Whether you’re an experienced trucker operating the rig you’ve used for many years or a warehouse employee who has been tasked with moving a rented semi trailer from one place to another, doing your job safely must be your top priority.
As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) points out, “Trucks often weigh 20-30 times as much as passenger cars and are taller with greater ground clearance, which can result in smaller vehicles underriding trucks in crashes.” The organization also notes that a truck and loaded semi trailer takes 20-40% farther to stop than a car. Together, those two factors mean that truck drivers have to be extremely careful whenever they’re on the road.
Below are some helpful tips for anyone hauling a semi trailer.
Keep Yourself and Those Around You Safe When Hauling a Semi Trailer
Use these eight time-tested tactics for avoiding accidents on the road:
- Inspect your rig before every trip. It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling across the country or across town, a mechanical failure in your truck or semi trailer can result in an accident. Certain systems, like brakes, tend to get more attention from truck drivers for obvious reasons. But even something as minor as having a turn signal that isn’t functioning properly can make the difference between a safe lane change and a collision with another vehicle that would have changed course if the driver had seen your signal. If you’re new to hauling semi trailers, make yourself a checklist and go through it each time you prepare to hit the road.
- Ensure cargo in your semi trailer is properly secured. Having heavy cargo shift or fall over in your semi trailer can be alarming. It can also be the distraction that causes you to be involved in an accident. Be sure that everything in your semi trailer is secured and immobilized. And if you realize that something has, nevertheless, shifted, remind yourself that there’s nothing you can do about it until you’ve come to a safe stop and can look inside the trailer.
- Leave ample space between you and the driver ahead of you. Many truck accidents every year involve the truck rear-ending another vehicle. Nobody learns to drive in a semi. We all started in cars or pickup trucks and their stopping distance is deeply ingrained in our minds. To override it, you’ve got to remind yourself regularly that trucks hauling semi trailers take much longer to stop than smaller vehicles. And, yes, leaving plenty of distance between your truck and the vehicle in front of you means other vehicles will continually change lanes into that space, but you’ve simply got to keep re-establishing your buffer.
- Avoid changing lanes. Even the most careful drivers are at risk of failing to see a vehicle in the lane they want to move into. You can reduce that risk by changing lanes as infrequently as possible. And, when you must change lanes, be sure to signal first and then make your transition gradually. That gives the drivers of any vehicles you may have missed time to react.
- Watch the weather forecast. Adverse weather conditions like rain or snow will make road surfaces slippery and require longer stopping distances. Knowing what to expect helps prepare you to get into a more defensive driving posture. And in some instances, seeing the forecast may require that you take actions like putting chains on your tires.
- Take breaks to stay alert. You don’t have to fall asleep at the wheel to cause an accident. All it takes is a momentary lapse in focus and your truck and semi trailer can collide with another vehicle, a road sign, a pedestrian, etc. While it may feel like you’re “losing time” when you stop, you’re actually gaining safety! And although you may have completed trips while sleepy in the past, there is no guarantee that your luck will hold. You owe it to yourself and those around you to stop and rest as needed and to only drive when you’re fully alert.
- Adhere to restrictions for time behind the wheel. Truckers are only allowed to spend a certain amount of time driving on a given day. Those restrictions are important and shouldn’t be ignored. The advice above about resting when you should is referring to resting within your allotted drive time. If you’ve reached your allowable limit but don’t feel tired, that’s not an excuse for going beyond that limit.
- Use extreme caution when waiting for roadside assistance on the highway. If your truck or semi trailer develops a mechanical problem, it’s natural for your focus to be on determining what’s wrong and resolving the issue as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, failing to pay attention to the other vehicles racing past you can have serious—and potentially deadly—consequences. Inspect your rig carefully, call for assistance if needed, then sit tight until help arrives.
Properly Maintained Equipment Means Safer Trips
One other crucial piece of advice when it comes to safety and hauling semi trailers: Only use equipment that you know has been properly and expertly maintained. Even though you inspect your rig before every trip, there are certain things you can’t see. The only way to ensure that one of them doesn’t become a problem for you on the road is to ensure that preventative maintenance is performed.
At Boxwheel, every flatbed trailer, dry van trailer, liftgate trailer or reefer semi trailer that we rent or sell is expertly maintained and fully inspected before you pick it up. We encourage you to do your own inspection before you take it off our lot, of course. But between our attention to detail and yours, you can feel confident that everything that can be done to prevent a mechanical problem has been done.
Contact us today to learn more about our large inventory of rental semi trailers and semi trailers for sale. And don’t forget to ask about our easy, three-step process for getting a semi trailer from Boxwheel. Safe operations and simplified semi trailer rental, leasing and sales transactions can, and do, go hand-in-hand at Boxwheel.