loaded to its full capacity and is lighter. This means the wind could blow it over or cause it to derail from its course. This can be very dangerous. Truck drivers are given training on what to do during storms and high winds and are advised to stop and take rest breaks for as long as needed.

Wet weather can also be a hazard. This can mean poor visibility and road conditions. The rain could cause the road to be slippery and a large truck could lose control. Truck driver safety tips often refer to wet weather and how to react in this situation. Driving in adverse conditions also requires common sense. Truck drivers must be able to adapt to these conditions or it could result in truck accidents.

Professional truck drivers must understand how to cope with the reduction in both traction and visibility caused by rain, fog, snow, ice, slush, and gravel. Visibility will also be poor in twilight or darkness so if the weather conditions are bad truck drivers need to take extra care. Truck drivers need to develop the skills to not only take care in adverse weather conditions but be able to anticipate the behavior of other drivers on the road who might make errors due to poor judgment in bad weather. 

Distracted Driving

Driver safety also depends on the condition of the driver. They are given truck driver safety tips in order to combat distracted driving. Driving tired can be very dangerous and a big distraction. Drivers also need to steer clear of alcohol and drug use and report any other health problems. It’s also a problem to engage in other activities while driving.

Distracted driving often refers to the use of cell phones or other devices while driving. Texting while driving has been the cause of many truck accidents, so drivers are warned against it. Other types of distractions include looking at the GPS, checking passengers or other things inside the vehicle, eating, drinking, grooming, or changing the radio station. It’s illegal for drivers of commercial vehicles to text while driving. There are, of course, safety measures in place such as the use of hands-free devices, but the laws against doing any of these activities while driving can vary from state to state.

Road Rage

Road rage is another dangerous form of distracted driving. Many drivers often admit to succumbing to road rage at some point or another but it can greatly affect your judgment. Road rage is to blame for many truck accidents and it’s something that should be avoided at all costs. Often drivers don’t use their common sense or even abide by the law and this can be frustrating but it’s important to always practice safe driving.

Even professional truck drivers can be affected by road rage, it just depends on how you choose to deal with it. The Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCA) includes truck driver safety tips about road rage and distracted driving in their guidelines. 

Blind spots

Professional truck drivers develop a strong sense of the spatial awareness needed for driving a large truck  but there are always going to be blind spots. There are some specific tips for truck drivers for turning left and right, for example. Professional truck drivers have more issues with blind spots than automobile drivers might, which stops them from seeing other vehicles. The length of a large truck also means they need to make a wider turn. These factors all make it more difficult for drivers to judge their position and to safely avoid other vehicles. Turning also takes longer due to these various hazards. 

Road Conditions

The road conditions on the day can always affect the driving of even the most experienced truck drivers. There could be heavy traffic due to accidents, road works, or weather conditions. Traffic can increase the stress levels of any driver and can increase chances of road rage. Many truck driver safety tips state that it’s a good idea to be prepared for potentially hazardous road conditions so that you can deal with them with common sense.

If you need to stop your vehicle due to road conditions this might sometimes be the best solution anyway. It’s better than letting stress take over, as otherwise, you might not be able to react as responsibly. Maintaining safe driving is the most important thing in adverse road conditions. 

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Safety Messages for Drivers

safety-messages-for-drivers

The federal motor carrier safety administration (FMCSA) has released information in the form of an outreach toolkit in order to raise awareness of safe driving and truck driver safety tips. This includes a ranger of interesting, informative, and inspiring material.

The toolkit includes a collection of graphics based on the achievement of safety awareness milestones throughout the calendar year. There are also plenty of social media graphics such as sample posts and infographics. These encourage the spread of safety awareness through channels such as social media and email marketing or other outreach tactics.

The government is doing what it can to get the message of safe driving out to professional trucks as well as the general public. The outreach toolkit also includes tips for truck drivers and fact sheets to help boost awareness and give practical advice. 

Truck Driver Safety Checklist

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has released plenty of safety information in order to put together a truck driver safety checklist. Along with avoiding distractions and dealing with adverse weather and road conditions, there are also other factors to take into consideration such as construction zones, speed limit, and other laws for truck drivers. 

