It’s time to de-bunk the myths surrounding the truck industry and its safety.

There was a time when trucks arguably deserved their reputation for being unsafe. The harsh truth of the matter is that trucks were involved in many incidents which could have been avoided. The good news is that the freight industry has very much cleaned up its act. This means that modern scare stories are largely myths. To debunk these common myths, Operations Manager of Fleet Ex; Andrea, shares her views on the trucking industry.

Trucks are not well-maintained

This one may have come about through the popularity of travel documentaries. It is certainly true that many countries lack either road-safety regulations or enforcement (or both). This means that internationally, you can certainly find plenty of trucks which should be taken off the road immediately for everyone’s safety.

In the UK, however, trucks must be maintained to an extremely high standard. There are serious penalties for non-compliance and those penalties are rigorously enforced. The penalties start at significant fines. That assumes that the issue was caught before any harm was done.

If, however, lack of proper maintenance contributes to an accident, then penalties can become a whole lot more severe. The company could be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter, individuals in it could face personal charges of manslaughter. The latter can carry a prison sentence. In short, therefore, truck companies in the UK are very motivated to take safety very seriously.

Truck drivers can’t see cyclists

This is one can, technically, be semi-true. Some trucks do not allow drivers to see cyclists through the windshield or in their mirrors. These trucks are, however, fitted with assistive technology to make the driver aware of the presence of cyclists.

London has introduced a “Direct Vision” scheme to make sure that cyclists have the maximum possible protection from HGVs. Enforcement of this scheme was delayed due to COVID19. It is, however, expected to begin on 1st March 2021.

From that date, Transport for London will monitor compliance with Direct Vision by means of the automated number plate recognition it already uses to monitor compliance with the Low Emissions Zone (congestion charge). Offenders can be subject to heavy fines.

While the Direct Vision scheme is currently unique to London, it will almost certainly be watched closely by other UK cities. It’s therefore very likely that the scheme will end up being adopted throughout the UK, including outside of cities.

It’s easy to qualify as a truck driver

If you think it’s easy to qualify as a truck driver, then you should try going through the process for yourself. You need to take four tests to get your initial Driver Certificate of Professional Competence. What’s more, you must requalify every five years and that involves a minimum of 35 hours of training.

Truck drivers have to learn a whole lot more than “just” driving, although that’s challenging enough. In particular, they have to learn a lot about safety. This ensures that good habits are ingrained in them right from the very start of their career. For example, it becomes automatic to apply the handbrake whenever the vehicle is stationary.

They also practice managing their vehicles in a wide range of conditions. In the UK, there is a lot of emphasis on being able to calculate stopping distances effectively no matter what the weather. This has prevented a lot of genuine accidents. Vehicle cameras, meanwhile, have helped make it harder for people to target HGVs in “crash-for-cash” scams.

Qualifying as a truck driver is, however, only the start of the story, rather than the end. Once you have your driver CPC, you will then have to go through a very thorough recruitment process. Trucking companies understand that truck driving is mentally challenging, and they need to make sure that candidates have what it takes to handle those challenges.

Truck drivers don’t get enough rest

This used to be very true. In fact, it was far and away the major cause of accidents. That’s why the EU introduced the EU Drivers Hours Rules. As part of the preparation for Brexit, these were incorporated into UK law.

It’s highly unlikely that the UK will relax these post-Brexit. If anything, the rules are more likely to be tightened. This would reflect the fact that the UK has a number of cities where driving is particularly challenging and truck drivers need to be super-focused.

Truck drivers are also routinely subjected to random tests for alcohol and drug use. These can even be done when they are out on the road. Failing these tests can cost them their job. Their company will also check in with them from time to time when they are on the road. This is partly to confirm that they are safe and partly to check that they are driving safely.

Nobody knows what truck drivers do on the road

Again, this one used to be fairly true. Those days are, however, now well and truly over. All modern trucks are equipped with monitoring devices. These record the key factors in a truck’s journey. Truck drivers will also be in regular communication with the staff at their base. They will often be communicating with customers as well.

Added to all this, the UK has numerous CCTV cameras, and many are equipped with automated number plate recognition software. This means that these days, truck drivers are some of the most closely monitored people around. As a result, safety issues are highly likely to be identified and rectified promptly.

Truck drivers aren’t paid enough to care

This is yet another myth which used to be true but is now outdated. Before modern safety standards were introduced, it was fairly easy to become a truck driver. This meant that pay was relatively low.

Now, it’s much harder to enter the industry in the first place. You also have to keep retraining to maintain your CPC. Even with a CPC, you are only likely to get employment if you can convince an employer that you can handle the demands of being a truck driver. Falling short of those requirements will almost certainly damage, or even destroy, your truck-driving career.

In short, a lot is asked of modern truck drivers and they are paid accordingly. Even new truck drivers earn very decent salaries. Ones with specialist skills can command serious money.

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