Road Safety Week: Essential Safety Tips for HGV Drivers
Everyone can be a road safety hero. Road Safety Week 2021 celebrates the professionals who are working to make roads safer for everyone – from designing safer roads to caring for people after a crash. It also enables everyone who uses roads to understand how they can take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others.
The consequences of not driving safely range from the inconvenient to the catastrophic. Over 7,500 van and truck drivers and passengers are injured in road accidents each year - and over 100 of these are killed. As a professional driver you have a special responsibility not just to yourself but also to other road users. You can meet that responsibility and set a good example by driving safely.
The following comprehensive guide of essential road safety tips will ensure you have the correct information to keep yourself and other road users safe each time you get behind the wheel. Use the navigation tool below to read through the information:
Your Safety as a HGV Driver
Your employer should ensure that the vehicles you use are safe and properly maintained. However, a well-maintained vehicle is not in itself enough to ensure safety. It’s up to you as a driver to:
Check your vehicle daily
Know your route
Be aware of weather forecasts
We have previously discussed the medical requirements to become a HGV driver and what the medical exam entails.
A renewed medical will be required every 5 years after the age of 45 and annually from the age of 65. You must inform the DVLA if you suffer any medical condition or disability that may affect your driving. You also must tell them if you develop a new condition or disability, or one that has become worse since your licence was issued.
Your hours of work are restricted for reasons of road safety, working conditions and fair competition. There are maximum limits on driving time and minimum requirements for breaks and rest periods. Various exemptions exist, some of which apply on UK journeys only. If you operate under the European Union (EU) drivers’ hours and tachograph rules, you will also be subject to the working time provisions of the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations.
If you do not fall under EU drivers’ hours and 3 tachograph rules, you will normally fall within the scope of separate UK legislation on these areas but will still be subject to certain aspects of the working time regulations.
Find out which rules and regulations apply to you and make sure you keep proper records. For further information on drivers’ hours, visit: https://www.gov.uk/drivers-hours
Professional driving can be hard work. If you start to feel sleepy while driving, find a safe place to stop (not the hard shoulder of a motorway) as soon as possible and get some sleep. Modern commercial vehicles are often comfortable but don’t be tempted to relax too much! To combat the risk of falling asleep at the wheel, you should:
Plan adequate rest break
Get adequate sleep before starting out
Not start a journey if already tired
Avoid driving if you are not 100% fit
Never drive if affected by alcohol or drugs
Avoid heavy meals before driving
Remember that you will feel sleepier between 2pm and 4pm and early in the morning
Keep fresh air circulating in the cab - but remember that cold air, in itself, will do little to stop you falling asleep.
If you feel sleepy at any stage when driving, stop immediately and take a short break to assess whether you can safely continue driving. Never be tempted to ‘power through’ your tiredness - turning up the radio and opening your windows will do little to keep you going. Contact your employer for guidance if you feel you cannot safely meet your deadline.
In the UK, more than 200 people die every year in a drink-drive related crash. It is illegal to drive with more than:
A breath alcohol level in excess of 35 micrograms per 100ml
A blood alcohol level in excess of 80 milligrams per 100m
A urine alcohol level in excess of 107 milligrams per 100ml
The only safe option is NOT to drink if you plan to drive. Any amount of alcohol affects your ability to drive safely, not least because your reaction times and ability to judge speed and distances are impaired. Even a small amount of alcohol may increase the risk of falling asleep at the wheel as well as decreasing your awareness of falling asleep.
Remember that alcohol can remain in your system for around 24 hours and any drinks you consume throughout the evening can potentially affect your fitness to drive the next morning. If you’re convicted of a drink-driving offence, you will lose your HGV entitlement - and with it your livelihood.
Driving while unfit through drugs - whether prescribed medication or illegal substances - is against the law and is just as dangerous as driving when drunk. Many companies have introduced random drug testing and registering positive for drugs in such tests can result in instant dismissal.
Some drugs reduce concentration, encourage risk-taking or distort perception and many cause excessive sleepiness the following day. This goes for prescription or off-the-shelf medicines, as well as illegal substances. Everyday cold or flu medicine can have side effects, for example drowsiness. Make sure you always read the labels of prescription or off-the-shelf medicines carefully. Remember - If you don’t feel well, don’t drive.
Know Your Vehicle
Know how your vehicle works and spot any problems before you set off. Defects or problems should always be recorded and reported as the DVSA undertakes regular checks on vehicle maintenance and defect reporting arrangements. They also have the right to stop vehicles on the road, carry out spot checks and issue prohibition notices if necessary.
You should do a walk-round check of your vehicle before each journey because as a driver you are legally responsible for:
Checking the vehicle is roadworthy
Ensuring that any equipment, fittings, and fixtures required are present and serviceable
Not driving the vehicle if faults are present
You should also conduct an in-cab safety check. This helps ensure your own safety as well as that of passengers and other road users. Never begin a journey with a defective warning device or when a warning is showing. If a warning light shows while you are driving, stop immediately and seek professional help.
We can provide copies of a daily walk-round and cab checklist for drivers to use, contact us for more information.
Before starting a journey, plan your route, including rest breaks, and identify any potential hazards. This minimises the risk of suddenly encountering dangerous situations.
Planning your journey helps you choose the safest and most efficient route. Always plan an alternative route to allow for accidents or bad weather. Try to avoid congestion at peak times. The length, width, weight and height of your vehicle will sometimes dictate the route you take. Be aware of the dangers of unauthorised parking - if you need to rest overnight make sure you choose a safe and secure site to avoid falling victim to crime.
