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Defensive Driving Courses for Truck Drivers to Curb Bad Habits

Frequent driver training plays an important role in establishing a proactive driver safety strategy. Even the most seasoned of drivers need to have consistent refreshers on important defensive driving skills. The effectiveness of driver training is easy to spot too – fleets that commit to monthly training have far fewer violations, with 25% less than the industry average and 50% less than fleets that train twice a year. We explore key factors of defensive driver training that are crucial for every commercial driver to keep top of mind while out on the road.

Curb Bad Habits with Defensive Driving for Truck Drivers

Defensive driving is a set of skills drivers gain to defend themselves against roadway incidents like collisions caused by bad drivers, drunk drivers and poor weather.

Key defensive driving rules include:

  • Looking up ahead
  • Being aware of blind spots
  • Slowing down at all intersections
  • Maintaining a safe following distance
  • Minimizing all distractions
  • And much more

There’s a good chance that many of your drivers are not following the rules of defensive driving – whether they do so knowingly or it’s been a while since they’ve practiced specific skills. While you’re probably already collecting data on drivers’ bad habits, as the saying goes, knowing isn’t fixing. That’s why implementing educational lessons around the most-seen truck driver behaviors is necessary to keep your fleet protected, retain your current drivers and equip your new hires with the education needed to succeed.

Check out a handful of driver course recommendations below that can help you cover important defensive driving topics.

16 Fleet Defensive Driving Courses to Enhance Truck Driver Safety Training

1. Defensive Driving Overview

A defensive driver is one who identifies dangers far enough down the road so that they have enough time to safely maneuver around hazards. Drivers must always assume that other drivers will make mistakes and scan the highway to see what’s coming. This lesson should cover common hazard areas and ways for drivers to stay aware of what is going on around their vehicles.

Drivers should explore a high-level overview of:

  • What defensive driving means
  • The importance of situational awareness
  • Space management
  • Speed management
  • How to use an effective scanning pattern
  • Awareness of environmental factors that impact changes in speed and space management
  • How to communicate intentions to both those who share the road and pedestrians
  • Maintaining a professional attitude while driving

Watch Our Webinar:
The Fundamentals of Defensive Driving

2. Avoiding Roadside Collisions

Roadside collisions are rare, but when they happen the outcome is often severe and costly. Drivers must learn how to prevent roadside collisions and the steps that need to be taken if one does occur. Warning device placement, driving in reduced visibility and stop avoidance should also be reviewed.

3. Communicating Intentions

Did you know…?defensive driver training to reduce claims

Communicating intentions while driving is a highly critical aspect of defensive driving, especially when operating larger vehicles. Drivers should learn how to anticipate the actions and behaviors of other drivers as well as the many techniques and tools a driver may use to communicate, including:

  • Proper use of headlights, horn, emergency flashers and turn signals
  • Proper use of warning signals and devices on divided and undivided highways
  • Proper utilization of eye contact techniques with other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians

4. Emergency Maneuvers

Emergency maneuvers are actions taken by a driver to avoid an injury, loss, accident or death. Emergency maneuvers such as evasive steering, oncoming vehicles, stopped vehicles and off-road recovery should all be taught. Equipment failures, including brake failure and the actions to be taken following these failures, are also critical.

5. Speed Management

Speeding is one of the top causes of collisions.

truck drivers caught speeding are likely to be involved in a crash within the next year

Knowing how to manage speed and choose the right speed based on conditions can give the driver time to take appropriate action and avoid a collision.

Drivers should be enrolled in frequent speed-related training to retain their understanding of:

  • Choosing the right speed for the conditions
  • Handling traction and poor road conditions
  • Dealing with aggressive drivers
  • Managing hills and curves

6. Space Management

Drivers need to have a clear understanding of how to manage the space around their vehicle. They should learn about defining and maintaining a safety cushion, adjusting to traffic, changing lanes and merging, left and right turns, intersections and blind spots.

7. Skid Control

Losing control of a vehicle in a skid is a situation no one wants or expects to encounter. Drivers have a split second to make the right move, as the wrong choice can be life or death. Your training should review typical causes of skids, different types of skids, how to recover from a skid and most importantly, how to avoid them in the first place.

8. Rear-End Collision Avoidance

Rear-end collisions create some of the worst crashes, especially when a large commercial vehicle crashes into a passenger vehicle. This training should help drivers avoid rear-end collisions by enhancing their understanding of:

  • How to measure and maintain proper following distance
  • How to calculate stopping distance
  • How to safely use cruise control
  • Tips for driving in reduced-visibility conditions
  • How to navigate intersections and passing other vehicles

9. Lane Changes and Intersections

Lane changes and navigating intersections can be difficult for large commercial vehicles because of their size, speed and lack of visibility around the vehicle. These are areas where there is an increased probability of a crash. Drivers must learn more detailed information and tips on how to safely make lane changes and navigate intersections. Mirror use, lane change rules, space and speed management should all be covered in-depth.

10. Summer and Mountain Driving

Many drivers aren’t aware that there are different challenges when driving in the summer. Your training should review how to drive on mountain roads, conduct brake checks and use runaway ramps. It can also cover using auxiliary brakes as well as hot weather and desert driving.

11. Winter Driving

Reduced visibility, changing road conditions and vehicle breakdowns make winter driving challenging. Drivers should learn how to:

  • Prepare for winter driving
  • Install tire chains
  • Navigate winter conditions
  • Know when to stop and find a safe place to park
  • Deal with skids and poor traction

12. Visual Search

The best way to avoid hazards is to constantly assess the environment using visual search techniques. Drivers should review effective scanning patterns, how to adjust mirrors and use them properly, visual lead time for city streets, rural roads, highways and more.

13. Road Rage

Road rage is something drivers see every day on the road and something they most likely experience. It’s critical for drivers to learn helpful tips on how to cope with the actions of others.

14. Fatigue and Fatigue Management

Being tired while operating a commercial vehicle is extremely dangerous. Your training should help drivers learn to recognize the early symptoms of fatigue, when to stop and take a break and strategies to manage and combat fatigue. It should also cover how to use sleep cycles to their best effect and federal regulations regarding driver fatigue.

15. Night Driving

At night, there are different hazards to be aware of, including increased fatigue and reduced visibility. Your training should cover the challenges associated with night driving and how to deal with them.

16. Driver Distractions

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distractions and inattentive driving play a part in one out of every four motor vehicle incidents. Effective training should identify different types of driver distractions, how to minimize them and the consequences of distracted driving.

Start with the Fundamentals of Defensive Driving

As new technologies and other potentially adverse conditions weave their way into everyday life, companies must implement a driver training program that emphasizes modern defensive driving skills. But with so many techniques to cover, where do you start?

Download our helpful checklist and discover the seven fundamentals of defensive driving that every fleet should cover.


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