According to the Owner-Operator Independent Driver's Association (OOIDA), small -usiness truckers spend at least 240 nights away from home and drive at least 115,000 miles per year. Due to the amount of time spent driving and resting while on the road for long hauls, truckers are prone to specific risks, several of which could lead to accidents and injuries.
Fortunately, owner-operators benefit from purchasing their own trucks and customizing them to make the cabs as safe as possible. Here are several risks that truckers face and what can be done to try to avoid them.
You or someone you know has probably had an experience with getting lost even when using a GPS. Sometimes, GPS units aren't updated to show the newest changes in the roadways. When you are driving a car or other small vehicle, there's typically no problem with being able to turn around. Not so with a big rig. This is just asking for an accident to happen or for a mailbox or two to get plowed over.
Do not rely on a GPS. Purchase a Rand MacNally Motor Carrier's Road Atlas and study your route the old-fashioned way. This map highlights roadways and bridges that are accessible to semi-trucks and trailers. Write the directions down and put them on your sun visor for easy access.
According to researchers, dehydration can cause you to make twice as many mistakes. The number of errors drivers make when they are dehydrated is comparable to that of people who have been drinking and have a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. Quite alarming, isn't it? The slowed reaction time and impaired cognitive functioning can make it challenging to stop a big rig on time to avoid an accident.
Truckers need to stay hydrated, and the best way to do that is to keep a mini-fridge full of bottled water in the cab of their rigs. If you buy a truck that doesn't already have a built-in mini-fridge, make sure there's enough room for one that you can easily access from the driver's seat without having to contort your body.
Speaking of contorting your body, truckers are at risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Getting in and out of the cab, reaching for the pedals and levers, and grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge can cause too much stretching and straining in the back. Sitting in a seat that is uncomfortable for many miles and then unloading the trailer afterward can also be taxing on the body.
When buying a truck, think of various scenarios that you deal with frequently, and don't be afraid to act them out while sitting in the driver's seat. If you strain your body at any point or feel like you have to overreach, then keep looking. You want the cab to feel as close to custom-made-for-you as possible. Also, when loading and unloading the trailer, take a few minutes before and after to stretch your back and muscles to help prevent injuries.
Focusing on the road for a long period of time can cause your eyes to strain, especially on very long straightaways when heading directly into the sun. Eye strain can make it difficult to focus clearly enough to notice small things in the roadway or to be able to read the exit signs soon enough to get off of a busy highway.
Obviously, sunglasses or a sun visor can be worn to reduce eye strain. However, add a glare-reduction windshield to your shopping list of what you need when you shop around for a truck. Alternatively, a glare-reduction coating can be applied to the windshield after purchase, but this is something that you may need to repeat in the future.
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