Work Zones

Truck safety through work zones is challenging for professional truck drivers. A work zone is an area where road work is taking place at the moment and can cause different types of hazards on the road. These can include road closure, detours, and dangerous moving equipment. Almost 30% of work accidents have been caused by a large truck. This is due to the fact that work zones often result in narrow lanes, unexpected traffic and other disruptions. The FMCSA has released a truck driver safety checklist for driving conditions through work zones:

  • Wear a seat belt at all times
  • Pay attention to all signs
  • Follow flagger instructions
  • Leave plenty of space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you
  • Take advantage of your driving height and anticipate braking situations
  • Slow down
  • Make sure you get in the right lane in advance
  • Watch out for overtaking motorists
  • Be aware of no-zone areas
  • Change route to avoid work zones whenever possible

Work zones can be problematic for truck drivers, but you can get alerts online or from apps to let you know if any are being carried out on the route you need to take.

Speed limit and safe driving

As you know, the national speed limit for professional truck drivers can be as low as 55 mph, so it’s illegal to exceed this. There are plenty of ways to avoid accidents by following the speed limit. A commercial vehicle could potentially roll over when navigating curves at high speeds so it's safer to control your speed at all times.  

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General Safety Checklist for Truck Drivers

Here is a basic safety checklist for truck drivers, however, there will be more detailed information later in the article regarding these truck driver safety tips. Professional truck drivers should go through this safety checklist before embarking on any journey.

  • Always wear a seatbelt

This should be obvious but you’ll be surprised how common it is to see drivers without safety belts. It’s the law to wear a seatbelt in any vehicle at all times, so in order to ensure driver safety and the safety of everyone else on the road, you must comply.

  • Put your phone away

It’s against the law to use your phone or another electronic device while driving a commercial vehicle.

  • Learn to be a defensive driver

Defensive driving is about respecting the traffic laws but also anticipating the actions of other drivers and behaving accordingly and in the safest way possible. 

  • Take care loading and unloading

Ensure you are aware of the capacity of your vehicle and have had adequate training in how to load and unload safely. Lifting heavy packages on and off a large truck can be very hazardous otherwise.

  • Don’t forget your documents

It’s required by law to carry certain documentation. This includes your CDL license, registration, insurance and any other paperwork you need for the cargo that you’re transporting.

  • Check the route

Make sure you’re well-prepared and double-check the route before you leave. Find out any additional information about road conditions and weather conditions. You might need to change your route to avoid bad weather or work zones, for example, and it’s better to be prepared for this as far in advance as possible.

  • Stay within the speed limit

Never exceed the speed limit for commercial vehicles in the state in which you are driving. If an accident occurs then you would be legally responsible if you were speeding at the time. The likelihood of an accident will also be much higher.

  • Don’t drive under the influence

It’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

  • Don’t drive tired

Driving tired is dangerous in a similar way to driving under the influence. You won’t be able to concentrate, your reaction time will be lower, and you’ll be at a higher risk of causing an accident.

  • Drink plenty of water

Staying hydrated is a good way to keep you from getting tired. If you’re feeling weak, however, you should take a break for food or coffee as well.

  • Inspect your vehicle

It’s vital for professional truck drivers to frequently carry inspections of their vehicles. The Department of Transport (DOT) provides a Driver’s Vehicle Inspection Report, which works well as general guidelines as well. Ensure that all parts of your vehicle are in working order. This includes the brakes, clutch, gears, tires, and dash. Also, complete an inspection of all the necessary fluids such as engine oil, coolant and wiper fluids. Have a look for any irregularities such as leaks or any general malfunctioning. 

The Department of Transportation (DOT) provides plenty of help and advice along with truck driver safety tips. It’s a great resource if you’re just starting out.

