Professional driving is not an easy career and one that certainly has the potential for both injury and accidents. Most injuries are caused by slips and falls, twisting when getting into or out of the truck or injuries when loading or unloading. These types of injuries are often significant and severe, but they are not as deadly as accidents on the road.
It is estimated that a semi-truck is in an accident on the road once every 16 minutes. If you include all commercial vehicles, including trucks and trailers, the total for the year 2010 was over half a million accidents. In these accidents there were over 100,000 individuals that were injured and 5000 deaths. While injuries from accidents are a real possibility for drivers in the big rigs, the majority, over 80% of all deaths occurring in semi-truck accidents, are to the drivers of the passenger cars involved in the crash.
Surprisingly most happen in the daylight hours, not at night, and most of the severe accidents happen outside of cities. This is often due to the speed factor as in congested city traffic speeds are reduced significantly. To avoid or take precautions as much as possible to reduce the likelihood of being in an accident there are some important and common issues that professional drivers should consider when they are out on the road.
Jackknife Truck Accidents
Jackknifing is a very serious issue that can occur for a variety of reasons. In this type of issue the trailer actually turns sideways to the truck, creating a condition where the driver has no control over the tractor and trailer.
The most common causes of jackknifing are slippery roads, poor tire maintenance on the trailer or sudden application of the brakes. The trailer tires lose grip with the surface of the road and, under the right conditions, the trailer swings out of control to the side.
New trucks may have specific systems in place, including anti-lock brakes, which help to prevent jackknifing situations. Slowing down on wet or slippery roads, gearing down instead of using the brakes and controlled, even breaking can help to prevent this very dangerous condition on the road.
While it is difficult it is not impossible to stop jackknifing if you see the trailer start to swing you can take countermeasures to prevent a jackknife. Generally experts recommend letting off on the brake and accelerating slightly to reposition the trailer in a straight line with the tractor. You can then slow down by gearing down and apply the brakes in a controlled fashion when the vehicle speed is reduced. Also avoiding braking and sudden direction changes, especially with an empty trailer that is not as heavy, can reduce the risk of jackknifing.
Road fatigue can occur when driving for short or long distances and is not the same as being exhausted from lack of sleep. You will know that you are experiencing road fatigue if you find your thoughts drifting away from focusing on the road. You may experience almost a trance-like state where you suddenly realize you aren’t sure where you are on the road or what exit you just passed.
If you are experiencing road fatigue the best possible remedy is a brisk walk outside of the truck. Some fresh air and exercise will help you to focus and stay alert. When you are in a state of road fatigue you aren’t watching other traffic issues and will be slow to respond to situations on the road.
Roll overs are most often seen on corners and on and off ramps during wet, icy or slippery road conditions. They are usually related to the center of gravity on the truck, excessive speed for the road condition and the change in centrifugal force with sudden changes in direction, braking or over-steering. Weaving back and forth or having to over correct when wandering out of a lane is another major cause, especially if the load shifts with the side to side movement of the trailer.
Not surprisingly the best way to avoid roll overs is to slow down well before curves, especially with high loads or loads that can shift. The center of gravity on these loads and the weight of the load shifting to the outside (centrifugal force) on the corners is less of an issue with slow speeds and measured direction changes rather that sudden cornering, over-steering or high rates of speed.
Truck drivers have to be constantly alert to the blind spots along the trailer that block the driver’s view of passenger vehicles in lanes beside and behind them. These passenger vehicle drivers are often unaware of the blind spots, despite information posted on trailers highlighting the blind spots, and pull out into these zones and drive.
Checking and double checking blind spots and changing lanes slowly and only when you are sure there are no vehicles surround you in the blind spots is critical. Slowing down and staying distant from passenger vehicles that are constantly changing lanes is another important consideration.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that defensive driving, especially when you are a trucker, is one of the most important skills to keep in mind. Classes are available specifically for truckers in defensive driving that can not only help to build up your skills on the road to stay safe but they can also help to reduce your insurance rates, which is something well worth considering.