To err is human, but when a commercial truck driver makes a mistake, it can cause an accident, damage a rig, or cost the trucker his job. On the other hand, some mistakes don’t result in such heavy consequences. However, it’s best to avoid mistakes altogether through constant diligence and professionalism. Here are four common beginner mistakes in commercial truck driving:
Failing to Check the Attachment between the Tractor and Trailer
It doesn’t matter how many times you have successfully connected your tractor to and disconnected it from a trailer, it only takes one mistake to cause serious damage. Before driving off, always check to make sure the fifth wheel is fully engaged with the kingpin. When disconnecting from the trailer, always check that air and electrical lines are unhooked and the landing gear is fully extended.
Treating the Pre-Trip Check as Busywork
The pre-trip check is more than just a ritual to get out of the way as fast as possible. Your safety and that of the driving public depends on it. Skipping parts of it because you never find anything wrong means that these items go unchecked even when they eventually get damaged or wear out. It’s better to take the time to check and recheck than to have a highway incident such as losing a wheel or your brakes.
Failing to Get out of the Cab to Check before Backing the Trailer
Because of their large blind spots, you can’t exclusively rely on your mirrors when backing your trailer to a dock. Get out of your commercial truck and check the ground between your trailer and the dock. Don’t forget to look up for drooping power lines, large tree branches, or awnings. Don’t worry about what others think, get out and check as many times as you must.
Having Blind Faith in a GPS
Use a map for commercial truck drivers to back-check your GPS route suggestions. Make sure the bridges can take the weight of your rig, and the overpasses have enough clearance for your trailer. Avoid all routes that take your commercial truck through narrow roads meant for residential traffic only.
Don’t get into the habit of automatically following GPS directions without checking road signs. Is the GPS telling you to go the wrong way on a one way road? Do the signs say the road is not a commercial truck route? Is the GPS asking you to drive under a bridge with too little clearance? Is the bridge you’re about to cross under construction? Is the GPS asking you to drive into a river? While some of these questions seem ridiculous, people have driven into swamps, the ocean, and off bridges because they unthinkingly followed their GPS directions.