Most people do their best to avoid accidents whenever they hit the road. Unfortunately, accidents can occur at any time, in spite of your best efforts to avoid them. Big trucks pose a particular hazard for other drivers on the road; because of their greater size and weight, they can cause more serious injuries than passenger vehicles involved in accidents. Fortunately, you can take steps to help make truck accidents less severe when they do occur. In the event of an accident don’t hesitate to contact a truck accident attorney to discuss your case.
10 Things Truck Drivers Can Do to Make Their Trucks More Accident Safe
As a truck driver, you spend countless hours in your truck each week. Often, you get comfortable with minor inconveniences simply because you accept them as part of driving your specific truck. By taking some of these steps, however, you can protect other drivers against the possible dangers that could occur during an accident.
1. Conduct Regular Maintenance Inspections on Your Truck With Care.
After every drive, you should conduct a basic inspection of your truck. Depending on the trucking company you work for, you may need to file a report that mentions any problems you had with the truck during your drive. You should carefully note any problems, including issues with your windshield wipers, lights, or brakes. Do not skimp on this inspection or ignore potential problems with your vehicle. If you fail to properly manage maintenance requests and inspections for your vehicle, you may allow small problems to become much bigger issues that could pose a substantial danger to your vehicle. You should also avoid taking out a truck that you know did not receive the maintenance it needs for a safe ride, even if you know you have a deadline to meet.
2. Always Inspect Cargo to Ensure Proper Balance and Security.
Whether you pull a semi-truck with a full trailer filled with cargo or a flatbed that often carries construction equipment or heavy, unwieldy cargo, you need to know what your cargo looks and feels like when properly loaded. You might not bear responsibility for how the cargo gets loaded onto your truck, but you will bear responsibility for an accident that occurs with you behind the wheel.
Improperly balanced cargo can substantially increase the risk of jackknife and rollover accidents, which can cause substantial injuries to anyone involved in the accident. Also, make sure you do not overload your truck, which can increase the risk of tire blowouts. While your truck, trailer, and cargo can have a legal combined maximum weight of 80,000 pounds, that does not necessarily mean that your truck can safely haul that much cargo. Make sure you know what your tires can handle as well as what you can safely pull.
3. Take Steps to Avoid Tire Blowouts.
Big truck tires need regular replacement. Examine your treads regularly, and if you notice them wearing down, make sure to replace the tires—even if the maintenance timeline says those tires can still take some miles. In addition, you can take other important steps to avoid many of the risks associated with tire blowout accidents. Pay attention to the road. Try to avoid potholes and obstacles that could cause damage to your tires. You may also want to make sure your cargo gets distributed evenly so that you do not mistakenly put too much weight on one set of tires.
4. Install an Automatic Braking System.
When another vehicle gets too close to your truck’s front bumper, it can cause a significant hazard. You may not even realize the vehicle did not give your truck adequate room. With an automatic braking system, however, the truck will start automatically slowing down if a vehicle gets too close to your front bumper, without any need for input from you. In some cases, the system may even start to bring your vehicle to a stop, applying the brakes to help give you more room to slow down or stop if needed.
5. Look Into a Video System to Show What Sits Behind You.
With all the advances available in modern technology, you can now have better visibility around your truck than ever. With video monitoring, you can see vehicles beside and behind your truck, decreasing blind spots and making it easier for you to avoid potential sideswipe collisions. The better your visibility, the more you can protect other drivers around you, including both decreasing accident risk and, in some cases, decreasing the severity of an accident.
6. Use Lane Departure Warnings.
Big trucks take up a great deal more space on the road than passenger vehicles, including a much wider profile that needs more space in its lane. You can, therefore, drift out of your own lane more easily, especially if you become inattentive or allow distractions to take your attention off of the road. Lane departure warnings installed on your truck, however, can let you know immediately if you start to slip out of your lane. This feature may prove especially valuable on tight roadways or during turns, when you may struggle more to keep your truck safely on the road.
7. Make Use of the Latest Stability Control Technology.
Stability control technology helps minimize slips and slides on the road, keeping your vehicle more safely in its lane and preventing many types of accidents. Keep up with the latest upgrades in stability control, and when possible, make upgrades to your vehicle. As technology improves, you can do a much better job of remaining on the road, even in poor weather conditions.
