The U.S. Bureau of Labor lists tractor-trailer truck driving as one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. It makes sense with large loads, long drive times, and unpredictable traffic and weather.
As a professional truck driver, you most likely know this all too well.
There's a good chance you've had some close calls or have even been in an accident. It's easy to get caught off guard if you aren't prepared for rapidly changing conditions like a sudden blizzard through a mountain pass or high winds through flatlands.
The good news is that there are things you can do to improve your safety while operating your semi truck in dangerous driving conditions.
Of course, wearing your seat belt and following road signs are basic safety tips every truck driver should follow. But why stop there?
The following six driving tips for new drivers and seasoned truckers will help keep yourself and other motorists safe while delivering your payload or returning home to your family during dangerous driving conditions.
1. Drive Defensively
When you drive long distances on a route you know like the back of your hand it's easy to let your guard down. While it's nice to daydream about an upcoming vacation, you're less likely to be on the lookout for road hazards when your mind is elsewhere.
Defensive driving involves knowing what's around you at all times. Operating a large vehicle like a semi truck makes it harder to see smaller vehicles and make quick moves like braking or swerving.
Some defensive driving techniques include:
Checking your mirrors consistently to know when a vehicle has entered your blind spot.
Paying attention to traffic patterns and anticipating when there is a change that might require you to slow down or change lanes.
Follow the three-second rule. This means allowing three seconds to pass between you and the vehicle in front of you. In inclement weather like ice or snow, increase this to 10 seconds.
Changing lanes? Always use your turning signal and use it early. Indicate well in advance to let the vehicles know your intentions. A large semi truck often requires extra space to make a wide left or right-hand turn, and using your blinker early will allow the cars around you to give you the space to make the turn safely.
2. Monitor Your Speed
When driving in adverse weather conditions, it's crucial to slow down and maintain a safe speed. Don't just follow the posted speed limit. Slowing down will give you more time to react to unexpected situations and reduce the risk of skidding or losing control of your tractor-trailer.
Remember the 10-second rule to maintain a safe distance between your semi truck and the car in front of you. If you need to brake suddenly, you'll have the space to do so safely.
3. Check The Weather Before You Go
Before you begin your journey, check the weather forecast and plan your route accordingly. Avoid driving in severe weather conditions, such as heavy rain, snow, or ice, if you can.
Attaching a weather gauge to the outside of your truck can help you know when the temperature drops and rain might turn to ice. Any edge you can get to know what road conditions you’re dealing with is a good thing.
The pressure to deliver your load on time might overshadow your better judgment to pull over and wait out a storm. But it's better to arrive late than never!
4. Remove Distractions
Driving distracted can have enormous consequences even when the conditions appear perfect. Add on dangerous driving conditions, and taking your eyes off the road for a split second to change the radio station or check your cell phone could cost your life.
Although it might be tempting to check in with fellow truck drivers on your CB radio, the best thing you can do is leave it alone and keep your eyes on the road.
5. Take Breaks Often
Driving in dangerous conditions can be exhausting. If you've ever driven through a blizzard or thick fog, you know how much it can strain your eyes. Being on high alert for extended periods can drain your energy.
Regular breaks to rest and recharge will help you stay more alert and focused on the road.
6. Maintain Your Semi Truck
Regular maintenance of your semi truck is essential to ensure everything is operational. Make sure your tires are properly inflated for the driving conditions, your brakes are working correctly, and your windshield wipers are in good condition.
Developing a pre and post-inspection of your commercial truck is an excellent habit regardless of the weather. But the last thing you need during an ice storm is a tail light out or a faulty door latch.
Ensure everything on your semi truck and trailer is in good working order before and after every trip.
Stay Safe With CRTS Semi Trailers
Whether you drive a flatbed trailer, a reefer, or a dump trailer, your safety on the road is imperative.
One of the best things you can do to improve your safety is to ensure your semi truck is well maintained or replaced when it's reached its lifespan.
If you're located on the east coast or your travels take you to the South Atlantic, CRTS has five handy locations to help you with all your trailer needs.
For the last 50 years, CRTS has developed a reputation as one of the top independent semi-trailer dealers specializing in new and used semi-trailers, parts, and services.
Visit a CRTS location now and stay safe out there!