When you are in the hotshot business, accidents are inevitable. This is especially true for new drivers who are just starting to familiarize the safety tricks that many hotshotters are already familiar with. Because of that, we have rounded up the top 10 safety tips for new hotshot drivers to help avoid unnecessary or preventable accidents:
1. Load your trailer strategically
Weight distribution is very important for your overall safety. If the trailer is heavy at the back, even slight movements to the left or right can lead to uncontrollable swerving.
For proper loading, place about 60 percent of your load in the front half of the trailer, making sure that the weight is even on both the left and right sides.
2. Drive slowly
This rule applies to all professional and commercial drivers regardless of the industry. Speed is often a contributing factor in many road accidents. According to the United States Department of Transportation, speeding killed 9,717 people in 2017. This accounts for over 26% of all traffic fatalities that year. If you are pulling a trailer, speed can spell a big difference for avoiding fishtail and jackknife situations.
For your safety, always drive the safety limit posted on roads. When ascending, just apply enough speed to get up, and when descending, it is better to creep down.
3. Navigate curves with extra caution
Many accidents occur on curvy roads because some drivers don’t take extra precautions when navigating them. It is even more tricky to navigate a curve if you are towing a flatbed.
Watch out for road sign warnings of curves ahead. Before approaching one, reduce your speed and carefully steer your vehicle. It is important to note that if you are not careful enough, your vehicle may veer toward either side of the lane and this could pose a potential head-on collision with an incoming vehicle that is also too close to the center of the road.
Another important thing to remember when driving through a curve is to only apply the gas pedal when you are already out of the curve. Accelerating too early will put you at risk of skidding or worse, a jackknife situation.
4. Reduce engine power on a climb
Giving your tow vehicle too much fuel while going up a climb could cause the wheels to spin uncontrollably. As a safety precaution, climb slowly while also gradually increasing your engine power. All you need is to keep a certain degree of momentum but not excessive power when climbing.
5. Maintain traction when ascending or descending a steep grade
Losing traction while going up or down a hill could also mean losing control not only of your vehicle but also of your trailer. One way to retain traction is to avoid following the tracks of the vehicle in front of you. Chances are, that vehicle’s wheels have already polished the road and as a result, reduced traction for your wheels.
6. On a downgrade slope, apply the brakes only when the vehicle and trailer are aligned
The combination of the lateral movement and braking action on a slippery road can cause the truck and trailer to slide, leading to a jackknife situation. This is especially true if the trailer is empty. If you must brake, do it on a straight stretch of the road and not while already near or into a curve.
7. Be fully attentive on the road
Needless to say, you should drive without any distractions. Texting and even making or receiving calls are the major reasons why many drivers lose their focus and as a result, are not able to properly deal with road obstacles. If you must text or call someone, it is best to park your vehicle first on the safe side of the road.
8. Don’t brake abruptly
If you are towing a trailer, you can’t just step on your brakes abruptly as this could potentially lead to jackknifing. This principle applies regardless of the terrain and most especially when you are descending. You need to decelerate slowly and steadily.
9. Don’t tailgate
The standard following distance for vehicles in many states is three to four seconds under good weather. If you are pulling a trailer, the extra weight will affect your vehicle’s stopping ability. In countries like Australia, they recommend to add one (1) second for each 3m of trailer length.
10. Master driving in reverse
Driving in reverse is extra challenging while pulling a trailer. It is a skill that takes practice to acquire. Turning too sharply will cause the trailer to jackknife. It may take time for you to execute reverse driving while you are still new to this business but over time and with constant practice, you’ll master it.
As a new hotshot trucker, you may experience many challenges and obstacles on the road but your ultimate goal is to reach your destination safely. The 10 safety driving tips we listed above could help you achieve this goal.