As with any trucking assignment, safety is the number one priority in an OTR team driving career. All the same safety tips apply to OTR drivers as they do to solo drivers, like giving the truck ample time to slow down and signaling early when turning or changing lanes.
But long-haul trucking presents some new challenges. Driving for long hours can cause fatigue. Changes in driving conditions require OTR drivers to stay alert. It’s important to avoid distractions and get enough sleep so you can stay focused.
Nonetheless, team drivers have a few advantages that other CDL truck drivers don’t. Mainly, they have a co-driver to watch their back and help them whenever they need it. If they get in a bind, they know they can rely on their co-driver to back them up.
Here are some of the most important safety tips for OTR team drivers:
There are many different types of distractions out on the road, but they typically fall into three categories: visual, manual, and cognitive.
Visual distractions include anything that might take your eyes off the road. Historically, this category might include billboards, other drivers, being distracted by objects on the side of the road, or being distracted by the radio.
These days, the most common visual distraction is one’s cell phone. If a phone rings or buzzes, we almost instinctively look at it to read the notification or reply to a text. When driving, the safest thing to do is turn your phone off, put it in “Do Not Disturb Mode” or “Driving Mode,” or use a hands-free device if you rely on your phone for communicating on the road.
Manual distractions include anything that might cause you to take one or both of your hands off the steering wheel. Food and drink are common manual distractions, as are adjusting your seat or searching through your pockets. But your phone can fit into this category, too. If you need to eat or make a phone call, always wait until you park.
Cognitive distractions include daydreaming, being distracted by conversation, or being drowsy at the wheel. It’s always okay to inform your co-driver or anyone else you may be speaking to that you need to focus on driving.
It can be difficult to avoid daydreaming on the road, but you can beat it through practice. Avoid staring straight ahead and focus instead on your surroundings. Make a mental note to avoid daydreaming before you start driving and check yourself whenever you start to.
Get Plenty of Rest
The best way to avoid fatigue while driving is to get plenty of sleep before you get behind the wheel. Getting restful sleep while a truck is moving can be challenging, but there are steps team drivers can take to make easier for both drivers to sleep.
Drivers can establish rules about noise, like how loud the radio can be and if it should be on at all. It’s also important to be conscientious of the sleeper, as sudden accelerations and jolts and disturb them. Generally, if you drive safely, your co-driver can sleep soundly.
Making the cab as comfortable as possible can also be conducive to getting enough sleep. Using a high-quality mattress can help make the bed more comfortable. Earplugs, blackout curtains, and a sleeping mask can help drivers sleep during the day, when they need to.
Also, team drivers should follow the hours-of-service regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to ensure they have enough time for rest.
Stay Aware of Road Conditions
Often, road conditions will change repeatedly when driving OTR. Drivers must be constantly aware of their surroundings so they can adjust their speed when needed. Changing weather conditions, traffic patterns, work zones, curves in the road, accidents, and daylight conditions may require drivers to slow down.
By staying aware and informed, OTR team drivers will be prepared for any and all road conditions so they can keep the truck moving.
Wear Your Seat Belt
Wearing your seat belt may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re spending long hours in the cabin of a truck, it can be tempting to make yourself as comfortable as possible. But wearing a seat belt is the single best way to stay safe on the road. According to the CDC, seat belts reduce the risk of serious injury to drivers by 50% and reduce the risk of death by 45%.
Communicate with Your Co-Driver
Communication is key to making a good OTR team and is important for building trust with your co-driver. When an OTR team has trust, they can rely on each other to overcome tough situations and avoid risks on the road.
Start Your Next OTR Team Driving Career
Are you looking for your next OTR career opportunity or are you tired of driving solo and want to try team driving? Lily Transportation Corp. has a number of opportunities available for OTR team drivers. Visit our careers page to speak to a recruiter or apply online today!