Being a safe professional truck driver takes a lot of work, skills and training. While you go to school to earn your CDL, trucking takes years of on the road experience to truly learn the skills.

Developing good habits early on is one way to help you become a better, safer truck driver. And while there are a lot of skills involved one of the more important ones is knowing what is going on around you when you are in the truck.

To be a safe driver you have to do more than simply look out the windshield and check your mirrors. You have to learn how to judge what is happening and what could happen around you. It will take time to be able to accurately judge the traffic around you, but by constantly moving your eyes from the windshield, to the side mirrors, shifting your attention back and forth, near and far, you’ll develop the skills.

Seeing Ahead

If you’re driving down the road, obviously your looking out the windshield, but are you looking far enough ahead? Looking ahead 12 to 15 seconds gives you a solid advantage, just don’t forget to watch the vehicles closer to you as well. Looking ahead you’ll be able to:

  • See vehicles coming onto the highway, into your lane or turning.
  • Watch for brake lights and be able to adjust your speed accordingly.
  • Prepare for hills and curves, or anything else which may require you to slow down or change lanes.
  • Time traffic lights so that you don’t get caught trying to race a stale green, instead allowing yourself time to slow down and stop for the red light.

Seeing to the Side and Rear

Knowing what is going on beside and behind your truck is just as important as knowing what is happening up ahead. While you can’t see a vehicle in one of your blind spots, you should know it’s there by watching the traffic moving around you. Using your side mirrors will allow you to:

  • Know if there are vehicles sitting in your blind spots, which is especially important in case of an emergency where you may need to make a quick lane change.
  • Watch for overtaking vehicles, which may require you to slow down to give them the space they need to pass, especially on two lane highways.
  • Keep an eye out for aggressive drivers who may not only decide to overtake you, but cut you off afterwards.

The Big Picture

Shifting your eyes constantly while driving will help make you a safer driver. In time you’ll develop a sixth sense, being able to judge exactly what will happen on the road ahead of or beside you. You’ll be able to keep yourself out of near miss situations, accidents and be able to plan for a safe escape route if chaos begins.