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7 Truck Driving Tips for New and Returning Drivers

Triumph Insurance Group

August 10, 2016

Whether you’re a seasoned driver or someone who just received your CDL, there are truck driving tips you should always keep in mind. Following these tips will help you from getting into accidents and protect you as well as others around you.

Let’s get to it.

Tip #1 – Think bigger

You’re not in a plain ol’ car anymore. Whether you drive a dry van, flatbed, reefer, or bulk, your new machine is over five times bigger than the other guys out there. That means give more space to the car in front and brake earlier to compensate for the increased braking distance to stop your truck. Turning will also require more room to maneuver, but can be done in a safe and predictable manner.

Tip #2 – Two lane right turns

These can be a bit tricky – if you noticed from the previous tip, we mentioned being predictable. The most dangerous vehicle on the road is an unpredictable one. Seriously, use your blinkers when indicating a turn and minimize any sudden jerks especially when turning.

To complete a right turn, adjacent lanes will be needed for your trailer to avoid taking out a street light. Note that 99 percent of the roads you travel on are designed for non-commercial cars and won’t have the space for your truck to turn from right lane to right lane, so first wait for the lane directly to your left to open up. Then you can begin shifting your tractor trailer into the lane next to you to begin a wider turn. If you need to utilize the entire lane, be sure to leave your trailer in the right lane or other drivers will assume a lane change and fill the space. And use your blinkers!

Tip #3 – Pause before entering

One, two, three, four, and now go. You might have heard of a variation of the four second rule truck driving tip from your instructor when you first started driving, but it is as true now as it was back then.

What it tells you is to wait four seconds at the intersection before crossing. Whether crossing a stop sign or a light that just turned green, experts state the first and last car to an intersection have the highest chance to get into an accident.

Tip #4 – Look ahead

Look out to where you’re heading – a general rule is to look 10-15 seconds ahead of your truck in the direction of where you want to go. Giving yourself plenty of time to observe your surroundings and react accordingly is imperative to your own safety and your truck. On the highway, look for anything that may hinder your cruise, such as accidents, objects, or slow cars. In the city, look for trees, telephone wires, cable wires, low hanging roofs, and of course other cars. Remember, if you see something up ahead, slow down and resist the need to make sudden movements. The earlier you can react, the safer you are to yourself and the cars around you.

Tip #5 – Spatial awareness

Yes, easier said than done, but with experience it will be second nature. Know the size of your truck, know the size of your trailer, and know what’s around you. When traveling, truckers admit 2 to 5 percent of cargo damage due to clipping their rear wheels or trailer on a curb or guardrail. This can be avoided by learning how far back your trailer extends and the location of the rear wheels from the driver’s seat perspective.

Similarly, give yourself more space when backing up and don’t be afraid of getting out of the cabin if you aren’t sure about the amount of space left.

Tip #6 – Using the jake brake

Along with your service brakes, the jake brake is used to slow your truck down but should not be used as a replacement. Commonly used when driving down slopes, it eases the pressure put on your wheel brakes to reduce overheating and aids you in controlling your downhill speed during dry conditions. Do NOT use the jake brake when the road conditions are poor (rain, ice, or snow). Even if you fancy the idea of a sliding trailer, don’t do it.

When using the jake, we recommend operating it in the shifting range. It will certainly work in the higher rpm’s but the motor may suffer over the course of continual use.

Tip #7 – Stay in your lane as much as possible

Pick a lane and stay in it. Whether on the highway or in a city street, cars will zip and dodge around you no matter what, some with blinkers and some without. If you do need to change lanes, look at your mirrors, check your blind spot, turn on your blinkers, and move over very slowly.

When entering the city from a freeway, use the 2nd to the right lane if available. This will help your truck avoid merging vehicles and slightly increases the width of the exit turn. However, be extra cautious of cars in the right-most lane. Most often, cars in that lane will attempt a dangerous lane change while in a turn to shave off a couple seconds in their commute.

More truck driving tips can be found here:

Here at Triumph Insurance Group, we understand that accidents do happen. Let us help you protect your investment and make sure your truck is back on the road as soon as possible.