The holidays aren’t always happy occasions. 371 Americans died on U.S. roads during Christmas 2021. 42,300 were injured and had to go to the hospital for medical treatment.
If you or your employees drive a semi-truck, you need to be on high alert for accidents in Houston, Texas. Yet you shouldn’t rush your safety procedures. You should try answering a few questions about driving safety during the holidays.
What should your drivers do before they hit the road? How can your drivers avoid dangerous road conditions? When should they take breaks or stop driving for the night?
Get the facts and you can spread holiday cheer throughout Texas this season. Here is your comprehensive guide.
Plan Your Journey
Before any of your Houston semi-truck drivers hit the road, they should decide what route they want to take. This can help them avoid congested areas and backroads that are hard to navigate.
The National Highway Freight Network is made of roads that the DOT regards as the most critical for transportation and commerce. You should try taking your semi-truck on these roads, as they have critical resources like rest stops and smooth roads.
However, Interstate 35 and other highways tend to have high traffic during the holidays. Try to avoid times when a lot of cars and trucks will be on the road, namely rush hour.
In addition to the route, you and your drivers should monitor the weather. Do not drive when it is foggy, raining, or snowing. Wait a few hours after a storm has passed before driving, as the road can remain slick.
Seven of the most dangerous intersections in Houston are along Sam Houston Parkway. Your drivers should avoid the parkway as much as possible.
Repair Your Trucks
Winter tires are an essential investment. They have a deeper tread depth, allowing them to grip icy and wet roads better. You should put winter tires on all of your vehicles, including your smaller cars.
Before you let a truck get out on the road, you should inspect its lights and engine. If anything needs repairs, you need to make those fixes immediately. A broken headlight can lead to fines and contribute to an accident.
Keep the fuel tanks in your vehicles full. Fuel tanks add weight to your trucks, allowing the tires to grip the terrain better. However, extra weight can increase the stopping distance, so your drivers should go a little slower.
Avoid Tight Schedules
Many semi-truck drivers get into accidents because they are rushing to make deliveries. Space your deliveries out and create a schedule that gives each driver a break.
Do not require drivers to drive long distances in short periods of time. Calculate how long it will take for each Houston semi-truck driver to get from one location to the next and provide the semi-truck driver an hour of extra time.
If you need help with making deliveries, hire additional drivers. You can put out ads for temporary drivers or contractors. You can also ship items directly to your consumer’s house.
Try to see if there are warehouses or offices for lease near where your clients live. You can run your operations out of them during the holiday season and save yourself time with transportation.
Make sure your drivers have plenty of time to be with their families. They should have at least one day off to celebrate the holiday they celebrate. You should try to have Christmas Day and New Year’s Day be company holidays.
Train Your Workers
Before the holiday season begins, you should train your semi-truck drivers in Houston on safe driving policies. You must train any new truck driver you hire, even if they have experience in driving.
The training should be classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel instruction. You should give each driver advice on how they adjust their speed and change lanes without plowing into cars in their blind spots. You can conduct the training, or you can hire a professional to come in and offer their services.
After an accident, you should conduct safety training with all drivers. Go over what happened and provide solutions so your drivers can avoid similar situations.
Be Careful With Icy Roads
On an icy road, you need a minimum stopping distance of 600 feet. The larger the vehicle is, the more room the driver needs to stop in time.
Avoid icy roads whenever possible. Do not drive on roads near bodies of water or in places that just had storms.
If a driver must drive on a road with ice, they should go as slow as possible while remaining safe. They may need to drive 10 miles per hour or less under the speed limit.
Skids can occur at any moment. A driver should steer in the direction of the skid while taking their foot off the accelerator.
They should not jerk the wheel too hard, but they should turn it enough so they can get their back wheels on course. As they come out of the skid, they should apply the brake pedal lightly so they reduce their speed.
Hours of service regulations require semi-truck drivers to take breaks on a regular basis. After eight hours of driving, a driver must take a 30-minute break. Another driver can take over for them, and they can sleep, eat, or use the bathroom.
After 14 hours on duty, a driver must go off duty. They may drive an additional two hours if they are in bad weather and need to find a place to pull over.
The DOT requires drivers to spend at least seven consecutive hours in their sleeper berths during their 10 hours off duty. The drivers can use the other three hours to go wherever they want, including stores to shop for themselves.
You should encourage your driver to pull over whenever they feel tired and need to boost their energy levels. A driver can take a quick nap, get a cup of coffee, or step outside their truck to get fresh air.
Drivers should also pull over to answer phone calls or respond to text messages. Avoid communicating with your drivers until you know they have stopped their trucks so you don’t distract them.
Some drivers feel homesick while they are on the road during the holiday season. Encourage your drivers to call their families when they are not driving. This can help them avoid distractions and feel closer to their loved ones.
Avoid Driving in the Dark
Accidents are more likely to occur at night due to how dark it is. Even if your drivers are on roads that are well-lit, they are far more likely to get into an accident.
If possible, schedule your deliveries so your drivers are not driving at night. Ask them to pull over at a rest stop once it gets dark and tell them to take their 10-hour breaks at night.
Your drivers should always have their headlights on while they are driving in the dark. This makes it easier for them to see, and it makes it easier for other drivers to see them. They should signal their lane changes with blinkers, which also help with visibility.
The glare of headlights from oncoming cars can be blinding. Drivers should look down toward the road so they don’t hurt their eyes.
Reduce Lane Changes
Many semi-truck drivers get into accidents when they change lanes. The blind spots on semi-trucks can be very large, and it’s hard for cars to get out of the way in time. 98% of fatalities in semi-truck accidents are individuals in passenger vehicles, in large part because of blind spots.
While drivers drive long distances, they should stay in one lane. If they need to turn off a road, they should get into the exit lane at least one mile before they get to the exit. This gives them plenty of time to check their mirrors and signal the change.
After the driver signals and checks their mirrors, they should look forward to see that nothing is directly in front of them. They should then look over their shoulders to check their blind spots. If everything is clear, they can change lanes.
Drive a Semi-truck Safely in Houston, Texas
Driving a semi-truck in Houston, Texas this holiday season requires a few steps. Plan your route out in advance and make sure the truck is working. Avoid dangerous intersections as well as icy roads.
Go slowly, especially when you are changing lanes. After 14 hours on duty, you should go off duty for at least 10 hours. Get plenty of sleep and stay in touch with your family so your mind doesn’t wander as you drive.
If you get into a semi-truck accident, find a local lawyer. The O’Hara Law Firm serves Houston semi-truck drivers. Contact us today.