If you have been on our roadways lately, you will likely have spent part of your time swearing loudly at other drivers. Our roadways are too congested with vehicles of every type, and with people not paying enough attention to their driving (texting is really, really bad). So bad stuff happens, lots of it. If you are a truck driver, you are at even greater risk than the average driver. Here in Canada, trucks are involved in 10% of the collisions but are responsible for 25% of all serious casualties. You’re not nearly as protected as you think you are; mind you, that poor sub-compact doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance! There are approx. 10,000 injuries involving these big, fat, heavy trucks and over 500 fatalities. This is not an insignificant number and it’s not at all funny.
So, what can be done about this? First, some of the major causes need to be identified and then absorbed into your very being. Likely, you think it’ll never happen to you because you’re so careful, so vigilant. Are you really? Have you done everything within your ability to ensure you are not the 1 in 20 truck drivers who will be involved in an accident? Well, news flash: driver error is the #1 cause of trucking accidents. Uh-huh. Overwhelmingly, about 70% of the time, it’s the driver. Some of the reasons appear to be quite innocent on the surface but, actually, are like the Zika virus- carrying mosquito just waiting to sting. The use of prescription drugs and over the counter medications account for over 40% of driver caused accidents. It’s very difficult to turn down a job just because you have the sniffles and are taking cold medication but, honestly, take the non-drowsy kind, at least. If your doctor has prescribed something, ask if there is something that won’t make you fall asleep or make you see double. Being fatigued because you partied too hard the night before or had been driving too long adds another 13% of risk! Speeding, aggressive driving (because you’re gonna teach a lesson to that little Mazda 3 which is riding your tail), illegal maneuvers, unfamiliar roads, distractions, and just really poor driving account for the rest! Oh man! It’s hard to imagine you can get to where you’re going in one piece.
Now remember, that whole list of nasty stuff was just driver error. There are other evils lurking on the road between here and there. There is always the weather factor. In Canada, one of our favourite topics of conversation is “the weather”. Why? Because just when you think it’s going to be blue skies all the way, there’s a blizzard in June. Just ask B.C.
Do not be fooled by Mother Nature. You are perfectly aware that you are driving a monster but that Mazda, that Subaru, that VW, that Range Rover driver might be completely oblivious to the fact that you can’t stop on a dime - hell, you can’t stop on a heli-pad! So, you have to take that into account. One heavy load, bad weather, and no ability to stop quickly means extra vigilance is necessary. So when it’s raining, snowing, or money is falling from the heavens, give them space and, if they cut you off, you’ve got a horn (that’ll scare the hell out of them).
Perhaps even more likely a risk factor than the weather is the state of the truck, itself. Is it in good condition or, like Cher, has it had way too much work done to it, over too many years? Always, always check to see that the mechanics are sound and that you do a pre-trip inspection each time. Additionally, before you leave with that load, check to see that it has been loaded correctly and all is well balanced and secure. And, if you’re an owner who is sending off a driver in one of your rigs, make sure he/she is reliable and is in compliance with all regulations and if you’re the driver, make sure you can drive!
Although these reminders are just that, they are critical to a safe trip for everyone on the road- you and everyone else. Just like your mother always reminded you (maybe she still does!) to be careful and well behaved each day, a little nudge periodically is all to the good. By the way, did you know that something has to be repeated about 8 times before it is truly committed to memory? That explains a lot doesn’t it? So, if you see this article another 7 times, it’s all for your own good. Stay safe out there.