According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), large trucks were involved in more than 156,000 fatal and non-fatal accidents in 2020. Those crashes led to 4,574 fatalities and 68,237 injuries. If you’re behind the wheel of a big-rig, it’s critical to understand key safety rules that can protect you and others on the road. Today, we’re sharing a guide to help you reduce the number of semi-truck accidents that occur, starting today.
Practice Defensive Driving
Driving defensively means keeping a constant eye out for any types of potential hazards. As a trucker, you should always be one step ahead of the road conditions. Anticipate changes that may occur, and be prepared to react accordingly.
One smart way to start? Begin by recognizing and monitoring your blind spots.
Sitting so high up can make it difficult to see other vehicles around your truck. Especially when changing lanes, don’t rely on your side mirrors and rearview mirror. Instead, look over your shoulder and out of the window, and be sure to allow plenty of room when merging lanes.
Another proactive step you can take to prevent truck accidents is to avoid tailgating. Following too closely could cause an accident if the vehicle in front of you stops suddenly. This can lead to a range of injuries including whiplash, neck and back pain, and head trauma, among others.
Stay at least three seconds behind the vehicle in front of you to avoid a collision. If road conditions are rough or the weather is adverse, allow at least five seconds. Some severe weather conditions, such as sleet and hail, will require a wait time of up to 10 seconds or more.
Communicate With Customers
Semi accidents don’t just happen on the highway. Every driver must eventually exit the highway to reach their delivery destination. This is where clear communication is key.
If there is any confusion on the driver’s part about where to go or what to do, then this could turn into a dangerous distraction. To the greatest extent possible, map your route early and understand your local route. Call ahead to the manager, let them know what time you’ll arrive, and ask if there are any hazards or obstacles that may affect your driving conditions.
Truck drivers are on the road for incredibly long stretches of time. During this time, there are plenty of distractions that could threaten to take their eyes off the road. These could range from eating and drinking to adjusting the radio or just looking out the window.
However, there’s one distraction that’s more widespread and dangerous than the rest: smartphone usage. While texting and driving remains a distressingly common action, other behaviors such as surfing the web and scrolling social media are becoming more prevalent.
In large part, this is due to the fact that many commercial trucks are now outfitted with artificial intelligence (AI) and smart technology. These built-in tools can sense driving conditions and helps them respond accordingly. Yet, they also make it easier for them to hop online in an instant.
As a result, 71% of truck drivers say they’ve recently accessed their social media feeds while behind the wheel, and they found it distracting. Plus, nearly 70% have viewed or shared videos or FaceTime chats, which they also said took their attention away from their job.
Interestingly, many of the same AI-powered sensors can identify when a driver changes their head position, such as looking down at their phone. Managers can use this data to train drivers on how to stay safe on the road and avoid such interruptions. Effective solutions might include:
- Investing in hands-free phones for drivers
- Allowing extra journey time to eliminate distractions
- Setting GPS and music selections before leaving
Avoid Aggressive Driving
Aggressive driving is more than just road rage. It also includes other behavior such as excessive speeding, erratic lane changing, tailgating, and more. In short, it’s any traffic offense that could endanger another person or property.
It’s not uncommon for truckers to be harassed, honked at, or cut off in traffic. While it’s human nature to want to retaliate, a split-second decision could have devastating consequences. To abate the situation, try to increase the distance between your truck and the offending vehicle.
Stay Up-to-Date on Maintenance and Inspections
In your quest to avoid semi crashes, make sure to stay current on your preventative maintenance visits. From new oil to new brake pads, each part of your vehicle must be in excellent working order to remain safe.
Today, most modern trucks come equipped with smart sensors and other safety tools that alert drivers when it’s time to visit the mechanic. Ignoring these reminders could increase your risk of an accident, so don’t skip them.
In a similar vein, remember to conduct thorough inspections before and after each journey. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires these pre-trip and post-trip evaluations as identified in the Motor Carrier Safety Planner.
During this time, you can check to make sure all parts and accessories are in tact. You’re also required to note any deficiencies that you discover that may affect the safety of your vehicle or lead to a breakdown. Skipping this step could mean getting behind the wheel of an at-risk vehicle that could harm yourself or others.
Stay Safe and Avoid Semi-Truck Accidents
As a commercial truck driver, you have a huge responsibility to stay safe on the road. With these tips above, you can do your part to help avoid semi-truck accidents and lower the number of injuries and fatalities that happen each year.
If you’ve been injured as a result of a truck accident, our legal team is here for you. Together, we can help you receive the compensation you need to pay your medical bills, navigate income loss, repair property damage, or cover other unexpected expenses. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.