Road safety is of paramount importance in the trucking industry.
According to the 2018 Driver Safety Risk Report, trucking collisions cost fleets nearly $57 billion — covering expenses such as medical bills, vehicle repairs, and lost productivity due to downtimes.
The report also reveals that annual insurance rates increase by about 33 percent when an employee has a collision that includes damage to both the driver and the vehicle.
Additionally, a road collision without any injuries can increase insurance costs by up to 23 percent. Despite these numbers, only 42.6 percent of carriers employ driver safety programs to lower the risk of road collisions.
Here are seven driving safety tips that can help increase road safety and reduce the risk of collisions.
1. Know where the blind spots are
Visibility is key to preventing road collisions, especially if you’re operating a large commercial vehicle, which has more blind spots than a passenger vehicle.
Minimizing lane changes and checking your side mirrors at least once every 10 seconds can be an effective way to increase safety and road awareness.
It is also important to familiarize yourself with the blind spots not only of your truck but also of other vehicles on the road.
Here is an infographic that will help you understand how a commercial driver has limited visibility on all four sides because of the large blind spots around the front, back, and sides of the vehicle.
Commercial motor vehicle drivers should familiarize themselves with these blind spots and be mindful of these spaces around the vehicle when making turns or changing lanes.
2. Understand safe braking distance
The bigger the rig, the longer it takes to stop. In comparison to an average-sized car, it takes an 18-wheeler 40 percent longer to stop completely. For example, a fully-loaded tractor-trailer that is going on 55 MPH on dry pavement will travel to approximately 390 more feet in 4.5 seconds before stopping.
For new drivers who are accustomed to driving smaller vehicles, it may take some time for them to get used to the braking distance of large commercial vehicles.
It is up to fleets and safety managers to ensure that drivers go through a complete driver training program that talks about these differences in detail.
A road-facing dash cam can also be installed to ensure that drivers are keeping a safe braking distance from other vehicles. Dash cam video footage can be analyzed regularly to see if a driver needs coaching.
3. Avoid distracted driving
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of road collisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that delayed driver reaction causes 90 percent of rear-end collisions.
Truck drivers need to be extra vigilant since they’re operating larger vehicles that are harder to maneuver, take longer to decelerate, and have more blind spots or “No Zones.”
Every manner of distracted driving, be it texting, smoking, or using mobile apps while driving, must be avoided at all costs to increase road safety.
4. Be vigilant of aggressive or reckless tailgaters
Sometimes, the only way to avoid road accidents is to steer clear of other drivers who are either too aggressive or just outright reckless.
Tailgaters, for instance, are drivers who drive too close to your vehicle — depriving themselves the adequate amount of space needed to decelerate in case you need to make a sudden stop.
Instead of accelerating to make way for space, the other driver needs to operate safely. A better approach is to switch to a different lane, if possible, and let the tailgater overtake you. Just don’t forget to use your turn signals and watch out for other vehicles and hazards on the road.
5. Follow all road signs
Road signs are there for a reason.
You don’t just follow speed limits and be aware of the vehicles in front of and around you. You also need to pay close attention to the road signs and local traffic rules in the area.
Truck drivers may occasionally go over the enforced speed limit — especially if they are running late or if they were detained for an extended period of time by a shipper or receiver. Speeding may cause them to lose control of their vehicle when maneuvering through sudden, sharp curves, uneven surfaces, construction hazards, and other road irregularities. Paying close attention to road signs may help significantly.
6. Follow the Hours of Service rules
The Hours of Service rules are there to help drivers, minimize driver fatigue, and increase road safety.
Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of road collisions. Driving past your Hours of Service limit is not only risky but also leads to HOS violations. Make sure you are always in compliance by following the different Hours of Service regulations.
7. Avoid hard braking, acceleration, and cornering
Critical safety events, such as hard braking, acceleration, and cornering, are more common than you think.
Fleets can initiate driver training programs to promote good driving habits and reduce the number of hard cornering, hard braking, and excessive acceleration events.
Fleets can also increase road safety by monitoring drivers for critical safety events, such as hard braking, excessive acceleration, and hard cornering.
The KeepTruckin ELD solution has a driver scorecards feature, which ranks drivers according to how safely they drive.
Drivers are ranked based on their safety scores — which is calculated on the basis of the aforementioned critical safety events. With the help of this safety score, safety managers can easily identify drivers who are involved in unsafe driving and behavior and require immediate coaching.
Norman Bright, a fleet and safety manager at Woodford Oil, has managed to improve driver behavior with the KeepTruckin technology.
“KeepTruckin Driver Scorecards and Smart Dashcam footage have made our coaching much more effective. In four short months, we’ve seen a significant decrease in critical events, including hard braking events cut in half and an almost 70% reduction in hard accelerations.” — Norman Bright.
Although passenger vehicles may be at fault in almost 85 percent of truck-passenger vehicle collisions, commercial drivers are more likely to be blamed. It is, therefore, important for every fleet to build a comprehensive safety program and use technology and data to keep drivers safe.
The next time you are on the road, keep the above-mentioned driver safety tips in mind. For more information and driving safety tips, consult the CDL manual.
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