Driving a big rig is a fun and exciting prospect; operating huge equipment, hauling monster loads, and seeing new places is part-and-parcel of the truck driving experience. However, heavy responsibility comes with operating such large trucks to ensure the safety of you and those around you.Though road safety is everyone's responsibility, there are some basic tips to help keep your trucking experience safe and reliable.
Every vehicle has blind spots that hamper the driver's ability to detect other cars in adjacent lanes. This applies particularly to big rigs because of the absence of rear-view mirrors and the very long trailer space that tails behind the cab. Called the "no-zone" according to roadsafeamerica.org, cars can slip into these large blind spots and become accident fodder. Located directly behind the trailer, directly in front of the truck, to the left behind the driver's immediate field of vision, and to the right in a very large swath from the passenger's side all the way to rear of the trailer, these blind spots are hazards to truckers and regular drivers alike. Though the responsibility lies on the car to stay out of your blind spot, always use proper signaling and leave plenty of time for any passing vehicles to get out of the no-zone.
Stopping & Slowing
Loaded trucks take exponentially more time to stop than empty trucks or cars. The inertia of a load, added to any kind of incline toward the front of the truck, can make a big rig a stopping nightmare. To avoid the dangers of sliding and skidding into obstacles while carrying a load, use caution when traveling downhill, accelerating, taking broad turns or coming upon traffic. Never accelerate full-throttle and always keep extra car lengths between yourself and traffic when carrying a load. Be alert and power down for stopped traffic, roadside hazards, wet or icy conditions and blind curves.
The turning radius on a big rig, especially with a full or double trailer in tow, is excessively large. And while training to drive a rig should have instilled this idea into any student, too often signs and curbs are trashed by a turning truck. When approaching cross-streets and intersections before a turn, continue slowly, make your presence known, and be patient with the cars that back up or move to allow you the pass. Give yourself extra turning room to avoid having to back up, possibly hitting something or even jackknifing the truck. No load is worth getting pinned on a turn, so take each corner with care and timing to ensure a safe trip.
Monitoring brakes, tire pressure, fuel levels and even mirrors may seem like standards for any vehicle but are particularly important when dealing with a big rig. Minor maintenance failures on a car do not pose the serious risk that the same errors on a truck produce. Monitor your equipment and make any repairs or adjustments needed before and after any haul, during fueling stops, after rest stops and during any long inspections to ensure your machine is running smoothly and safely. No other big rig driving tip will work for you if your truck doesn't--maintain the equipment.
Eyes (and Ears) on the Road
The CB radio in a truck is the lifeline to the outside world. Weather, accidents, roadside hazards and even things to see are broadcast over truck radios with the precision a news station would kill for. Novice truckers do well to listen closely for advice from seasoned drivers and avoid the pitfalls of "big talk" and "trash talk" that can come over the airwaves. Also, visual alertness is key to hauling a safe and secure load. Keep sunglasses and sun visors in working order, maintain windows and mirrors regularly, and keep any prescription eye-wear up-to-date and in good shape to keep your eyes focused on the road.
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