Driving a large truck is a dangerous job. The occupational fatality rate for large truck drivers is 23.9 deaths per 100,000 workers, much higher than the national average of 3.4 per 100,000 workers for all industries. Nonfatal crashes and property damage crashes are a serious issue, as well. Yesterday we looked at some common factors in truck crashes. Today we’ll look at some strategies to address common causes of truck crashes.
The Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC) has published a Trucking Crash Prevention Toolkit that addresses crash prevention and other hazards truck drivers face. The toolkit provides tips for preventing large truck deaths through driver-behavior changes, defensive driving techniques, and routinely ensuring that all components of the truck are in safe operating order.
The leading cause of death for large truck drivers is vehicle collisions, and many of those collisions occur when a truck rear-ends another vehicle. To prevent these types of collisions, KIPRC recommends that employers:
Train drivers in speed and space management. Drivers need to understand the factors that affect how much space they need, including traffic and weather conditions, speed, and the total weight of the truck.
Stay alert to other drivers. Large trucks share the road with many other vehicles, and many of those other drivers may be distracted, or may not be aware of how much space a fully loaded semitruck needs. Drivers may pull directly in front of a semitrailer, or swerve into the truck’s path. Truck drivers need to maintain enough awareness of other vehicles to react to their movements.
Inspect the truck. Operators should ensure, both before and after a trip, that brakes, turn signals, and headlights are in working order. Pretrip inspections of those functions are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Require seat belt use. The FMCSA requires seatbelt use in any commercial motor vehicle that has one installed in the driver’s seat. Employers should reinforce that this is nonnegotiable. Drivers who are not wearing safety restraints, as well as sleeper berth occupants, are 2.25 more times to be injured in a collision than restrained occupants.
When we think about distractions, we may think of specific activities, like talking on a cell phone or reaching for a dropped item, but it may help employees to think of distractions as coming in three types: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions take a worker’s eyes off the road; manual distractions take a driver’s hands off the wheel, and cognitive distractions take a driver’s mind off of what they’re doing. Cell phones, maps, and dispatching devices can cause all types of distraction. Make sure drivers know that they need to keep their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel, and their mind on driving safely.