Being a professional truck driver may seem, to some, as living the dream; the open road, the new sites and situations, all hold a certain appeal. But like any job, this vocation does have its ups-and-downs.
If you are a professional truck driver or if you’ve considered truck driving as a career path then you should also know the 5 things professional truck drivers should never, ever do – these could save your (or someone else’s) life.
Some of the Things Truck Drivers Should NEVER Do
1. Traveling Too Fast When Descending a Steep Hill
I made this mistake early on in my truck driving career. I was working out of Calgary Alberta for a tanker company hauling fuel in B Trains.
My truck was loaded with gasoline on and was getting quite accustomed to the Trans-Canada highway terrain, running back-and-forth from Alberta to BC.
One particular load, from Calgary, AB to Castlegar BC. Route took me onto Highway 3, the southern route by way of the Salmo Creston Hill.
I was reasonably comfortable with the hills on the TransCanada highway and didn’t foresee Highway 3 hills as being much different – I thought I’d be just fine and had the confidence to handle whatever I encountered.
The distance between the town of Creston, BC and Salmo, BC is about 50 miles, with about 25 miles to travel up the hill and another 25 miles to go down the hill.
The truck I was driving was a 300HP R Model Mack, with a 5-speed transmission, so I crept up the hill, which was relatively uneventful.
However, when I arrived at the top, I could see the other side. It didn’t look as bad as many drivers I had spoken to, so I proceeded to descend. But as it turned out, I left the top too quickly, and I chose a gear that was too high.
By the time I was partway down the steep grade, the truck was picking up speed, and I feared I was losing control of the vehicle!
I was engaging the brakes more frequently, but the jake brake was no longer useful.
Things Get Worse
The truck continued to pick up speed.
As I rounded a curve, I got a clear view of the rest of the hill and could see that I still had a long way to travel before I reached the bottom – at least another 5 miles.
There was also a great deal of smoke rolling out the back of the truck from the heavy brake application, and I was picking up momentum as I continued the descent!
Luckily, I encountered a flat spot where I was able to get the truck slowed down and stopped.
I set the brakes up and used rocks to block the tires, then released the brakes. I waited for nearly an hour for the brakes to cool down enough so I could proceed.
LESSON –– This was indeed a wake-up call for me. I was fortunate to have survived this situation.
Always be sure to pick a low gear to descend a steep grade and MOVE SLOWLY!
2. Don’t Text and Drive
Any professional driver who texts and drives is nothing but an idiot with blatant disregard for his safety and the safety of others on the road.
There is never an occasion when any driver needs to text when behind the wheel.
3. Don’t Let Your ELD Make All the Decisions
Though E.L.D. technology can be a good thing, a new danger has surfaced with the mandate of ELD’s.
When some truck drivers notice they are running out of available driving hours, will increase their speed, rather than look for the nearest safe haven to pull off the road.
This rush to ‘beat the clock’ to maximize your mileage and milk every last minute out of the driver’s available hours, can create dangerous situations.
Speeding or dodging back and forth in traffic and excessive lane changes, for the purpose of trying to gain a few yards, can have grave consequences.
Do NOT fall into this trap and let yourself fall victim to the ticking clock on the ELD.
4. Don’t Drive Too Fast for Road Conditions
Any truck driver who drives in the winter months where there are snow and ice will have seen at least one major truck wreck.
Many wrecks in the winter months are mostly caused by excessive speed on slippery roads. Trucks cannot stop as quickly on snowy or slippery roads as on dry roads.
Don’t feel you need to travel at the speed limit or above it especially when road conditions are poor.
If the roads are bad, it’s up to you as the captain of your rig, to make the call to get off the road. ONLY you know what is best, all things considered.
5. Don’t Ever Drive When Tired
There is never a good enough reason for a professional truck driver to operate his vehicle when tired.
With the ELD mandate, some trucking companies think they can dictate to the driver when they should be behind the wheel.
Just because the ELD says the trucker can legally be on duty, doesn’t mean he is rested and ready to go.
Only the driver can judge when they are rested and prepared to proceed on the road safely.
When a professional truck driver is tired, many things can go wrong;
- Diminished mental capacity to absorb information at the necessary rate
- Reaction time is slower
- Attention span is weakened
The ELD is a safety check measure. It shouldn’t be used to dictate when a truck driver should be behind the wheel entirely.
The ELD was introduced so the driver would get sufficient sleep.
However, there is nothing fixed in this system to ensure a trucker gets adequate sleep. It only provides the driver is LEGAL to drive, not sufficiently rested.
Sleep when necessary.
Be a Professional, Follow the “Never, Ever Do” Rules!
There’s more to being a professional truck driver than getting your license.
Knowing the rules of the road and your company’s expectations are important, of course, but knowing what NOT to could save your life.
Be sure always to follow these “never, ever do” rules.