During the summer months, drivers of heavy duty trucks should be reminded of additional driving challenges that present themselves. Increased outdoor activities resulting from more daylight hours make it especially important to get plenty of rest before buckling-up in an 18-wheeler, as driver mental and visual acuity must be at peak performance. Children are out of school, increasing the number of motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians on the roadways. Additionally, summertime is when most roadway construction programs are initiated. This increase in roadway activity means that a driver’s focus on fleet safety must be on-point 100% of the time to avoid accidents.
Some fleet safety tips for summertime driving are as follows:
- Even in the summer, always be aware of school zones. Many schools operate summer programs, and in those areas school speed zones are enforced year round. Also, be alert for children playing on or near school playground facilities.
- Be cautious of vehicles with out-of-state license plates or vehicles overloaded with luggage and/or sports gear. These are good indications that the passengers are vacationers and may be unfamiliar with the area roads and conditions and unsure of their direction intent. Expect unsuspected and often times illogical driving behaviors from them.
- The number of construction work zones increases during summer months and they should be avoided if possible. Construction zones have reduced speed limits and are often paired with construction workers who are paying more attention to their road-side responsibilities than they are to the traffic around them. Therefore, always keep a safe distance between your truck and construction workers and their equipment. In a construction zone, it is also very important to be attentive to traffic patterns, which can change overnight based on the construction progress.
- Pay attention to the posted signs or road crew flaggers when driving in construction zones. Be aware that the road crew flaggers have the same authority as a regulatory sign and drivers can be cited for violating their direction.
- Never tailgate—but especially in construction zones. Rear-end collisions are typical in work zone areas because drivers of smaller vehicles often use a truck to advance their position in traffic and dart in front of them while in slow moving traffic. Truck drivers need to anticipate these behaviors from other drivers. It is important to note that while driving through work zones, distractions (like changing radio stations, personal grooming, and eating) are to be avoided, allowing complete focus on navigating the hazard zone.
- You must also know your vehicle’s safety features and how they react to your driving input. In many parts of the country summer is rainy season. Test your truck’s safety features such as roll stability, anti-locking brakes and dynamic cruise control in different weather conditions and know how they respond in all driving conditions prior to being in a position where you use a feature and it has a different result than what you had anticipated.
And last but not least, always remain focused and patient while driving. Remember, summer driving has some unique hazards that drivers must be prepared for so that the potential for problems is avoided.