I’d Rather be Safe Than Lucky
Originally published in the Layover.com newsletter.
In 2014, TIME magazine ranked truck driving number eight on its list of the “10 most dangerous jobs”. Their findings, based on studies by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, attribute the high danger of the truck driving vocation to transportation-related incidents (which account for 40% of deaths). I think it’s safe to conclude that we as professional drivers are in the danger zone.
The school of “hard knocks” is probably not the best institution to graduate from, but when you’re a
determined, hard-nosed, “I got this,” kind of truck driver, sometimes that’s where we find ourselves. Personally, I wasn’t exactly that type of driver, but I drove with many women and men who had that attitude. Several were forced to take a second look at the safety tips given out by our employers because of horrible incidents where they learned the hard way. Admittedly, I, too, had a couple of close calls while driving that made me stop and adjust my thinking behind the wheel.
One of the companies that I worked for had a mandatory monthly safety meeting. Most of the time I felt like the company was just taking an hour away from my home time. I had attended enough meetings, I didn’t need to be reminded anymore about being safe, and I had never had any major accidents (although I had a few small run-ins with a stop sign, a metal water line, and parking lot guard rail). I thought that I was a pretty safe driver overall, and since the minor collisions I’d been involved in happened while I was a rookie driver, they shouldn’t really “count.”
That all changed one afternoon when I was hauling butt home from a load delivery in Texas. I was on the I-20 west bound, the traffic was semi-heavy, but it was after the evening rush hour so it wasn’t gridlock. The sun was beginning to set, but it was shining bright through my windshield. The sunglasses propped on my nose blocked some of the glare, but it was still difficult to see. I had moved into the fast lane in order to go around a pickup and a small four-wheeler that appeared to be having as much difficulty as I was with the bright sunlight.
I rode the fast lane for a little while hoping to give myself and those vehicles plenty of space. I checked my mirrors and put on my signal to move back over into the granny lane, which appeared to be clear. Before I knew what was happening, a little red sports car appeared in the right side of my windshield. The driver was honking his horn and his passenger had climbed out of his window and was yelling and throwing gestures with his hands that let me know that they were less than impressed with the fact I had not seen them attempting to pass in the right lane.
I had not hit them, thank God for that. They were forced to move over to the emergency edge of the road to avoid the collision. I was left shaking from head to toe with the realization of what could have happened. It did not take me long after that incident to realize, those one-hour- a-month safety meetings were not only important, but necessary. I recently conducted some research on safety tips for eighteen-wheel truck drivers. In my opinion, Allstate compiled an excellent list.
1. Watch your blind spots. Truckers have three: 1- to the side just in front of the cab. 2- just behind the side mirror. 3- directly behind the truck (the one that almost caused that major accident for me).
2. Reduce speed in work zones. One-third of all accidents in work zones involve trucks.
3. Maintain your truck. Keep your truck, especially the brakes and tires in good working order.
4. Load your cargo wisely and make sure it is secured appropriately. Shifting or loose cargo can be very dangerous.
5. Reduce your speed on curves, off ramps and on ramps. Remember you’re not on a ninja bike or in a race car. You are in control of an 80,000 pound killing machine and the laws of motion won’t change just for you.
6. Adjust for bad weather. A good standard to follow is reducing speeds by 25% on wet roads, and 50% on snow or icy roads. Making long signals or using flashers during low visibility is a good practice as well.
7. TAKE CARE OR YOURSELF. Get plenty of rest, eat right, exercise, and get quality time at home. A happy, alert driver is a safe driver.
Any of you truckers out there have additional tips for safe driving? Or any advice for our new drivers? I’d love to hear from you! Always feel free to drop me a line.