There is good news: the large truck fatal crash rate declined by 74 percent between 1980 and 2014, showing the success of trucking safety measures. Unfortunately, there are still 500,000 truck accidents each year, and the damage sustained in these accidents is immense. While truck drivers are only at fault in 16 percent of these accidents, an emphasis on trucking travel safety reduces your chances of accidents and possible limits on your CDL. Here are four tips to use on your next long-haul drive:
- Know your braking distance: It takes a semi truck six seconds and 512 feet to come to a complete stop if it is traveling at 55 miles per hour. This is due to three elements: perception, reaction and braking distance. Perception is the time it takes to see a hazard, reaction the time to act on it and braking distance the actual time to stop. Heavier trucks require additional braking distance, and wet or snowy roads add more challenges. Your best course of action is to maintain long distances between other vehicles and reduce speed with questionable road conditions.
- Skidding and slide safely: Skidding and sliding result from over steering, heavy braking or speeding. You may also experience them in ice or snow because you overcorrect. If you skid or slide due to weather conditions, remove your foot off the accelerator and push in the clutch so you can regain traction. If you lock your rear drive wheels, turn the truck in the direction you want to go and then counter steer to straighten. For front wheel skids, allow the truck to slow down on its own, because you likely do not have steering power in this situation.
- Turn with caution: There is no doubt your semi turns differently than your passenger car. It requires more space, and in heavy traffic, other motorists need to work with you a little. Be aware of the space around you before you turn. For right turns, turn wide, but keep the back of the truck and trailer near the curb. Left turns start in the center of the intersection, or if there is a right-turn lane, you should use it because you can see the left lane better. If the truck gets stuck, you can rock it out of the stuck spot by engaging the clutch as you feather the fuel. But if you have automatic transmission, you will need to be rescued by a tow truck.
- Avoid traffic when possible: If you do not need to drive through a high-traffic area, avoid it. Everything your semi does requires space, and that may not be possible in bumper-to-bumper rush hour circumstances. Plan your trip in advance and use a truck route GPS that seeks to avoid traffic. Also, choose routes that minimize lane changes and allow you to maintain proper braking distance.