When driving an 18-wheeler, you’ve got a lot more to be mindful of than when you’re driving a passenger vehicle. To help you stay safe, here’s a list of tips for avoiding distractions.
1. Do not let objects outside of your truck distract you. Billboards and other advertisements near the road are meant to get your attention. However, anything that takes your eyes off the road ahead can be a distraction. Aim to minimize the amount of time you spend looking at these objects.
2. Pre-program your radio and GPS before hitting the road. Of course you want to listen to your favorite artists, podcasts, and radio shows while on the road. But if you want to minimize distractions, program your radio before you get onto the road. Also, be sure to input your destination address into your GPS ahead of time so that you can focus on driving.
3. Adjust your seat, mirrors, and interior temperature before heading out. Set your A/C or heat settings, and mirror and seat position. This way you’ll be comfortable and less likely to get distracted by making adjustments.
4. Do not text or dial a handheld phone while driving. A 2009 study of real-world driving found that text messaging while driving increased a driver’s chances of being involved in a safety-critical event by 23 times. A 2010 study of real-world driving found that dialing a handheld cell phone while driving increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by 3 times.
5. Do not use a dispatching device while driving. Dispatching devices let you and your dispatchers communicate, can help you navigate, and can help keep your logs. These devices are sometimes called mobile or portable data terminals and can help make your job easier. Although a message on the dispatching device might seem urgent, using a dispatching device while driving can be dangerous. This is because the dispatching device can take your eyes, hands, and mind away from driving safely. Since using a dispatching device while driving raises your risk of a crash, many companies have policies in place or lock out features when the truck is moving. Using a dispatching device is “texting for truckers.”
6. Keep a safe distance from other drivers. Tailgating is a bad idea when you’re driving a passenger vehicle, but it’s an especially bad idea when driving an 18-wheeler. You need space on all four sides of your truck and trailer because you need more time and space to react to the movements of smaller vehicles.
7. Scan your mirrors regularly. You may be higher up off the ground than everyone else on the road, but that doesn’t mean you can always spot vehicles creeping up next to you. So keep an eye out for cars in your blind spots by regularly checking your mirrors.
8. Keep your truck clutter-free. You don’t have to be a clean freak to keep your truck organized. If you’ve got personal belongings lying on the floor, they could easily slide around the inside of your truck and cause a distraction. Before you drive out, scan your truck for items that could fall or move out of place and take a moment to secure them.
9. Avoid eating and drinking when driving. Sometimes you may feel like driving is the only time you have to eat or drink. Eating while driving can take your eyes off the road and that's just not safe. This is probably not something you want to hear, but the truth is, taking your hands off the steering wheel — even if it’s just one hand at a time — reduces the amount of control you have over your truck. Drink your water, eat your snacks, and have your meals only when your truck is parked. You don’t want to risk an accident over a few potato chips or a cup of coffee.
10. Do not read, write, or use paper maps while driving. Printed directions, notes to yourself, and maps are a normal part of your job. If you need to read something or write yourself a note, the safest thing to do is pull over. Never read, even a map, or write while you are driving!