Driving an 18 wheeler is a challenge for even the most seasoned drivers. Their size offers an inherent difficulty, requiring a whole different approach than any other vehicles requires.
It’s not just the size that makes it so difficult, though. It’s how that size translates to simple driving maneuvers like turning, parking, and even braking. Also, it’s the attitude needed to share the road with other drivers and vehicles.
Below are 5 safety tips that will help keep you safe when driving an 18 wheeler.
Do a Pre-Check
Before every trip, you should do a pre-check of your truck. The very nature of 18 wheelers subjects them to more activity than a typical vehicle. They tend to log more miles and they’re also subject to heavy-duty loading and unloading—to say nothing of changing trailers.
That’s why it’s so important to give your truck a walk-around before every drive. You may not have been the last one to touch it, so it’s on you to ensure that everything is secure and in road-worthy condition.
Mind the Trailer
The trailer is part of your truck. The fact that it’s a separate component makes it that much more necessary that you stay mindful of it. It doesn’t respond to turns the way the cab does. It’s also far more susceptible to winds.
You need to know where it is at all times. Crossing traffic lines even slightly can lead to a massive traffic accident that you’ll be responsible for.
Give Yourself Space
Making sure you have the space you need doesn’t just mean leaving a gap between you and the vehicle in front of you, though that is incredibly important, too. Your ability to stop is directly influenced by the mass of your trailer. Don’t ever be in a situation where you need to rely on a quick stop.
On that same note, be mindful that if you do need to apply the brakes, that same mass behind you affects your ability to accelerate. Stick to the right lane so that faster-moving traffic has a safe opportunity to get around you.
Finally, remember that when you turn, you’re bringing a trailer with you. Right turns especially require a wider berth to get around safely.
Plan Your Trip
This is an extension of the last point. When heading out, make sure you’re sticking to a route that works for driving a large truck. You’ll need roads that can accommodate the space you need.
As well, hills can have a dramatic effect on your drive. Steep inclines will require more downshifting to keep your power up, while descents risk the need for braking, which is best used minimally.
Finally, consider bridges and overpasses. Don’t be that guy who underestimates the size of his truck only to get stuck under a bridge.
Take It Slow
The final tip for new truck drivers is to take it slow. Don’t allow yourself to be pushed by either traffic or time. Your ability to react is compromised by the size of your truck. Instead, set a steady pace, and if necessary, err on the side of caution.
Final Thoughts on Driving an 18 Wheeler
Driving an 18 wheeler is best left for those who have the comfort and the courage to manage the size and weight of a transport truck. It’s an important job that can’t be treated carelessly.
Learning and applying the above tips will help you stay safe when driving. For more safety information on driving an 18 wheeler, visit our blog.