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7 Must-Know Tips For Safe Long Haul Trucking

Long haul drivers have a tough job, as they are on the road for long periods of time, traveling many miles. To be a long-haul driver, you have to have the stamina and fortitude of a warrior. It takes a special kind of person to be able to do what these drivers do. They spend weeks on the road and have time for nothing but their job, because they have to. Long haul trucking is a great career but it's also challenging and high-risk. To stay safe while on the road, there are some basic safety tips to help you avoid issues and make the most of your long haul career.

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OTR Trucking

OTR or “Over the Road’ trucking, also referred to as long haul trucking, is a haul service which is designed for longer distances and more miles than the average local or regional truck driver may cover. Long haul truckers usually travel across the country for several weeks, and end up sleeping either in their truck or motels and hotels nearby. The long haul trucking industry is tough on truck drivers. There's not much room for mistakes and there is a lot that goes into getting to where you want to be. Most truckers know how to stay safe on the road, but there are a few simple tips that can make a big difference in the enjoyment and safety of a long haul trip.  

Maintain Your Truck 

Driving long hours and distances is dangerous enough, but when you are a long haul driver, you may not have access to your usual mechanic shops and other home comforts. The last thing you want is to end up broken down in an unknown city or remote area. You will want to invest in regular maintenance of your truck, to stay safe. Give the fluid levels, tire tread, mirrors, and brakes a regular check. You want to address any issues you may find early on, as they can become a safety hazard and delay your work, if they are left unattended. 

Know Where You’re Headed

While you may not know every road inside out, it is beneficial to look into the areas you will be driving through ahead of time, so that you know what you are in for. You can map out your routes in advance and avoid the stress of trying to make it on time or finding the best route while you’re driving. Look into roads or areas which are approved for semis, and where you may want to avoid hazards. 

Prepare For Weather Changes 

You want to prepare for the weather you're going to encounter as well, by checking the forecast the day you will be heading into the area. However, weather changes quickly, so be prepared to adjust your driving based on your environment. You will want to avoid cruise control in the rain or icy weather, and make sure your daytime running lights are on. Also remember to adjust your speed to the road you are on, as you are driving a large piece of machinery. Exit ramps or curves will require slowing down, in order to maintain control over the truck.

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Look After Yourself

You want to fuel up not only your vehicle, but yourself too. Since driving long distances can be stressful on the mind and body, it is important to get enough food and water intake on your trips. When you are dehydrated or hungry, you can potentially lose focus, and this can be dangerous. Always prioritize rest and nutrition, and stock up on your snacks. Long hours can lead to drowsiness and getting sleepy, which is a hazard behind the wheel. If you can, try to stop often for a small break and walk around, in order to stretch your body and refresh your mind.

Practice a Safe Following Distance

No matter how much traffic there is on the road you are on, it is important to leave enough space between your truck and the vehicles around you. Ideally you will want at least seven (7) seconds worth or distance between you and the car in front, giving you enough time to react to any sudden changes. Semi trucks take much longer to stop, even in dry conditions, so it is important to give your vehicle a chance to avoid any accidents or issues. If it is raining or snow, or any other weather issue, then you want to increase, if not double that follow distance.

Get Familiar With Signs

While all drivers are good with the basics of road rules, sometimes driving into new territory or country can lead to signs we don’t see as often in our own areas. It is essential to look up any signs you may be encountering and prepare to follow their meaning. Remember, road signs are there to help you avoid hazards or poor road conditions, so it is important to adhere to the rules of the road, especially in new territory.

You will also want to have at least some familiarity with hazmat signs, in the case you encounter a driver who is hauling hazardous materials. Give extra space to trucks who are carrying hazardous materials and try to be cautious, as trying to assist any of these types of trucks in the case of an accident can be a risk without proper equipment. If you see an accident, call for help rather than try to assist yourself, as certain spills can be deadly to drivers without the right protective gear.

Maintain Frequent Communication

Trucking is a lonely and difficult job, so you will want to try to ensure you are taking care of your mind and body by emphasizing the things most important to you. It is beneficial to communicate often with family and loved ones at home, and keep up to date with what’s going on. It is going to help keep you motivated and safe on the road, when you have your loved ones close by, at least virtually.

Communication doesn’t just stop with loved ones, you will also want to communicate with dispatch or your company often, in the case you get lost or issues come up. Make sure you are not going off the grid or disappearing, rather use your CB radio or phone to maintain regular communication, for your own safety.

Long haul trucking is challenging. To do it safely, you need to make sure your rig's in good working order and keep yourself in check. It always helps to stay prepared for the unexpected, and make sure to listen to your instincts. OTR trucking is hard work, but it can also be fun, adventurous and rewarding when you know the right approaches.