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Safety Quotes for Truck Drivers

safety-quotes-for-truck-drivers

As well as safety tips for truck drivers there are also several inspiring safety quotes out there. Some of these have been written by professional truck drivers or other inspirational leaders. Here a few examples of truck driver safety quotes:

  • “My job provides the paycheck, but safety takes me home.”
  • “Road sense is the offspring of courtesy and the parent of safety.”
  • “Safety is a continuing journey, not a final destination.”
  • “The real enemy of safety is not non-compliance but non-thinking.”

Safe driving is not only a skill, it’s an attitude, the attitude professional truck drivers should all have. There are plenty of truck driver safety tips online and many resources available, so there’s no excuse not to make safe driving your top priority.

The Top Safety Tips for Truckers

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Once you’ve got the basic checklist, there are further ways you can ensure that you are the safest driver you can be. The top safety tips for truckers are all about defensive driving. This is essentially taking into account other drivers’ behavior and responding correctly, while also monitoring your own driving behavior. It’s essential to practice defensive driving if you want to maximize safety on the road at all times. Here are some top safety tips for truckers to become better drivers.

Respect right of way

It’s essential for truck drivers to respect the right of way as other drivers can get lost in blind spots. This means taking extra care when crossing intersections, passing, changing lanes and turning. You should give way when entering traffic or turning to cross traffic. Always be careful when negotiating curves and turning. The main thing is to watch out for other drivers on the road and anticipate what they’re going to do. This way you can best ensure the safety for everyone involved. 

Emergency equipment and procedures

It’s a requirement for truck drivers to carry emergency equipment with them at all times. For example, you may need emergency equipment in case of an accident or a breakdown. If you need to stop your vehicle for any reason this could be a hazard otherwise. The DOT requires drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to have onboard fire extinguishers, spare fuses, and warning devices for stopped vehicles, for example. 

You also need to ensure you follow the correct emergency procedures at all times. It’s essential to have proper training in the emergency procedures in case of the following events, stalling in traffic, accidents, engine compartment fire, wheel fire, blow fuses, or general faults. Be as prepared as possible for any emergency situation.

Driving in adverse conditions

Adverse weather conditions such as rain, ice, and snow will reduce traction. This means it will be more difficult to control your vehicle. If you are aware of these conditions beforehand, it’s best to try and change your route. Avoid driving when there’s poor visibility as well. This could be caused by fog or rain or just darkness during the evening or night. It’s best avoided driving in adverse weather conditions especially at night. 

Try to rely on your common sense when driving in adverse conditions. Don’t push ahead if it’s unnecessary and also follow the correct procedures. You’ll only experience more delays if you have an accident due to weather or road conditions. Use your common sense as well to anticipate the moves of other drivers in these conditions.

Look out for pedestrians

When driving in more urban areas, how you interact with pedestrians is just as important as how you interact with other drivers on the road. Pedestrians often assume that if they can see you, then you can see them, but this might not always be the case due to blind spots. Take extra care to look out for pedestrians crossing your path. 

Try to compensate for any errors in judgment pedestrians might make, such as assuming you’ll stop for them or slow down when it’s not possible. It’s not always possible to avoid accidents but the more you try to anticipate the behavior of others the safer the road will be for everyone.

Staff training programs

All professional truck drivers should undergo regular safety training even if they are experienced. The laws are changing continually and regulations are updated. It’s also useful to take a refresher course in driver safety. These can be broken down into categories and various safety topics. Safe driving programs should always be part of a formal fleet and if you have any doubts you should speak to your superior about further training. 

The best way to drive safely is by being prepared enough to stay calm and take the correct decision at the time. With sufficient training, all professional truck drivers should develop the skills to do so, while avoiding unwanted distractions.

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How to Avoid Distracted Driving

how-to-avoid-distracted-driving

The best way to avoid distracted driving is by eliminating all distracted driving behaviors. The most common distracted driving behaviors include:

  • Making calls or answering the phone
  • Using hands-free devices 
  • Sending and answering messages
  • Sending and answering emails
  • Surfing the internet
  • Taking photos
  • Eating and drinking
  • Grooming / looking in the mirror
  • Looking for items in the vehicle
  • Checking on other passengers
  • Retrieving items from a bag or the backseat

As you can see many of these involve the use of a cell phone which is prohibited for drivers of commercial vehicles. Other activities you might carry out while driving are also dangerous. There are plenty of ways you can avoid these other behaviors. 

