Safety is the Name of the Game:
It’s simple physics, an 80,000-pound machine going at 65 miles per hour can easily become a traitorous thing to navigate. Attempting to stop on a dime for four-wheelers changing lanes, making tight turns, and avoiding road raged individuals are all a part of the job for truckers, so naturally there is an emphasis on safety in the industry. From pre-tripping to planning routes, we will be going over everything big-rig safety.
First up: Pre-Tripping
Those of us who remember the days before ELDs recall a checklist on the back of paper logs that you were required to check off a pre-trip list before heading down the road. These days it’s a bit more digital by checking boxes on a screen but still just as important to dot all your I's and cross those T’s.
Here we have an ancient artifact of a vehicle inspection report that may look familiar to you.
Here’s a high-level checklist of all the main check points for a pre-trip from Truckstop.com
The engine compartment:
- Air compressor
- Steering gearbox
- Steering linkage
- Water pump
- Hoses and wiring
Inspect the fuel tank and battery
Inspect the fluid:
- Power steering fluid
- Brake fluid
- Windshield washer fluid
Inspect the brakes:
- Truck drivers should check the brake adjustment with the slack adjuster for proper alignment.
- Check brake linings for appropriate thickness.
- Ensure your truck’s air lines aren’t damaged, don’t leak, and are properly sealed.
Inspect the tires
Inspect the wheels and lug nuts
Inspect the coupling system:
- Air lines
- Electrical connections
- Glad hands
- Locking jaws
- Mounting bolt
- Release arm
- Skid plate
Inspect the lights and reflectors
Inspect the trailer:
- Release pins
- Release handles
- Locking pins
- Doors and hinges
Inspect the cabin
Inspect the emergency kit:
- Fire extinguishers readily available for use
- At least one spare fuse for each type of fuse needed for parts and accessories
- Warning devices for stopped vehicles, such as bidirectional reflective triangles
- Red warning flags that can be maintained in an upright position
Next up: Weather
No one is a stranger to their local weather patterns whether it be nor-easters, heat-waves or hurricanes but as truckers, one needs to be prepared for anything throughout their travels. No matter your lane it’s imperative to be proactive with preparing for your trip, especially keeping the weather in mind.
While you can only plan so much by looking at the forecast and planning an accommodating route, there could be unexpected situations you find yourself in. Knowing the following tips could assist in getting you out of a stormy situation.
PRE-INSPECTION OF TRUCK AND TRAILER
IF WEATHER IS TOO HARSH–STAY IN TRUCK
BRAKE AND ACCELERATE LIGHTLY
WATCH FOR BLACK ICE
USE EXTRA CARE ON INCLINES
EMPTY TRAILERS ARE MORE DANGEROU
ADD EXTRA SPACE ON THE ROAD
Everyone’s favorite: Road-rage and unruly drivers:
There’s no cure-all for handling the stress of driving alongside less-than-competent drivers, but there are ways to manage it and anticipate their actions. Being a wind-shield warrior never helps the actual issue. While we’re all human, it does more harm than good when letting other drivers get the best of you.
This more in-depth article written by Brett Aquila talks about why it’s important to keep cool not just for those around you on the road, but for your own well-being as well.
“Getting angry is exhausting. As a truck driver you have a lot of very long days. Getting emotional is going to wear you out mentally. You're going to be less aware of your surroundings and you're going to be driving tired for longer periods of time, which is obviously very dangerous.”
Another important skill a truck driver acquires over the years of experience out on the road is anticipating the driver’s actions before they happen. Keeping your attention on the road in front of you and on the side mirrors for a rear-view look you’re able to see any disorderly drivers. Typically, those of you out there with a trained eye can see one a mile away whether it be changing lanes quickly, cutting others off, tail gating and speeding. You can always do your part as a truck driver by not engaging with these types of drivers and keeping your distance.
The ever-important route planning:
As a professional driver, it’s expected to plan each trip no matter how long you’ve run your lane. While the roads driven may be the same, other factors may change such as weather, the unplanned flat or breakdown, or an emergency stop for whatever reason. This kind of planning could look anything like checking which rest areas are available, where the restrooms are along the route, or a quick glance at the forecast.
Some of your routes may need a whole team to plan such as loads that are permitted, heavy haul, oversized and many others. Special attention to bridges, powerlines, streetlights and roadways are all incorporated to make sure the driver has an uneventful trip.
Check this out for more route planning insight.
Secure that load:
We’ve all seen it. Every day four-wheelers towing a trailer that has debris and sometimes its cargo flying all around creating a danger for themselves and those around them. Every trucker at some point early in their career has learned how to properly load and secure their trailer so it no doubt drives us nuts to see those loose straps and cargo wiggling around.
Load securement looks different depending on the type of freight you’re hauling. Flatbed load securement is one of the more tedious and in-depth than other types as the cargo placed can vary in shape and size with most full trailers being LTL and needing differentiating types of securements (chains, straps, tarping etc.).
Vans and reefers require securement within their trailers so to keep from slipping and sliding around. This kind of securement can look like strapping and using inflatable dunnage bags to secure cargo.
While this is just the tip of the iceberg for load securement, learn more about it and the components of load securement system here.
It happens to the best of us: Complacency
One of the biggest dangers imposed on drivers, truckers and four-wheelers alike is a lack of continuous attention to detail to safety. Both new and veteran drivers are subject to complacency when it comes to all aspects of safety on the road. From skimming over pre-trip check points to neglecting proper load securement guidelines, it can be easy to let things slip between the cracks. This can inevitably cause additional dangers to your trip.
The best way to avoid complacency is to remain attentive and accountable for even the most mundane tasks, no matter how often it get done throughout the day.
Another unfortunate, all-to-common part of trucking is the overwhelming exhaustion that comes over drivers, especially at night. Though highway hypnosis is associated with overworked, under-rested drivers, it can happen to anyone that has been on the road long enough.
Lack of proper rest does enhance the chances and severity of highway hypnosis so making sure getting enough rest is crucial to maintaining safety on the road.
Below are some tips to avoid and remedy hypnosis:
Getting enough rest – an obvious but necessary one
Find something to entertain you – podcasts, music, audio books
Take a break – pull over at a rest area or truck stop and get the blood circulating
Roll down your window – let a breeze get your senses going
For more tips, click here.
Your job as a professional driver is a demanding one and can take a toll on your physical and mental health. At Meadow Lark, we want our drivers to know that there are plenty of resources to keep you safe and focused on the job at hand.