You may consider yourself a very safe driver, and you may well take that safety-conscious approach to a trucking career, however, that doesn’t mean you’ll avoid accidents. Unfortunately, you will have to share the road with other drivers, and they may not be a safe or as smart as you. If you take a truck driving approach that assumes that every other vehicle is a danger to you, you may be able to prevent incidents. This approach is often referred to as a defensive driving strategy, and whilst it may have many opponents, it is proving to be one of the best strategies to use. So what is defensive driving and what does it entail?
As mentioned, defensive driving is an approach that assumes that other vehicles on the road could be a threat. With that in mind, truck drivers who use this strategy drive using the following:
This starts before you even get into your truck. Being prepared includes undertaking vehicle inspections at regular intervals, often after every break in driving. Inspections should include oil, gas, and water levels; how well the load has been secured; and electrical components like indicators and lights. Ensuring your mirrors are positioned correctly is also important.
Being prepared also means looking after yourself. Food, water and sleep are all important to our general health, and this includes truck drivers. Being well fed, well hydrated and well rested means you’ll be alert and able to drive to the conditions. Being alert also means you can be on a constant lookout for escape measures should other vehicles impinge on your road space. If you do notice drivers that are a danger to you and your vehicle, the best approach is to remove yourself from their sphere of influence. This may mean changing lanes, slowing down to let them get well ahead, or stopping altogether.
The safest way to drive is by ensuring there is plenty of space around your vehicle. The three-second rule is tried and tested – ensure there is a three second gap between yourself and the vehicle in front and you can avoid them in an emergency. In wet weather, it pays to add a full second to that. In icy conditions, push that to around ten seconds. Don’t become frustrated if other drivers jump into the space – just back off a little and allow that gap to widen again.
If I can’t see you, I don’t know you’re there. Don’t tailgate other trucks – remember the three-second rule. This means I can see you clearly. Ensure your lights are all working when driving at night – headlights alone may confuse drivers into thinking you’re just another car.
If you aware of hazards ahead, try to avoid them. If you can’t avoid them, then slow down until you are clear of the hazard. You should also be aware of hazards inside your truck. Cell phones, televisions (and yes, truck drivers have been pulled over for watching a DVD whilst driving), eating and drinking can all lead to problems if your concentration is broken.
These are all simple processes, and if followed, will help you should you become involved in a dangerous situation. You may be a good truck driver, you may have attended a good truck driver training school, however, if you don’t drive defensively, it could account for nothing if another driver rams into you.