Tips on Memorial Day Weekend Driving in a Big Truck
The Memorial Day weekend is typically thought of as the
official beginning of summer. Many families whose children have
finished up their school years take this weekend to go on vacation.
Unfortunately, some of them don't have their minds on driving. So what
can you as a professional truck driver do to protect yourself, your rig
and your freight during this heavy traffic period? We
share some tips below.
As evidence of the very real need to focus on
of accidents during this weekend (just as you should all the time
you're behind the wheel of your commercial motor vehicle), AAA projected in 2010 that there would be:
just to cite two statistics.
While America's Road Team reminds motorists to be safe during
Memorial Day weekend, we're issuing some specific tips for
professional truck drivers.
- Remember what you're being paid
for: the safe and timely pick-up and delivery of freight. This includes
all of your bobtail and deadhead miles, too. Don't risk being
involved in a road rage incident, even if another vehicle (or heaven
forbid a another big truck) cuts you off.
|During your pre-trip
inspection, be especially mindful of your truck's fluid
the pressure in your tires, especially in hot regions. You don't want
to risk overheating your engine or having a blown tire.
- Reduce the number of times you
change lanes whenever possible, but be mindful of truck lane
- If you must change lanes,
always use your turn signal. Blink for at least 3 full
seconds and use 7 seconds to make your move. This is called
the 10-second rule.
- Always use your turn signal if
you are making an actual turn. Use your flashers for times when you're
traveling at 40 mph or lower on roads where the speed limit is higher
- Modify your driving based on
conditions, especially in heavy traffic, bad weather or construction
zones. Holiday traffic, such as on Memorial Day weekend, can be
- Minimize distractions inside
your truck. Never engage in texting
behind the wheel of a big rig. Limit your cell phone usage to that
which is lawful and preferably to a bare minimum. If you must use one
while driving, use a hands-free device for mobile communications.
||Watch your following
behind the vehicle in front of you. Don't tailgate
hoping to get the person in front of you to speed up. Most likely that
form of "intimidation" won't get the driver to go any faster and will
only increase your chances of being involved in an accident.
drivers are just mean enough to let you get close and then slam on the
brakes. When that happens, the ticket and repair bills will all be
yours. You run the risk of physical injury, death and perhaps the loss
of your job.
- Watch for people following you too closely. If
possible, give the driver of the vehicle behind you an opportunity (and
possibly an incentive) to pass. There's no sense being involved in an
accident from behind if you can avoid it. Contrary to popular opinion,
discourage reverse tailgating by slowing down and letting them
- Look in your side mirrors
both left and right -- about every 8 to 10 seconds. If you have fish
type convex mirrors mounted on the front corners of your tractor, don't
forget to look at them, too, especially for traffic coming from the
rear. Don't just move your eyes, Mike says; move your head physically.
yourself to look at your right mirror often.
- Make sure that you stay away
from low clearances. Even if your GPS unit says the road is ok,
double-check the route ahead of time. The Rand McNally Motor Carriers
Road Atlas lists low clearances near the front.
- Memorial Day weekend or not, be
mindful of distracted
drivers and make allowances for others' mistakes. Some distracted
drivers allow their vehicles to wander toward, on or over the lines of
their lane. Anticipate the unexpected.
- Be judicious in the use of your
horn to warn other drivers if they are getting too close.
- Take safety breaks, especially
if you feel yourself getting tired. Always remember to park in safe and
- When backing
up, get out and look as many times as is necessary to make
sure you don't hit anything. Remember to use your 4-way flashers to
alert others to the fact that you're backing up. It's a common courtesy.
- Prepare ahead of time for
emergencies. Since Memorial Day is at the beginning of the summer
driving season, it's a good time to take stock of your emergency
provisions. Make sure you have all of your reflective triangles, a
fully charged fire extinguisher, a gallon each of oil and coolant, a
hazmat spill kit (if you haul hazmat), an emergency supply of food and
water, and a well-stocked first aid kit.
- Don't forget to secure your
loads properly, use locks where needed, and check your seals. If you
must drop your trailer, make sure to secure it with a king
or gladhand lock. Thieves don't care if its Memorial Day or not; they
may be on the lookout for drivers who have left their guards
and steal whatever isn't locked.
- Watch out for those who drive
articulated vehicles who are not accustomed to driving them, such as a
motor home pulling a car (and possibly a boat behind it!), or a
fifth-wheel equipped truck pulling a large travel trailer.
||In the event that you've
flustered or frustrated by road conditions or other drivers, it's best
to take a short break, get out of your truck, walk around, maybe have
something nutritious to eat, use the restroom, and get perspective. If
you're tired, a 15-minute power nap can do wonders.
Set the standard for
professionalism, not just on Memorial Day weekend but all the time. You
are the professional driver. You're going to be
dealing with people of all ages and all levels of driving experience,
from teenagers fresh from the drivers license office to senior citizens
with decades of driving know-how.
Allow yourself extra time to get
where you're going. You make no time by getting involved in an
accident. Going slower to get where you need to go is better than not
getting there at all.
Be aware of the fact that law
enforcement will be out in force on Memorial Day weekend. Be mindful of
your speed, your following distance and keeping an up-to-date log book
Keep everything in proper working order. Although
encourage law enforcement to target any truck driver, by the same
token, don't give them any reason to target you.
If you're planning to enjoy
your Memorial Day weekend with something you don't normally enjoy while
you're in your truck, make sure that you don't endanger your
and means of employment.
Money saving tip: An
-- "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" -- is
certainly true in the trucking industry. Be continually aware of the
potential for accidents and do everything reasonable to avoid them.
Avoid being caught in compromising situations, like being hemmed in on
all sides in heavy traffic with no way out.
Proper preparation can help you in an emergency
situation. If you need advice -- such as from your trucking
about a route -- get it ahead of time.
As Vicki's mom has said many times, "It's better
to be safe than
sorry." Your life and the lives of others are worth much more than any
load and any delivery appointment. The fastest way to cool off a hot
load is in a ditch.
1. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/884k-georgians-expected-to-travel-memorial-day-wee/nQgC6/ (no longer online)
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