  • Avoid eating and drinking

Eating and drinking while you’re on the go might be tempting but it is a big distraction. Professional truck drivers are given allotted break times after a few hours of driving, depending on the state. This is the appropriate time for eating and drinking. If you are really hungry, thirsty, or tired you should stop the vehicle for a snack or a coffee rather than eating or drinking while driving.

  • Store loose items

To avoid the problem of looking for lost items during the trip or loose items moving about the vehicle, make sure they are all properly stored before you set off. Put any loose items you are likely to need in your glove box or door pockets so that you have easy access to them. Strap down any other items that might move around and distract you. This is a more common problem than you might think. Plan ahead and keep all items you might need close to you.

  • Avoid complex tasks

Don’t try to undertake complex tasks while driving. If you need to stop the vehicle to check the route, for example, this is a safer option. If you’re worried about the weather or traffic conditions, stop your vehicle before carrying out any necessary actions.

  • Avoid multitasking

As well as avoiding complex tasks, you should avoid multitasking. This is because it requires more of your attention that you should be paying to the road. One distraction is already too many so don’t try to overcomplicate things. The road should be your main focus at all times.

  • Be prepared

You are less likely to get distracted while driving if you are as prepared as possible before you leave. It sounds unimportant but get ready and finish grooming at home before you leave. This will prevent you from looking in the mirror as often. Double-check your route and any possible interruptions. This may include traffic, road works, or adverse weather conditions. These could also prove very distracting and stressful if not.

  • Eyes on the road

Keep your eyes on the road at all times. Even when you think you are driving down any empty stretch of highway, don’t get complacent. Truck accidents happen when drivers relax and think they don’t need to pay attention to the road. Avoid all distractions that might divert your attention from the road.

  • Get some rest before driving

As previously discussed, driving tired can be as dangerous as driving under the influence so it’s crucial to take your regulated rest breaks as a minimum requirement. All professional truck drivers must take adequate rest breaks between driving shifts. This is essential to your safety.

  • Don’t succumb to road rage

Road rage is just another unnecessary distraction so try to resist engaging in it. It is frustrating when other drivers commit errors on the road but the best way to avoid getting angry is to stay calm and count to ten. 

  • Remain calm

Remaining calm at all times is important for driver safety. One of the most important truck driver safety tips is to be as prepared as possible so that you are able to stay calm throughout the journey. Obviously, there will be some inevitable complications along the way, but the more you do to anticipate these the better. This way you are less likely to become distracted or overwhelmed in a stressful situation.

Distracted driving is just one of the issues that affect driver safety. It’s also crucial to be aware of other drivers on the road and prepared for weather conditions such as bad weather, and road conditions. Safe driving also depends on you. Professional truck drivers must also adhere to the speed limit of 55mph, and take blind spots into consideration. They should also avoid road rage and work zones. 

There are plenty of safety tips for truck drivers to help prevent truck accidents, but most of the time it’s best to use your common sense as well. If you’re driving a large truck it’s inevitable that you will encounter more hazards due to your size and sometimes lack of visibility. If you need any more help and advice, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published the most important truck driver safety tips online.

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Connect and Apply with ABCO Transportation Today

At ABCO Transportation, we offer great opportunities for experienced truck drivers. We have plenty of trucking jobs available for regional trucking jobs, over the road and local truck driving jobs in Atlanta Ga and other places. Perhaps you’re interested in a career change? Our friendly team is always available to give you all the information you need. We also offer truck driving tips that include refrigerated truck driving tips and what you need to know about the ELD mandate.


If you feel a trucking position would be ideal for you and want to find out more, then fill out our trucking job application online to get started. We have Regional, OTR, and limited local job opportunities. If you would like to discover more about Truck Driver Jobs with great benefits, get in touch today and give us a call at 866-980-2710.

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