Professional Truck Drivers have one of the most important but dangerous professions globally and “Safety First” is the most recognized saying in the Trucking Industry. Many Professional Truck Drivers as well as some trucking company staffers don’t realize “Safety First” extends beyond the road, it actually starts in the workplace. That’s right – there are several safety practices you must adhere to in house and on the road, as well as implement during your safety meetings to make sure every member of your fleet/staff are following protocol when it comes to safety and quality control. Let’s take a closer look at some of these helpful safety tips.
Pre-Trip Inspections must be one of the main topics during safety meetings. By now we all know a proper PTI is law per the FMCSA and DOT and shall be performed before any equipment takes to the road to ensure it’s roadworthy. Before your brakes are released be certain your vehicle is safe for operation and your load is properly secured. Make sure all lights are working, tire pressures are accurate, tire tread depths are in compliance, mirrors are adjusted properly and functioning, etc, please conduct the necessary research to complete this list. Should you have any problems with your equipment prior to starting your trip, report such concerns to your safety dept. or repair shop; O/O usually bear this entire responsibility. There’s a multitude of companies that produce all sorts of safety materials, publications, and software which is of great value to any trucking company safety department and their Professional Truck Drivers.
Load Securement and Knowing Your Limits
Making sure your equipment is safe to operate is a big responsibility. Proper load securement is a serious topic that needs to be addressed during safety meetings, as working with heavy equipment and cargo means that loads need to be secured properly before beginning and during your trip. Always follow safety and load securement guidelines when loading/unloading trailers so cargo doesn’t fall off or out of the trailer from being strapped or chained improperly or from shifting during transit. Bad weather conditions, traveling through construction zones, or mountain driving make it difficult to control your equipment and can cause the load to shift. Most forklift operators are professional and do a great job, however, being a Professional Truck Driver goes beyond just keeping the seat warm (just a joke). As you journey roads, you are charged with supervising the loading/unloading of your equipment where allowed by shippers/receivers. Utilizing the right securement for the load should not be taken lightly as it makes the difference between a secure and unsecure load.
Trucks/trailers can be difficult to maneuver, so it’s important to know how much weight your equipment is rated for. Though trucks/trailers are built to endure heavy loads, they can be strained if not used correctly or pushed too far. Load limits vary by vehicle, knowing what they are will prevent you from making unsafe decisions before getting loaded. In the event you discover you are about to receive or have received an overweight load, err on the side of caution and contact your dispatcher/broker, etc. before leaving that shipper. In addition to knowing your limits, knowing what is required of you as a Professional Truck Driver will help keep you and the general public safe while on the road.
Your Trucking Company should have a set of safety guidelines, it’s important to read these documents thoroughly, make sure you understand all safety protocols, and follow them at all times. Checklists can help ensure you are following proper procedures. Be mindful: even though there may not seem like much risk is associated with not following safety policies, they were established for a reason! If everyone on staff follows procedures exactly as written—every single day without exception—then everyone shall be safe.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Being aware of your surroundings is critical in every aspect of this profession which needs to be covered during Safety Meetings. For instance, when driving it’s important to pay attention to school buses and children entering and exiting the bus, make sure there’s no one walking, riding, or driving in your blind spot before changing lanes, etc. Using caution while driving in inclement weather is another major one: Though bad weather can be inconvenient, keeping a clear head during adverse conditions is key when on the road. Exercise caution whenever driving through all school zones and work zones! Obey all signs and signals (including traffic cones), and reduce speeds when instructed to do so by law enforcement officers or construction workers. Always move over for emergency response vehicles, stalled vehicles, and workers, etc. You can visit www.fmcsa.dot.gov for more information about school zone work zone safety guidelines for Professional Truck Drivers and much more.
