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When you think of the dangerous jobs in the US, trucking is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. However, truck driving is significantly more dangerous than most other industries in America, especially when safety is overlooked.
Not only do truck drivers face numerous dangers on their own, but they also share a road with other vehicles that can easily cause truck accidents or get injured from a truck-related accident. Due to their size and weight, the damage trucks can cause to other drivers is much bigger than any other vehicle. Because of this, truck drivers have a greater level of responsibility to be safer on the road. They are responsible for their safety, their truckload, and the safety of others on the road. This is a massive responsibility that should never be taken lightly.
According to the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for the year 2020, more than one in every seven work-related deaths was directly related to heavy-duty trucking, which is an increase from the previous year. In 2019, there were 843 truck driver deaths, which is 1.4% higher than the previous year, which had 831 trucker deaths. There has been an increase in trucker deaths since 2015, where the numbers had previously been declining.
One way your company can ensure that none of its truck drivers become a part of this horrible statistic is safety training. This includes having regular safety meetings to remind everyone of best practices and allow drivers to share their knowledge and experience with each other.
These meetings should be related to any issues that drivers may face on and off the road. Truck driver safety meetings can also reinforce your policy, provide innovative ideas, and remind your drivers of required industry standards. Here is a list of topics you can use to reinforce the safety of your drivers on the road:
If you don’t have a stated fleet policy, it is very difficult to have an ongoing company commitment to that policy. A fleet policy should be more than a set of rules. Instead, it should encourage truck drivers to engage in safer driving culture. Some fleet policy items should include:
Around 10% of all big truck crashes are caused by vehicle problems such as tire or brake failure. While a pre-trip inspection won’t prevent every single accident related to equipment failure, it will still help in decreasing the number of such accidents. Truck drivers should check engine components (air compressor, water pump, alternator), hoses, and the exhaust system. They should also inspect tires for uneven wear and worn tread, check fluid levels, coupling devices, and brakes, and make sure all the controls in their cab work properly, including lights and wipers. If pre-trip inspection is properly done, it can prevent mechanical breakdowns and accidents. With a thorough inspection, drivers can ensure their trucks are in good operating order and confirm they are compliant with state and federal regulations.
It is crucial that truck drivers drive within the speed limit. It goes without saying that overspeeding can lead to accidents. A truck is a huge vehicle, and it can be difficult to control it, especially when overspeeding. It is always better to drive at an average range and safely reach the destination later than driving too fast and risking not reaching the destination at all.
Although truck drivers know how long it takes for their vehicles to stop, still this doesn’t prevent some drivers from tailgating. Wet roads can increase the stopping distance, and heavily loaded trucks can take longer to stop than those driving without cargo. Remind drivers to reduce their speed by half (if not more, for some cases) and increase the distance in bad weather conditions (rain, fog, ice). Surprisingly enough, ice and snow are not the biggest dangers. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 60% of all weather-related fatalities involving trucks happen because of rain. To avoid these problems, make sure to remind your drivers of safe driving distances in all weather conditions.
With the amount of technology in trucks nowadays, distracted driving has become an even bigger problem than before. Although taking a call can certainly wait, a hands-free device must be used if a driver must talk on the phone while driving. We all know that a lot can go wrong in the time it takes to reach for a phone or food, read a text, or check a navigation device. In less than five seconds, a truck going 55 mph can travel more than a length of a football field! According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the chances of crashing, near-crashing, or unintentional lane deviation are 23 times bigger for truck drivers who are texting while driving.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 30% of all work zone accidents involve large trucks! Safe zone practices are a must topic for springtime when the road construction season begins. Make sure to remind your drivers to get into the correct lane well before a road closure, leave plenty of space between their truck and the vehicle in front of them, and pay attention to motorists trying to get ahead of them as lanes merge.
If a load is off-center or unbalanced, it can shift and affect turning and even cause rollovers. Make sure to remind your truck drivers how to ensure that their loads are well balanced and secured. Remind them of the requirement to check the load and the devices used for securing the cargo after their first 50 miles.
Drivers who spend countless hours on the road sitting behind the wheel can suffer from numerous physical health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, insomnia, diabetes, as well as mental health issues like anxiety or depression. This should be one of the most important safety topics to address because, as studies show, drivers with several medical conditions have a higher risk of crashing. Encourage your drivers to eat healthier, drink plenty of water, and seek mental health care if needed.
Remind your drivers of the importance of signaling correctly when wanting to change lanes. Drivers need to give proper notification so that all present vehicles around the truck can be alerted of their signals. Drivers of large trucks must take this point very seriously and ensure that the lane change can happen safely. Some vehicles may not allow trucks to transition into the lane ahead of them. When this happens, drivers must be patient and plan before needing to make a turn to ensure they are in the right lane when the time calls for it.
Dashcams mounted inside or outside the truck are becoming increasingly popular as a way to protect companies in the case of accidents and reduce risky driving. Help your drivers to understand this technology by explaining how they work and why they are used.
From time to time, use a safety meeting to celebrate drivers who have been committed to safe driving. Consider handing out surprise bonuses to drivers who have achieved certain safety milestones, such as 100,000 miles without accidents or three years without a traffic citation. Acknowledging the hard work of your drivers can reinforce your safety message and remind them that it is possible to drive safely and still get to the destination on time.
Driving a truck is not an easy task. Many accidents can happen, and some of these can be fatal. That’s why it’s crucial that truck drivers know and follow all the safety measures involved with driving such vehicles. It is also necessary to have proper insurance coverage. Make sure your drivers, vehicles, and business are protected. Mike Keith Insurance offers reliable, affordable trucking insurance for businesses of all sizes. Contact us today to get started!
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