Safety Tips for Large Truck and Bus Drivers from the ‘Our Roads, Our Safety’ Campaign

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there are more large trucks and buses on America’s roadways than ever before. Nearly 12 million registered commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are operating in the United States today. Those vehicles must share the road with more than 251 million registered passenger vehicles (according to 2014 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics), as well as with bicycles and pedestrians. It’s vital that they do so safely.

As part of its Our Roads, Our Safety campaign, the FMCSA has published safety tips for CMV operators.

Safe Driving Tips

Safe driving tips for CMV operators include:

  • Drive defensively. Someone who is not a CMV operator may not fully comprehend how such vehicles operate. In order to protect themselves, CMV drivers should be constantly vigilant, scanning ahead about 15 seconds (one quarter mile on interstates, or one to two blocks in cities) for traffic issues, work zones, and other upcoming dangers. To identify dangers alongside or behind, drivers should check their mirrors every 8–10 seconds to be aware of vehicles entering their blind spots.
  • Use appropriate signaling devices. Operators should make themselves and their intentions or their condition visible to other drivers. While operating the vehicle, this means using turn signals and appropriate braking to give other drivers a timely heads-up. If the CMV must pull off the road, flashers, reflective triangles, and road flares should be used to warn approaching drivers.
  • Slow down. FMCSA’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) found that 23% of large-truck crashes occurred when CMV drivers were traveling too quickly for conditions. When roads are wet with rain, snow, ice, or sleet; when visibility is reduced by fog or smoke; when roadway conditions are poor because the roadway is uneven or unpaved and in construction zones; at curves, intersections, and on ramps; and in heavy traffic, drivers should slow down for safety.
  • Maintain your vehicle. Pretrip inspections are vital for operator safety and crash prevention. The FMCSA emphasizes that this is especially true for tires and brakes. Operators should also make sure that their loads are well balanced and secure, since shifting loads increase the risk of rollover or loss of control.
  • Plan carefully. Accurate, up-to-date information on weather and road conditions, detours, and mountainous routes is essential in order for operators to correctly plan driving time and avoid situations where they are tempted to speed or skip rest periods. In addition, drivers must make sure that their navigation systems and apps are appropriate for CMVs, providing information on height and weight limitations and other commercial vehicle restrictions.
  • Be safe in work zones. In 2014, 30% of fatal work zone crashes involved at least one large truck—compared to only 11% of all fatal crashes. CMV drivers should slow down in work zones, maintain extra following space, and be prepared to stop. They should look sharp for changing traffic patterns, vehicles moving in and out of blind spots, and road workers.

In addition, the FMCSA recommends that CMV drivers observe safe driving behaviors that apply to everyone on the road, like getting enough rest, always wearing their seat belts, and avoiding distracted driving.