Safe Following Distances and Distracted Driving
In order to prevent accidents, it’s important for Professional Truck Drivers to maintain a safe traveling distance from other vehicles, as well as allowing extra time for passing—if you pass within 1-2 seconds, you risk colliding with another vehicle or losing control of your rig. Because 18 wheelers are much heavier than other vehicles on the road, it takes longer to slow down and stop so you must maintain a safe following cushion from other vehicles depending on your speed of travel. If they start slowing down, you should be prepared to do so as well—don’t speed up in an attempt to catch up. Your extra weight could result in an unexpected collision with even smaller vehicles (even though they may look like they are moving slowly). It’s not just about having enough time to react; sometimes another driver will brake too quickly without warning. Ensure there is not a vehicle tailgating your truck before pulling into an adjacent lane. Leaving yourself plenty of space makes it easy for you to steer out of danger before someone else’s mistake becomes yours. Even if there is no accident involved, being able to take evasive action can help avoid problems altogether by giving you time to respond instead of reacting.
As a Professional Truck Drivers, you know how important it is to keep both hands on the wheel and focus on driving. All too often, we hear about fatal accidents caused by Professional Truck Drivers who use electronic devices, or eat, etc. behind the wheel. Something as simple as glancing down at a text can cause a driver to miss a turn or drift off of a highway or cause an accident or even a fatality. Take every precaution you can: don’t text or eat and drive, and leave your phone in your sleeping quarters when you get to work, and avoid using your smartphone except during meal breaks. When it comes to distracted driving, any risk is too much—even for professional drivers.
Safety on the yard at shippers/receivers contains many of the same levels of caution as being on the road, this is a key component safety meetings need to address. Keeping a safe distance from other trucks, vehicles, and persons while navigating the yard of your terminal, as well as that of shipper/receivers is paramount. When another vehicle is reversing, for instance, it is common courtesy and the law of most facilities to give him/her the right of way and space to accomplish the maneuver; all Professional Truck Drivers should know better than to cross the path of a vehicle reversing. Yard speeding is an ongoing issue resulting in personal injury as well as property damages, and there is absolutely no reason to go over the posted speed limit as it puts pedestrians and property at risk. Generally, 5-10 mph is the posted speed limit of most yards. Being aware of your surroundings at all times (when walking between trailers, parked trucks, around forklifts and other types of equipment, etc.) will mitigate overall injuries and damages and possibly being barred from a facility for violating their safety policies. Many back injuries occur when people try to lift, carry, or move loads improperly, or lift loads that are too heavy, so it is very important to lift objects from your legs and not from your back. Moreover, you should not have to do any manual labor, but if so, ask for help; employees miss many days of work annually due to injuries to their back, etc. You must obey all warning signs, postings, and rules which you should see throughout the facilities you’ll visit for the purpose of conducting trucking-related business.
Importance of CSA Scores
A CSA score, or Compliance, Safety, Accountability score, is created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to hold trucking companies and Professional Truck Drivers accountable for maintaining a good safety record. Companies and Professional Truck Drivers must meet or exceed federal safety regulations, which is what makes up their CSA score. The U.S. Department of Transportation publishes an annual list of all Trucking Companies in regards to how well they keep their Professional Truck Drivers safe through having low accident rates, fatalities, and passing DOT inspections, etc. Every year Trucking Companies will be given grades based on a variety of factors, not the least of which is the record of serious accidents within the past year, previous crash records for Professional Truck Drivers, and records of any unsafe driving — speeding, driving recklessly, no seatbelts, or inattention. A low score is essential for being DOT compliant and competitive in the Trucking Industry, i.e. a score below the 65 percent mark, or 60 percent for a hazmat carrier. Low CSA ratings protect your Trucking Company from FMCSA warning letters, the crippling embarrassment of a low score, and any additional government investigations. A low CSA score, most importantly, keeps your Trucking Firm safe and in demand for clients.
One More Consideration
Installing a camera in your equipment is vitally necessary in the event of an accident to prove your side of the story.
Safety meetings are held for a reason, Professional Truck Drivers should not skip over anything covered in these meetings to ensure the safest possible environment for themselves and the general public. The goal is to have all Professional Truck Drivers and others return home safely daily