Identifying Bad Truck Drivers
Those who travel our roads regularly will easily grasp why it is said that our trucking industry is keeping our economy on the move. Our truck drivers travel long distances across our road network which is the 10th longest road network in the world. Their efforts are too often not recognized and they, perhaps unfairly, face much of the criticism for some bad crashes involving other road users.
Prior to a road trip, it is important for the person with the driving task to have a healthy body and mind. Many fail to conduct a pre-trip inspection unless they are compelled to do so by company policy. Too often drivers are in too much of a rush because of pressure in the system that they neglect basics in trucks. This includes the seat position or the mirror positions, aspects that are critical to comfortable and safe driving, especially when the long distance becomes a reality.
Once seated the driver should check the following:
- -Set side mirrors (all) for accuracy.
- -Set seating position correct (both up/down and forward/backward).
- Set steering wheel position correct (most drivers lift it all the way up to exit the truck).
- -Ensuring correct hand positioning on the steering wheel. Incorrect hand position on the steering wheel affects the driver’s ability to control the vehicle correctly.
When sitting behind the steering wheel the driver should guard against the following:
- Failing to wear seatbelts: The single biggest challenge is getting drivers and their passengers to buckle up at all times. Drivers are reluctant to wear a seatbelt because of the myth that it will kill you rather than save your life should the vehicle burst into flames. What they don’t realize is that 9 out of 10 times in this situation you were probably dead already.
- Use of cell phones while driving.
- Eating, drinking and smoking whilst driving: For the very same reason, drivers eat whilst driving to save time.
- Reading or watching movies whilst driving: Because of the limited social time drivers have they engage in an extremely dangerous practice of reading books or watching movies whilst driving.
- Bad hygiene in the cab: Again because of tight schedules drivers don’t have time to keep their trucks clean inside and this poses a health risk to the driver
- Loose objects inside the Cab: Often gas bottles, tin foods suitcases and fire extinguishers just lie loosely in the cab. These objects become missiles in an emergency or collision situation.
What are the most common bad driving habits we find among our truck drivers?
An Inappropriate Attitude for Driving
Attitude is a major area that can be improved on as many of our drivers approach their next trip as just another trip rather than seeing it as a job activity that if carried out safely and efficiently, will enable them to remain in the system for that much longer.
Understanding that the use of the road is built on mutual respect (We have to respect all other road users and them, us).
- Not leaving problems/arguments with others outside the truck.
- Inability to focus on the task at hand for whatever reason.
- Failing to do pre-trip inspection and loads management.
Positioning behind the steering wheel / Incorrect hand position on the steering wheel
- Seatbelts fastened behind the drivers back to switch off the warning buzzer.
- The hand resting on the gear lever.
- Re-setting on-board display messages while moving off.
- Pinching the steering wheel between your legs to set your hands free.
- Driving while crossing arms.
Failure to Remain Alert and Vigilant
- Drivers don’t seem to understand the reality of fatigue and the impact fatigue can have on their lives over the duration of their next few hours on the road.
- Fatigue for many, mostly long-distance drivers is a lethal challenge.
- Today’s communication tools have fast become one of the single biggest threats when on the road.
- Drivers need to recognize the dangers of texting and talking while driving and operators need to support this culture by implementing effective methods of communicating with drivers without increasing risk.
Non-Defensive Driving Habits
- Poor defensive driving skills are apparent on every road, so truck drivers should be that much more aware because of their exposure and sheer size of increased risk.
- Lazy driving styles negatively impact on response times in the event of emergencies and also invite complacency into the truck cab.
- Speeding: Some drivers are paid a small basic salary and a load or km bonus. So, they tend to speed and not rest as often as they should.
- Failure to plan ahead.
- Poor observation.
- Failing to recognize the blind spots that exist around the truck.
- Poor use of onboard communication systems (indicators, hazards, flashlights, hooter etc).
- Too many attempts to move off (sometimes takes 5 or 6 attempts before correct execution) thus placing a huge strain on maintenance issues.
- Ignoring changes in road surface.
- Disregard for traffic laws and ignoring road signs and markings.
- Failing to notice/react to hazards.
This is usually maximized by personal and work-related stress. Tight schedules and no off-time to spend with their families.
It is extremely important to make sure that the drivers that you choose for your company and general purposes must be “proper” in the sense that they must be accustomed to the habits of good drivers. So be careful while choosing for yourself and your company!