It's often said that trucking can be a solitary profession. Solo commercial drivers can attest to this reality: they cover thousands of miles, spending weeks away from home, friends, and loved ones. However, even though professional truck drivers spend long hours on the road, they are never truly alone. They share the highways, parking lots, and fuel islands with other CDL holders and fellow motorists. Trucking is a unique social environment, governed by a set of unwritten courtesies known as the "Truck Driver Rules of the Road." In this discussion, we'll explore these rules and how they contribute to a smoother and safer trucking experience.
What Are Truck Driver Rules of the Road?
Trucker’s rules can be defined as an unwritten code of conduct that helps all those involved in hauling loads maintain safety and professionalism, regardless of their destination in their 18-wheelers. These trucker rules, inspired by common sense and courtesy, serve to eliminate chaos, prevent misunderstandings, and address issues of all sizes. Consequently, these unwritten rules have a significant impact on road safety and can reduce the stress often associated with this profession. These unwritten rules encompass a sense of courtesy and respect that separates true professionals from those who approach the job with a less considerate attitude.
The Essential Truck Driver Rules of the Road
Whether you're a rookie CDL holder making your first delivery or a seasoned veteran with millions of miles behind you, it's essential to be well-versed in these fundamental aspects of trucking culture.
Be Courteous and Professional to Others at All Times
This is perhaps the most challenging rule and requires constant attention from truckers. An 18-wheeler's operation on the road or in a dock relies entirely on the driver's skills. Choosing the right speed, making precise turns, safely passing other vehicles, braking at the right moment, and stopping in the correct spot—all of these actions depend on the trucker behind the wheel. While focusing on the road, safety, route, delivery schedule, and other vehicles, professionals must also manage their stress levels. It's crucial to remain composed, tolerate others' mistakes or lack of courtesy, avoid emotional outbursts, respect fellow drivers, and prioritize safety. This is the essence of professionalism.
Don’t Camp in the Left Lane!
There's no reason for an 18-wheeler to linger in the left lane for extended periods. The left lane is designated for safe and swift passing – not for cruising. Once you've overtaken, promptly return to the right lane. Lingering in the left lane often creates inconvenience for others.
The most frustrating situation is when your truck's speed is capped just a couple of miles per hour faster than the truck ahead, and you attempt an overtake. It's exasperating to see a semi truck misuse the left lane, trying to overtake another moving only slightly slower. Refrain from driving in this manner. If you're in the left lane and it appears your passing maneuver will take an inordinately long time, show courtesy: ease off the accelerator and fall back.
Let the Camper By!
If you're cruising in the right lane and see a truck inching past you in the left, and you realize he's going to be there for what seems like forever, be the bigger person! Disengage your cruise control and let your truck coast a bit so the “camper” can move ahead. This small act of courtesy might slightly delay you but will earn you good karma points.
Do Not Tailgate
Tailgating is a common but dangerous behavior. While truckers often maintain short distances to trailers in front of them to discourage other motorists from squeezing into large gaps, this practice can limit reaction times and visibility. Unless you're in constant CB contact with the truck ahead, avoid following too closely. It's unsafe and unprofessional.
Be Courteous While Passing!
If you're the one overtaking in the left lane, ensure you leave a safe distance when merging back into the right lane. Don’t cut too close in front of another semi truck!
If you're being overtaken, allow the passer ample space. Once they've passed and it's safe for them to merge back, signal your approval by flashing your headlights on and off. Refrain from blinding them with high beams. This gesture not only ensures safety, especially at night but also contributes positively to your karma.
Always Signal a Lane Change
This is no doubt one of the frequently used and at the same time often neglected truck driver's daily rules. Neglecting to use your turn signals during lane changes is unprofessional. Other drivers can't predict your moves, and changing lanes without signaling can lead to surprises. Always use your turn signals well in advance to allow fellow drivers to anticipate your actions.
Know the Truck’s Blind Spots
An 18-wheeler has significant blind spots, particularly behind the tractor trailer and in front of the bumper. It's crucial to remember that side mirrors should be properly adjusted to eliminate blind spots to the left and right.
Yield the Right of Way
Yielding the right of way isn't just a courtesy; it's a legal requirement. Follow road signs at intersections, merge lanes safely without impeding other vehicles, and give way to vehicles already on the roundabout or clear right-of-way.
Get Out and Look Before Backing
Following the "GOAL" rule (Get Out And Look) is vital for safety. Take your time, park your truck, exit the cab, and inspect the area before backing up. Ensure there are no obstacles or objects that could damage your trailer. Don't hesitate to seek assistance when needed.
Use CB Radio
CB radios were once a vital tool for truckers to connect, exchange information, and stay informed about road conditions. Modern commercial drivers often overlook this valuable resource. Don't hesitate to use your CB radio to obtain real-time information about road conditions, directions, and more from fellow truckers.
Lend New Truck Drivers a Hand
Every truck driver was once a rookie, learning the ropes and prone to making mistakes. Sharing your experience can help new drivers avoid errors and adapt to trucking culture quickly. Always ask if a rookie is open to receiving advice before offering it.
Prioritize Ample Rest and Safely Stop When Experiencing Fatigue or Illness
Truck driving is a job away from a traditional office, and many drivers relish the freedom it provides in decision-making. It's crucial to maintain self-awareness and take responsibility for every aspect that could affect your safety. Indeed, while trucking provides immense freedom, it often involves long hours on the road followed by much-needed rest. To ensure peak attention during extensive shifts and weeks away from home, it's essential to wake up feeling rejuvenated. If you struggle to maintain this balance, it's time to adjust your habits to prioritize adequate rest and sleep.
Similarly, if you catch a common cold or any other illness during your long hauls, it's imperative to listen to your body. Should you feel fatigued or unwell, it's best to stop, consult a doctor, and take the necessary medication. Remember, your truck can't operate safely without your full attention – and your goal is always to return home safely.
Practice Healthy Eating Habits
Trucking isn't just a job; it's a lifestyle. Drivers often find themselves behind the wheel for shifts that can extend up to 11 hours, with weekly shifts reaching up to 70 hours. Throughout this extended time, they remain focused on the road, ensuring they reach their destinations safely.
However, such demanding schedules take a toll on a trucker's health. The combination of prolonged sedentary periods and frequent reliance on unhealthy "truck stop food" often results in unwanted weight gain and other health complications. We've previously highlighted the challenges of the trucking profession, which is regarded as one of the unhealthiest occupations in the USA.
Make Time to Stretch and Exercise
As the experience of many drivers shows, including those at HMD Trucking, it is indeed possible to find time for physical activity during the 34-hour reset and even after an 11-hour driving stint. Watch this video where one of our OTR truck drivers shares tips on how to lose weight and build muscle during your off-duty hours.
While CDL schools teach the basics of safe driving and traffic rules, these unwritten courtesies, also known as Truck Driver Rules of the Road, are equally vital and often learned through experience. Trucking can be a demanding and sometimes stressful profession, but adhering to these simple rules can help mitigate the challenges. While strict discipline isn't necessary, growing professionalism is essential for truckers to accumulate safe miles without compromising their health or career. Truck road rules, embodying the essence of professionalism, serve as a collective standard that elevates the entire industry and fosters a culture of mutual respect and safety on our highways.
If you’re looking for a dependable and reliable trucking company to work for, look no further. HMD Trucking offers competitive CPM, fresh and well-maintained trucks and trailers, multiple bonuses and benefits, and a family-like attitude. Fill in the application below, and our recruiter will get in touch with you soon.