The last thing you want to do when you drive a truck across state lines is get into an accident. Getting compensated after a truck crash beyond your state’s borders is a difficult and lengthy process. Not to mention, getting into an accident could total your truck. It could leave you without an income for weeks or even months as you heal from your injuries or find another truck to drive.
Do yourself a favor and prevent an accident from happening in the first place. Following these tips will increase your chances of experiencing a smooth, safe ride when trucking across state lines.
Plan Out Your Trip Before You Hit the Road
No matter how much experience you have or where you’re headed, it’s always a good idea to plan out your trip before you hit the road.
Start by keying your route into GPS so you can see exactly where you will be driving. By keying it in before you hit the road, you can avoid fumbling with your GPS while you’re driving too.
There are other things you’ll want to consider as you’re planning your trip. You should see if you will be driving on especially dangerous roads so you know when to drive more cautiously. You will also want to know if you’ll be driving through any major metropolitan areas during rush hour, or if you need to reroute your trip in order to avoid restricted roads that have low clearances or low-weight bridges.
Create a Break Schedule
There’s a reason why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has regulated hours for truck drivers. Not taking breaks can have disastrous consequences, so they have enacted limits on how much you can drive within certain time periods.
Plan out your break times so you aren’t tempted to continue pushing through feelings of exhaustion. Plan a break into your trip every two to four hours, with at least one 30-minute extended break every 8 hours. When you plan specific break times into your route, you’re more likely to take them so you remain alert throughout the duration of your entire trip.
There are a lot of bad drivers out there on the road. You can’t do anything about the way they drive, but you can do something about how you react to their driving.
Avoid offensive driving when you’re in a large truck. Instead, focus on defensive driving.
That means staying aware of your blind spots, maintaining a safe driving distance, and paying attention to what’s happening a quarter of a mile ahead of you down the road.
Don’t cave into pressure from the flow of traffic either. It’s much safer to go the speed limit, or even a little below it, than it is to speed up and increase your chances of getting into a deadly accident.
Not only should you drive defensively, you should also drive predictably. Everyone else on the road should know exactly what you’re doing at all times.
That means doing things like:
- Slow down before you take a turn so everyone has plenty of time to slow down before you complete the turn
- Activate your turn signal well before changing lanes so your intention to merge is clear
- Stay in your lane so other cars don’t swerve in and out of their lane to avoid getting hit by your truck
- Maintain a consistent speed to avoid creating traffic congestion
Make Sure Your Truck is Properly Maintained at All Times
It’s not just people that can cause accidents. Your truck can cause an accident if it isn’t properly maintained.
Find a preventative maintenance schedule for your vehicle or look up an example of a maintenance schedule online. Make sure you stay on top of oil changes and talk to your mechanic about which parts need to be updated, including when tires should be rotated or replaced.
Maintaining your truck also means going through a preventative maintenance checklist ahead of every road trip. You should walk around your vehicle and look for body damage, check tire inflation, and check fluid levels.
You also have to make sure the interior of your truck is ready for the next trip. Adjust mirrors, move the seat, and set up your snacks and drinks with a canister for waste. That way, when you get in your truck, the interior and exterior are ready for the long haul.
Know How to Deal With Dangerous Conditions on the Road
The road itself can be quite dangerous, especially for large trucks. It’s important to know how to deal with potential problems well before they show up so you can react accordingly in a split second.
Weather is a big one. Snow, ice, and rain can compromise your vision and make roads slick. It’s important to know when to pull over and when it’s safe to get back on the road again.
Other road conditions to be aware of include:
- Disabled vehicles
- Road construction
- Animals on the road
Use a Dash Cam
Accidents can still happen when you’re driving as safely as possible. If you hit another vehicle, a pedestrian, or your truck swerves off the road and it isn’t your fault, you’ll be glad if you have a dash cam.
Insurance pays out after an accident according to who is at fault. Figuring out who is at fault can be difficult. It may not go your way, either. But with a dash cam, what happened is indisputable. You can quickly prove that another car swerved into your lane or another person jumped in front of your truck without the need to go back and forth with your insurance or the other person’s insurance.
Long hauls can be challenging for truck drivers. Long drives can increase your chances of getting into an accident, but they don’t have to. When you follow the tips on this list, you can drive to your final destination—and return home—as safely as possible.