Tips for Safe Truck Driving
At S.E. Smith & Sons, we appreciate the important role truck drivers and owner-operators play in sustaining the CA economy. We also know that trucking is a demanding occupation–financially, physically, and emotionally. We want you to be as safe and comfortable on the road as possible. Here are some tips for avoiding accidents and injuries, and ultimately enjoying a successful career.
- Stay attentive. Do not allow anything or anyone to distract you while you're driving. If driving becomes difficult for any reason (inclement weather, rough road conditions, family emergency...) slow down or stop if necessary. A safe driver maintains full awareness of his surroundings, and concentrates on the road.
- Be extra attentive when turning. A truck's weight, length, and height make it nearly impossible for truck drivers to maneuver tight turns like regular vehicles. But drivers of smaller vehicles don't always give you the room you need to make a turn. Signal well before starting a turn, and make sure you have the distance necessary to safely complete the turn.
- Be extra attentive when backing. Before backing, walk to the rear of your truck and look all around for obstructions. Look all the way to the point you plan to stop – there could be something in your path – and walk to that point. Then turn around and visualize the backing maneuver. Don't just rely on spotters. You are the sole person responsible for backing your truck safely.
- Park smartly. Whenever possible, back your trailer against a wall or fence to block easy access to your trailer doors. Something this simple can prevent theft, and if you set your trailer brake and put tension on the fifth wheel pin, a thief can't pull the fifth wheel release.
- Check your tires before getting back on the road. Pay special attention to your tires before starting a job, whether you're driving a long distance or making a short trip. When tread separates from a tire, it creates a dangerous road hazard, and could cause an accident.
- Stay in one lane. It's in your best interest to stay in one lane of travel until you come to a stop. Even if you encounter an incident – such as slowed traffic, getting cut off by another driver, or being struck by an animal – you will likely do less harm to yourself and others and create less property damage if you stay in a single lane of travel.
- Check and recheck your blind spots. Many motorists are unaware of where your blind spots are located, and as a result, unintentionally put themselves in harm's way. Make sure to check and recheck your blind spots before attempting any maneuver.
- Don't let other drivers get under your skin. Motorists with whom you share the road often drive unpredictably – and sometimes downright irresponsibly. Their poor driving may display ignorance of your truck's limitations, or simply their own disregard for safety. Recognize and accept their inexperience and use extra care. Don't let yourself get angry.
- Make sure your cargo is secured properly. Improperly secured cargo can cause your truck to be unstable, and could result in falling debris that may injure you or any people or vehicles around you.
- Follow hours-of-service rules. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have many hours-of-service regulations to help prevent accidents caused by driver fatigue. Do not exceed these limits to try to make more money or meet delivery deadlines. It's not worth it.
Truck Care Tips to Keep Your Rig Running Great
As a truck driver, you know you have to set aside time for truck maintenance and repair. But every minute you're off the road you probably feel like you're losing money. At S.E. Smith & Sons in Azusa, CA, we understand your concern. Aside from sticking with a routine maintenance schedule – which is the single most important thing you can do for your truck – the best way to avoid unscheduled repair stops and unnecessary downtime is to take care of your rig.
It really doesn't take much to make a huge difference in how your truck performs, and often the smartest and safest habits are simply common sense. Here are 10 tips to keep your truck running great between service visits:
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Every week (or more if you're on a long trip), check your tire pressure. Underinflated tires can lower your fuel mileage and make steering difficult, and overinflated tires are more prone to punctures and pothole damage. It's also important to keep in mind that tire pressure can fluctuate with weather changes and from driving at high speeds, so definitely monitor your tires in these situations.
- Regularly check your fluid levels. Before a long haul, make sure to check all of your fluids, especially your oil. Big diesel engines need lots of oil to run well, and if you don't check your oil often, you could eventually harm your engine, leading to high repair costs.
- Regularly check your radiator. Prior to long trips, it's also important to check your radiator. Look at the radiator itself as well as the overflow bottle. If necessary, top off the fluid, and if you see any leaks (even if they're small), deal with them quickly before they cause overheating and do any damage to your engine.
- Make sure to use the correct fluids. You may think this goes without saying, but it's all too easy to use the wrong fluid when you're in a hurry. Make sure to double-check container labels before you top off your fluids.
- Check your fuel vent if you've been sitting for a few days. After a few days off, check your fuel vent before getting back on the road. Insects, such as wasps, are known to build nests in truck fuel vents, creating blockages and causing trucks to appear to be out of fuel.
