It's a sobering statistic from the National Traffic Safety Institute - trucks are involved in more than 200,000 accidents annually with passenger cars. Everyone needs to take responsibility to drive safely but since trucks are bigger and more unwieldy on the roads, it's truck drivers' responsability to adopt safe habits.

Truck safety basics

Driving at high speeds, using a cellphone while driving, failure to heed traffic signals, not leaving sufficient space between your vehicle and the one up ahead are some of the major causes of traffic accidents. Because of their size and sheer weight, trucks need more leeway room to come to a complete stop, so driving at posted traffic speeds and not exceeding the speeding limit becomes an essential cornerstone of driving trucks safely. Whether on the highway or maneuvering around city streets, be careful not to tailgate, one of the major causes of rear-end collisions. Using alcohol, prescription drugs or other medication can also dull the senses. While driving a truck these activities should be avoided at all costs. Safety also dictates that seatbelts be securely fastened whenever the vehicle is in motion. On long-distance trips, take frequent rest breaks as needed. At weights of more than 10,000 pounds or more, commercial trucks used for hauling and transport require special driving skills. Even compact pick up trucks can weigh half a ton more than a car. Driving trucks safely requires that you put your full attention to the task at hand.

Consider your trucks' design

Their design makes trucks more subject to certain kinds of accidents, especially rollovers in pick-up trucks because the vehicle has a higher center of gravity. Trucks are also burdened with large blind spots called "No Zones" and require additional space whenever making a right or left hand turn of the vehicle. If a passenger vehicle is driving so closely that the truck operator cannot see the car in its side view mirrors, it is an accident waiting to happen.

Be aware of your trucks' Load

In addition to always maintaining safe driving habits, maintaining the safety of the truck is also extremely important. Avoid allowing your truck to be overloaded or driving a vehicle containing an unsafe load. Maintain caution on downgrades, on rural roads and on windy, unfamiliar streets and highways. Be sure to maintain the proper tire pressure in your tires. Avoid overcorrecting in steering or shifting from lane to lane or passing when the conditions are not safe to do so. In rainy conditions and inclement weather, slow down despite the posted speed limit. If hauling a trailer with your truck, make sure your hitch is secure and maintain your speed within posted speed limits.

Get Some Practice First

One of the best ways to become a safe truck driver is to attend a professional truck driving school. This allows you to do something you simply can't do on the open road. Get plenty of practice with no other vehicles in your way and make mistakes without serious consequences. Once you are driving a truck on residential streets, highways or freeways, there is little margin for error and your goal throughout every trip, short or long-haul, should be to drive the truck safely.