Defensive Truck Driving Tips for Truck Drivers

a truck driver driving defensively

Defensive driving is considered one of the most successful strategies for companies to save money, time, and lives. It’s proven to be highly effective in reducing company costs, fuel economy, and improving truck fleet management. Let’s take a look at some ways to become a safer, more considerate truck driver.

Look at Least 12 to 15 Seconds Ahead

This technique is highly effective because the sooner you see something coming up ahead, the more time you have to make the right decision.

Professional driving truck driving coaches advise drivers to keep an eye out for potential hazards by looking at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead. This will give you more time to anticipate potential threats and plan how you will react.

For larger vehicles and heavy equipment like road trains and freight trucks, this is critical – they simply can’t manoeuvre as quickly as the smaller, lighter vehicles on the road.

Ensure a Good Following Distance Is Maintained

One of the most emphasised defensive driving tips for truck drivers is building and maintaining a safe distance between other drivers.

Commercial vehicles should maintain a following distance of:

  • 5 seconds if you are driving under 60 km per hour
  • 10 seconds when driving over 60 km per hour
  • More than 10 seconds on wet and slippery roads.

This will ensure enough time to brake and come to a stop without hitting the car in front of you if you need to brake suddenly.

Leave Yourself an Out

Your aim is always to have a physical buffer between your truck and the vehicle ahead of you. And the same goes for having space on either your left or right side of your truck.

Good defensive driving techniques involve you maintaining at least one option to move out of the way in potentially dangerous situations – this would either be steering to the side of the street or changing lanes away from harm.

Make Sure to Scan Intersections Before Entering

When you’ve stopped at an intersection because the light is red, what is the first thing you do before pulling away?

Wait until the light turns green, right? While this is the correct way to drive, safe driving techniques involve an extra step before accelerating immediately.

First, scan your surroundings – check for pedestrians or cars that may run the red light (this happens very often) and only enter the intersection after doing this.

Adjust Your Speed According to Specific Conditions

A speed limit is exactly what it says, a speed limit. You probably would have noticed that most drivers set their minimum speed to that number (plus an extra 10 or 20 km/h).

However, driving defensively means adjusting your speed to what is appropriate for the current driving environment, not according to the posted speed.

You factor in the weather, traffic, road conditions, visibility, type of vehicle you are driving, and the load you are carrying to decide how fast you should drive.

For instance, if you are carrying a heavy load, that isn’t secured with a truck tarp, and you’re driving in the rain, you will certainly be driving at a slower speed than a lighter vehicle on a day with clear visibility – regardless of the set speed limit.

Avoid Reversing

Did you know that one of the most prevalent types of collisions involves vehicles reversing?

Defensive driving skills consist of looking for opportunities to avoid needing to back up. For example, by choosing a parking space that allows you to exit out the front, even if it’s further away and a slightly longer walk.

If you don’t have another choice but to reverse out of a space, take your time and make sure first to have a careful look at your surroundings, while giving people around you enough time to notice you are backing out.

Keep Your Mind Engaged and Stay Alert

Driving on a long, monotonous road can definitely make you bored and unfocused. But staying alert at all times is key.

How? Firstly, make sure to take breaks if you have a long journey. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes every once in a while to stretch your legs and freshen up.

Secondly, you can keep your mind active by looking at other vehicles around you and trying to predict their next move, or you could listen to your favourite radio station.

Avoid Distractions

Your main duty as a driver is to focus on the road. Unfortunately, distracted driving is said to be the biggest cause of accidents among truck drivers.

As a defensive driver, you can avoid collisions by not letting your cellphone or adjusting the radio or the air conditioner distract you.

If you are focused, you will also be able to steer clear of other distracted drivers safely.

Why Defensive Driving is Important

A defensive driving course, especially for a commercial driver (like a truck driver), is beneficial in the following ways:

  • Reduces car accidents, vehicle-related injuries and fatalities
  • Decreases costs of insurance claims and premiums
  • Improves companies’ reputations through excellent-driving behaviour
  • Saves money on vehicle repairs and maintenance fees (driving recklessly causes more wear-and-tear)
  • Reduces the chance of products being damaged on the road.

Keep Safe on the Open Road

While you can’t control the actions of others on the road, you can certainly take complete control of your own driving. As you can see, there are several ways to improve your driving skills and your chances of having a safe trip every time. For more truck driving tips and tricks be sure to check out our blog section.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can truck drivers stay awake?

Truck driver fatigue is a serious issue and it is the responsibility of both truck drivers and employers to minimise this risk. Most importantly, get proper sleep the night before being on the road and stay hydrated throughout the day.

How often should truck drivers take a break?

When operating a heavy vehicle in Australia, there are three different options that the business can choose from. These include standard hours of work and rest limitations under Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL), basic fatigue management (BFM) measures which allow for only 8-hour breaks during each 24-hour period without disrupting serviceability or safety standards. This does not apply during AFM (Advanced Fatigue Management). However, drivers still need to take regular breaks to ensure they are not driving fatigued.

What is the most basic element of defensive driving?

Whether you drive a commercial vehicle or not, most defensive driving tactics are based on two main elements:

  • Creating a sufficient buffer
  • Enhancing your driving awareness.

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