In 2017 there were 4,761 people killed in crashes involving large trucks, a 9% increase from 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The increase shows that this hazardous occupation is growing even more risky.
However, there are several steps drivers can take to reduce their risk of injuries, including:
Practice good vehicle maintenance – Check the truck’s condition every morning, especially the condition of the brakes. Report anything unusual to the dispatcher.
Stack cargo in low piles spread evenly through the trailer – This reduces drag on the truck and makes it easier to handle.
Always wear seat belts – Passengers not wearing seat belts make up the majority of those killed in car accidents. Government data shows that drivers who do not wear seat belts are 25 times more likely to be killed if they are ejected from their vehicles.
Slow down in adverse conditions – These include poor weather, at night, on curves and highway ramps, in work zones, and when hauling loaded trailers. One quarter of speeding-related large truck fatalities occur when the weather is poor.
Another 40% occur on curves, and 20 to 30% of large truck crashes occur on entrance and exit ramps.
Plan out routes on unfamiliar roads in advance – Avoid making sudden corrections after missing a turn or exit, and always signal when changing lanes or turning. Statistics show that 22% of large truck crashes happen when drivers are not familiar with the roads.
Drive defensively and be aware at all times – Be alert to cars that may be in the driver’s blind spot. Watch for brake lights. Use caution when approaching intersections.
Change lanes infrequently – If you must move over, do so carefully, checking mirrors and staying aware of what may be in blind spots.
Avoid driving while tired – Get plenty of sleep before a trip, eat healthy meals, watch out for signs of fatigue, and take naps when necessary. Tricks such as turning up the radio or unrolling windows may help for a short time, but they do not solve the problem. Also, coffee takes time to provide an energy boost.
Resist distractions – Dialing a phone, texting, using a dispatching device, reading maps, eating and drinking, and watching objects outside the truck can all divert the driver’s attention and increase the risk of a crash.
Leave plenty of space between the truck and the car ahead – Experts advise one second of driving time for every 10 feet of vehicle length, plus one extra second at speeds above 40 mph. Double that in poor weather.
If possible, avoid driving during heavy traffic times – This would include rush hours as well as holidays.
Driving can be dangerous, especially when piloting a loaded rig. Any driver may be prone to acting in ways that increase the hazards of driving. Following these suggestions will reduce those hazards and better protect drivers if crashes happen.