Speed is a major factor in many accidents. The greater the speed, the higher the likelihood of a severe accident. Speeding is illegal, dangerous and puts lives at risk. Speed limits exist for your protection and that of other road users. Your vehicle may have a speed limiter set for motorway speed limits. Watch your speed carefully within lower speed limits.
More information can be found in the Highway Code which is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code
Loading & Unloading
Take time to assess potential dangers and what you need to do to complete your journey safely and efficiently. Get into the habit of checking the safety of the load several times during your journey.
Do not cause a hazard by loading or unloading where there are yellow markings on the kerb and signs advising of restrictions. Check an up-to-date edition of the Official Highway Code for details of signage and always be aware of local loading and unloading restrictions.
Load and Vehicle Height
Every year around 2,000 HGVs or vans hit railway or motorway bridges. If you drive a vehicle with a travelling height of over 3 metres (10 feet) you must ensure that the correct overall travelling height of the vehicle is displayed inside the cab for you to see while driving.
Plan your route to avoid low bridges and overhead structures. A height notice may not be required if you’re carrying enough documentation about the choice of routes. Be aware that some Satnavs do not programme bridge heights into their systems!
When securing a load, you need to consider such factors as:
The nature of the load
The suitability of the vehicle
The stability of the load
The type of restraint
The condition of the restraint, i.e. wear and tear
Protection from the weather
Prevention of theft
Ease of delivery
When restraining a load, be aware of the centre of its gravity. Remember that movement of the load in transit will affect the way the vehicle handles and responds to the controls - the restraint should always be used to ensure the load is secure during braking and steering.
Remember also that the load must not endanger any other road users. As a driver you are responsible for the load and will be held accountable if any part of it falls from the lorry during transit. This applies even if you did not load or fit the restraints yourself.
Inside the Cab
Make yourself comfortable and safe when travelling. Be aware of how your vehicle and driving affects your surroundings.
It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone or similar devices such as satellite navigation equipment while driving. You must always maintain control of your vehicle – even a hands-free kit is a distraction! Mobile phones can make you:
Less aware of what’s happening around you
Miss road signs
Lose good lane position
Tailgate the vehicle in front
React more slowly
Enter unsafe gaps in traffic
Feel more stressed
The radio in your cab can update you on traffic conditions, accidents, and weather conditions This helps you plan the safest and most efficient route. Just don’t let it distract you or others:
Don’t have it on too loud
Turn it off when loading or unloading
Don’t hang clothes up inside the cab if they might obstruct your view. Remember that clothes that do not initially get in the way may still swing forwards or backwards during heavy braking or acceleration in such a way as to block your vision.
Make the Right Moves
Manoeuvring your truck can be difficult. Be aware of hazards in the yards you deliver to and always ask for guidance if you deliver to somewhere for the first time.
There are blind spots around the sides of your vehicle and to your rear - be aware of other vehicles and pedestrians before they enter these blind spots. Pay particular attention to cyclists and motor cyclists who might have crept up alongside you when you turn left into another road.
Always plan an overtaking move. Look well ahead for:
Bends & Junctions
Other vehicles overtaking
Know the speed of the vehicle in front. How long will it take to overtake? Do you have enough time? When travelling at speed your vehicle is most stable travelling in a straight line. Sudden steering movements can cause displacement of your load. This can shift the balance of your vehicle and make it unstable so always plan your manoeuvre in advance. Make sure it is smooth and controlled.
Know the length, width, and height of your vehicle before parking. Be aware of potential hazards around you. Know where you can park according to the Highway Code and local signposting. These laws are there for your safety. You must have lights on when parked on the road or in a lay-by at night. In a clearly lit lorry park, however, you can switch your lights off.
When connecting or disconnecting a trailer, have you engaged the parking brakes on both truck and trailer to prevent your vehicle from rolling away? Keep yourself and your load safe by making sure your vehicle is always secure from theft and vandalism.
Keep left unless overtaking. Trucks are not allowed in the extreme right-hand lane on three or four-lane motorways. Remember the drill - mirror, signal, manoeuvre - before moving out. On motorways, watch out for vehicles in the right-hand lane moving back to the left as you pull out. Remember also that most other vehicles are faster than you.
Drive with Respect
Always set a good example to other drivers - you are the professional driver so make sure you set a good example. Bear in mind how other road users may see you. Those who have no knowledge of driving large commercial vehicles may wonder why you’re making certain manoeuvres. Losing your temper won’t make your life easier. Keeping your emotions under control makes driving safer and less stressful for you.
Know how your vehicle affects other road users. Turbulence from your vehicle, for example, affects:
Other goods vehicles
There is limited visibility around your vehicle, due to its size. Use your mirrors and check any blind spots thoroughly when manoeuvring. Remember that pedestrians may step onto the road without warning. Be aware that your mirrors could strike a pedestrian just as hard as the main body of your vehicle.
Cars, motorcyclists, and cyclists can all be intimidated by the size of vans and trucks. Driving close behind a vehicle causes accidents. It restricts other motorists’ view and gives you less room to stop in an emergency.
Other road users may not drive courteously. Resist the temptation to retaliate in such situations. Always drive:
Calmly, allowing for others’ mistakes
With full control of your vehicle
With their extra skills and knowledge, a professional HGV driver can influence other road users in the way they drive. Driving with respect and awareness ensures that everyone benefits from a safe and secure driving environment.
If you would like to refresh your knowledge or expand your driving qualifications, check out our range of LGV / HGV training courses or get in touch with us with any questions here.