- Check your brakes often. Do you hear squealing or feel vibration when you apply your brakes? If so, it's probably time for a checkup. Dealing with the issue sooner rather than later will likely save you money and downtime in the long run.
- Drive properly. Drive at the posted speed limit and avoid slamming on the brakes. Simply following state and federal trucking regulations can save your truck a lot of wear and tear, prolong its life, and keep you out of the repair shop.
- Park properly. Avoid parking sideways on a hill and causing one side of your truck to be higher than the other. This can cause fuel from the higher tank to flow into the lower tank, and then when you start your truck, the uneven tanks will cause the fuel uptake system to draw in air instead of fuel.
- Allow your engine to cool before turning off your truck. Before you cut the key off, allow your engine to cool so that your exhaust gas temperature is below 300 degrees.
- Avoid harsh weather conditions. We know it's an inconvenience to stop for inclement weather, but you can avoid significant damage to your truck by getting off the road when bad weather strikes.
Tips for Safely Sharing the Road with Big Trucks
S.E. Smith & Sons is proud to handle maintenance and repairs for fleet companies and truck owner-operators in the Azusa area. Not only are these companies and individuals resourceful and hardworking, they are an integral part of the CA economy.
We also appreciate that the trucking industry has a small business emphasis. There are thousands of trucking companies located in CA, and most of them are small, locally owned businesses. And these companies are served by a wide range of supporting businesses (like us!)
Many Azusa businesses depend exclusively on trucks to move their goods, so there are A LOT of semis on our streets and highways. We'd like to give you some tips for driving safely when you're sharing the road with semi-trucks.
- Avoid blind spots around large trucks. If you can't see a truck's side mirrors, the truck driver can't see you.
- Do not pass a truck on the right while the truck is turning right. Trucks must swing wide to the left to negotiate right turns safely.
- Do not cut in front of any large vehicle because they require much more distance to stop in comparison to cars.
- When passing a semi, wait until you can see the entire cab in your rearview mirror before pulling in front of the truck.
- Give trucks at least four to six seconds of space in wet conditions and at highway speeds.
- Do not cut off a truck in traffic or on the highway to reach your exit or turn.
- Slow down when driving through work zones. Nearly one-third of work zone fatal crashes involve large trucks.
- Always drive defensively, and never aggressively. Over half of traffic fatalities can be linked to aggressive driving behaviors.
- Stay focused on the road. Do not text or use your cell phone while driving.
- Always wear your seatbelt.
Cautious, attentive drivers make public roads safe for all motorists. You can also help by notifying traffic safety agencies of crashes, unsafe drivers, unsafe roadway conditions, and other situations that can lead to accidents.
Tips for Conserving Fuel
You may not realize it, but of all the variable costs for a truck owner-operator – such as maintenance, insurance, permits, licenses, and tolls – fuel is your most controllable expense, but also the easiest to waste. So how do you accomplish good fuel economy? Your truck must overcome three things: air resistance, rolling resistance, and gravity. Here are some driving tips to address these issues and avoid wasting fuel.
- Don't speed. Did you know it takes about 40-50 more horsepower to drive at 75 mph than at 65 mph? Higher speed requires more horsepower, which in turn requires more fuel. Experts agree that every mile per hour driven over 60 mph reduces fuel economy by one-tenth of a mile per gallon.
- Perform regular preventative maintenance. Along with sticking to your preventative maintenance schedule, check your miles per gallon each time you fill your tank. If it ever falls, determine the reason.
- Check your tire pressure. Once a week, check the air pressure in all 18 of your tires and air them up to the manufacturer's specifications.
- Accelerate slowly. Slower acceleration consumes less fuel and is easier on your equipment. Quick acceleration may get you a few extra seconds, but it creates premature wear on your engine, driveline, and tires, in addition to increasing your fuel costs.
- De-accelerate slowly. Slow braking avoids precious fuel from being converted to wasted energy. With hard braking, a lot of the fuel you've used to get up to speed is wasted when you apply the brakes. Watch ahead a distance of 12 seconds, and you should rarely have to react at the last split second.
- Limit your idle time. Idling requires about a gallon of fuel per hour. That's about $80 a week if your truck idles for eight hours a day. An extra blanket for when it's cold outside and window screens for when it's warm can help limit your idle time.
- Make sure your trailer is snug to the tractor. Although your ride may not be as good, when your trailer is snug tight to the tractor, you cut down on wind resistance. The fuel savings are worth the trade-off.
- Buy through the company fuel network. If you work for a trucking company (about 30% of all truck drivers are employed by the trucking industry), buy fuel through your company's fuel network to control the cost and quality of fuel.