As drivers of regular “code B” vehicles, we don’t fully understand what goes into driving a truck. Or what makes it so frustrating to be stuck behind one on the road. It’s not a case of trucks simply being larger vehicles that can do as they wish on the road. There are rules and regulations (just as there are for the rest of us) that ensure safe practice on the roads.

Safety reality of trucks on the road

In South Africa, we’ve heard our fair share of “broken down truck”, “tipped over truck” and “motor vehicle accident involving a truck” reports on the radio. Transportation trucks are travelling to and from provinces all over South Africa, all of the time. Accidents are bound to happen. When it comes to trucks and accidents, the fatality toll is generally higher because of it being such a large vehicle, whether the truck was responsible or not for the incident.

But accidents alone are not the only horrifying reality where trucks are involved. When a company hires or makes use of a truck, it’s because they need to transport a high volume of goods, which makes them hijacking targets (above the value of the vehicle itself). If you were to Google “trucks robbed in South Africa” you will see various reports and even videos of trucks being robbed and drivers being attacked for the goods they’re transporting.

There is also the responsibility of having to control such a large vehicle on bad roads, through bad weather and with bad drivers alongside them. But, despite these daily realities and safety issues, we still have truck drivers doing the best they can to do their jobs and try to stay safe on the roads. Where we can contribute, is to find it in ourselves to gracefully share the road with our truckers and practice safe driving around them.

Safety tips for truck drivers

As a truck driver, you need to be extremely responsible for your vehicle as previously mentioned. Your employers should implement a daily check routine and internal training session (even though you have a licence to drive the vehicle) that will encourage and refresh the responsibilities that each driver has before they hit the road.

There are daily trip check forms that can be downloaded or created, printed and become a compulsory requirement for all drivers to complete before and after each trip. This way each driver assumes knowledge and responsibility for the vehicle they will be driving and the state they drive and bring it back in. These checks will ensure their safety as driver, the vehicles safety and even the company’s safety regarding liability.

Other safety tips for drivers include:

  • Only drive when fully rested (especially before long distance)
  • Awareness of the “no-zone”
  • Distance from other vehicles
  • Caution in construction zones
  • Wear your seatbelt

There isn’t really much you can do about the other drivers on the road, other than not turning to aggressive or reckless driving practices as a result of irritable car drivers. As technology develops there will be more solutions for the trucking sector. Samsung, for example, has the idea of a Safety Truck that will feed the view of a camera displaying what’s happening in front of the truck, on a video wall that is set up on the doors at the back of the truck. This way, drivers behind the truck that want to take over, but can’t safely see if the oncoming lane is clear, can see what’s ahead and safely overtake.

Maintaining your vehicle

There are a few things you can do over the years to limit the major service and replacement costs, which will ultimately make your vehicle a safe one for the roads. And when it does come to replacing certain components, make sure you find exactly what you’re looking for. DAF Trucks, for example, can customise components to match your trucks needs.

  • Oil: Changing the oil and replacing the oil filters when necessary will ensure your vehicle keeps running smoothly.
  • Tyres: Rotated, balanced and aligned tyres are all in your favour if you want your drivers to be able to drive safely on the roads.
  • Lights: This is a requirement for any roadworthy vehicles. Unless you want to be faced with a fine, make sure all your lights are working and have spare bulbs on hand should one go out.
  • Fluids: Your most important fluids are oil and coolant for the engine. Keep these levels up and you can save yourself from being the highlight of the traffic report.
  • Air filter: Also related to your engine are your air filters. Trucks drive long distances and through various areas and terrain. Dirty air filters mean slower acceleration and a one-way ticket for your engine.