This past July 14th, the Indiana State Police put their police in a spot where they are not used to being – inside a truck. As part of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division (CVED), the officer didn’t actually drive the truck. Rather, the officer sat shotgun as a real CDL driver took the wheel.
This program was called Trooper-in-a-Truck, and the officer’s job was to be on the lookout for driving infractions. Specifically, the trooper was supposed to be on the lookout for drivers who were violating Indiana’s “hands-free” law, which requires that any devices be used without being held in the driver’s hand (such as using Bluetooth speakers for phone calls).
Truck drivers have long understood that a single distracted four-wheeler can be a danger to everyone on the road if that driver were to get into an accident with a much larger truck. And this is just one danger to drivers making their haul.
Stats from the FMCSA
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the most recent data (from 2018) shows there were 4,455 reported crashes involving large trucks or buses. 5,005 lives were lost.
Although many might assume that fatal accidents occur mostly on crowded highways and busy streets, the information from the FMCSA reveals that 61% of fatal crashes with a large truck occurred in rural areas.
The FMCSA doesn’t elaborate on this, but this can be true for a number of reasons. Poor signs and infrastructure may be one cause. Another reason may be that isolated roads lead to more drivers getting bored and picking up their device.
Of course, rural areas aren’t the only danger. 27% of fatal crashes in work zones also involved a large truck, revealing the necessity of staying alert for truck drivers who have to navigate construction as well as other drivers.
5 Tips for Truck Drivers to Stay Safe
Whether looking out for distracted drivers or trying to navigate rural roads, here are some essential tips to stay safe as a truck driver:
1. Wear your seatbelt. The FMCSA data showed that at least 39% of large truck drivers who were killed in crashes were not wearing their seatbelt.
2. Be aware of your blindspots. Distracted drivers or poor drivers won’t react quickly to your changing lanes, so you have to be alert for them.
3. Embrace route planning. Try to find out beforehand if you are traveling through rural roads, work areas, or busy highways.
4. Get enough sleep. Drivers know that time is money, so they’re eager to push through for their runs. But no freight is worth your life. Get enough rest, so you can react quickly to any unsafe four-wheelers or unexpected road conditions.
5. Don’t become a distracted driver yourself. Truck driving, especially on long highways, can get tiresome. Don’t risk trying to pick up your phone to make some texts. Try to listen to a podcast, audiobook, or your favorite music to engage your mind while you pay attention to the road.