8. Use Onboard Electronic Logging Systems.
Every day you work, you may spend as many as eleven hours on the road. Over time, this can lead to substantial fatigue, including increased distraction or inattention behind the wheel, trouble staying awake, and more problems keeping up with traffic around you. In spite of this, you might suffer the temptation to squeeze in just a few more miles before you pull off the road for the day, especially if you have dealt with traffic slowdowns or weather hazards that prevented you from making as much time as you had hoped. Tired drivers, however, pose a much higher accident risk than alert drivers who got a good night’s sleep and prepared to face the next day’s work. Using an onboard logging system can prevent you from cheating the system, since it will immediately notify you when you try to exceed the federally mandated number of hours.
9. Make Sure You Have Strong Rear Underride Guards.
When you think about an accident with a smaller vehicle, you might typically picture your truck plowing into that vehicle. In some cases, however, it happens the other way around: a smaller passenger vehicle accidentally misjudges the distance between that vehicle and your truck. When it slams into the back of your vehicle, however, a small car may keep on going, slipping beneath the undercarriage of your truck and causing substantial damage to the vehicle—and even more severe injuries to its passengers. By installing a rear underride guard, you can prevent further damage to the occupants of the vehicle, often saving their lives.
10. Pay Attention to Truck Speed Limits.
The higher your rate of speed in an accident, the more damage you will do to your truck, your cargo, and the other vehicle—not to mention its occupants. When you have a long haul to make and a limited number of hours to get your cargo to its destination, you might push the speed limit to get there faster. When you speed, however, it significantly increases both the risk that you will cause a truck accident and the risk that you will cause severe injuries in an accident. Instead, slow down and take the time you need to get your cargo to its destination safely.
Modern vehicles, including big trucks, have more safety options than ever. By making sure that your rig has the right safety features installed, you can substantially decrease the risk that you will cause an accident with serious injuries. Unfortunately, many big trucking companies lag several years behind in installing the latest technology on their vehicles. While you wait for those important upgrades, you can still take many steps yourself to make your truck safer, both for you and for other drivers.
4 Actions Other Drivers Can Take to More Safely Share the Road With Trucks
While truck drivers can do many things to help keep their trucks safer, other drivers also bear responsibility for what happens out on the road. If you’re not a truck driver, but you want to make sharing the road with big trucks safer, consider some of these important steps.
1. Develop a Solid Idea of How Much Room Big Trucks Need to Maneuver.
Big trucks simply need more room to maneuver than smaller passenger vehicles. Big trucks, for example, may need the length of a football field to come to a stop when they travel at 60 miles per hour or more. If you pull over in front of a big truck, the driver may not have the capacity to stop in time. Make sure you wait until you can change lanes safely before pulling over in front of a big truck. Also, learn how much space trucks need to make a right turn: they need more room to supply the necessary visibility, which can lead to problems if a passenger vehicle pulls up alongside the truck.
2. Get to Know Trucks’ Blind Spots.
Big trucks have long blind spots down both sides: spaces where the driver cannot see other vehicles. Learn how to identify truck blind spots: notably, if you cannot see the truck driver in the truck’s mirrors, he may not clearly see you, either. When you know how to identify trucks’ blind spots, you can stay out of them, substantially decreasing the risk of an accident.
If you do need to move through a big truck’s blind spot—passing that truck on the road, for example—try to move smoothly through the blind spot, without lingering unnecessarily. When you catch yourself in a truck’s blind spot with no option to get out quickly, pay close attention to the truck driver. In tight traffic, a truck driver usually will not try to change lanes. If you do notice the truck driver trying to move over, signal your presence appropriately.
3. Follow the Rules of the Road—Both Written and Unwritten.
Many rules of the road exist to help keep everyone safer. Speed limits, for example, help keep drivers from exceeding the maximum safe speed for a particular area. Red lights and stop signs help control the flow of traffic. When you ignore these rules, you can quickly cause an accident with a truck that cannot stop fast enough.
In addition, use your turn signals to indicate your intentions, whether slowing for a turn or changing lanes. This can prepare a truck driver for your actions on the road, which can, in turn, help him or her slow down or stop to accommodate your needs. Failing to use turn signals appropriately, on the other hand, can make it much harder to guess your plans, which means that the truck driver will need to react faster.
4. Avoid Using Bright Lights, if Possible.
Truck drivers sit much higher on the road than passenger vehicles, but that does not mean you can leave your bright lights on when passing them or driving behind them. High beams reflecting off of truck mirrors can leave the driver blind for as much as two seconds while he tries to adjust. Those two seconds could prevent a truck driver from avoiding an accident. Instead, keep your regular headlights on, and turn the high beams off for big trucks just like you do for other drivers around you.
Truck accidents can cause serious injuries for everyone involved. If you suffer injuries in a truck accident, contact a truck accident attorney as soon as possible to help seek compensation for the full cost of your injuries.
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