Fleet managers and drivers should know the importance of defensive driving when on the job to protect those behind the wheel as well as their trucks and cargo. Being on guard while driving prevents road incidents and saves lives, time, and money. There are several key points managers should share with their fleet when covering the best defensive driving practices to help their drivers get where they need to go safely and on schedule. Here are Commercial Truck Trader’s 11 defensive driving tips for truckers.
1. Plan Ahead
Defensive driving starts by planning ahead for hazards or obstacles. Before you hit your route, check the weather, traffic reports, potential road closures, construction zones, and anything else that may cause you to make adjustments while you drive. Have a “Plan B” for driving with another route, give yourself more time if you encounter a slow-down, and provide yourself with enough space to prevent an accident involving your work vehicle.
2. Eliminate Distractions
Before you even get moving, reduce or eliminate distractions that will make defensive driving difficult and increase the risk of a collision. Put your phone on silent and avoid using it while you drive. Don’t mess around with the radio, GPS, or other electronic devices as you go. Keep your music at a low volume so you’re alert as you drive.
3. Look Ahead on the Road
As you drive, scan the road and prepare for hazards so you have time to react and avoid them. Look at least a few cars in front of you and 10–15 seconds down the road for any potential problems you may encounter. Remember, larger trucks with more cargo need more time and space to react to prevent an incident. For example, a semi-truck carrying a full load and traveling at 55–60 miles per hour can take the length of an entire football field to make a complete stop.
4. Keep Your Distance
You need to establish a safe distance between your truck and other vehicles as you drive. Never tailgate, and slow down when other vehicles are too close. You want enough distance to give yourself time to slow down and stop. For every 10 miles per hour you move, give yourself at least one second to react and stop. When you reach speeds of 40 miles per hour or greater, give yourself 2 seconds of reaction time for every 10-mph increment.
5. Give Yourself Several Ways Out
Create space around your vehicle so that you can move out of the way suddenly as you drive. This means having open space in your lane or a surrounding lane so you can react and move your vehicle when there is a hazard. Move with the flow of vehicles at a consistent speed, but avoid heavy traffic whenever you can.
6. Check Your Blindspots
Give yourself plenty of visibility as you drive and keep in mind that smaller vehicles can hide easily in a large truck’s blindspots. Check your mirrors and keep cars clear of your blindspots by slowing down if necessary. Watch out for vehicles when you make a turn and give yourself space. For further visibility, many fleets are adding blindspot cameras to detect and alert drivers when a vehicle is in their blindspot.
7. Stay Alert at Intersections
Keep a lookout at intersections and busy junctions with traffic lights. If you’re stopped, keep an eye out for anyone that may be distracted, motorists that may run a red light, or those that can’t stop in time at changing lights. Give yourself a few seconds before accelerating to avoid any potential errors. Scan the road as you move through stale green lights in case someone else runs the light or unexpectedly pulls out in front of you.
8. Adjust Your Speed
While you should follow the posted speed limit of the road for trucks, you may need to adjust your speed based on conditions you face on the road to remain cautious as you drive. You may need to drive at a slower speed to give yourself more room to brake. Consider these factors that will affect your speed: Weather, visibility, traffic, road conditions, and the weight of a load.
9. Don’t Back Up
On busy streets, avoid backing up with your vehicle to prevent a collision due to poor visibility. Instead, when possible, use space ahead of you to turn around. Vehicles making deliveries should have some space in front of them so it’s easy to pull forward when you leave. Always use designated delivery areas for more room and to avoid collisions with moving vehicles on busy roads.
10. Keep Calm
Don’t let stress or your emotions distract you as you drive. Be alert of reckless drivers on the road, whether they’re tailgating, speeding, weaving through traffic, or changing lanes too quickly. Don’t lose your temper, and don’t engage them. Instead keep your calm, slow down if necessary, and give yourself space. Remember, you want to stay safe while maintaining a positive and professional reputation for you and your company.
11. Stay Safe and Healthy
Practice safe and healthy habits so you stay sharp at all times and remain ready for whatever comes your way on the road. You know to always buckle up, adjust your mirrors, and check your fuel level and tire pressure before you take off. Beyond that, do what you can to eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, keep a basic first-aid kit in your cab for emergencies, and take breaks so you can stay focused on the road.
Defensive driving puts safety first by preventing collisions on the road. You’ll also avoid damage to vehicles and your company’s reputation. By following these driving practices, you can eliminate stress, stay safe, and save time and money. If you’re looking to purchase your next commercial vehicle, be sure to see all the new and used trucks on CommercialTruckTrader.com or NextTruckOnline.com!