Semi-truck drivers have been a mainstay on the roads of the United States for decades. No matter how advanced the world can be, trucks are always the best way to haul freight across the nation in a timely manner. Truck drivers need to have a different mentality than regular car owners. They have to be up for hours on the road at a time, handling a truck carrying many tons of cargo.
Trucks can often be mini-apartments, with drivers sleeping in them at night because hotels aren’t an option for a long haul. Also, just handling these massive rigs can be a challenge, as some drivers just aren’t able to control them properly. This ties into the other logical moves of semi-truck driving, such as avoiding bad weather or issues that can bring the cops on their tail.
However, some driving rules are exclusive to truck drivers. A lot of rules are mandated by the trucking companies who expect their drivers to follow a code of conduct and protect their rigs. Other times, these are more like guidelines that have been handed down for decades and have just become accepted as part of the job. They can help guide the behavior of drivers and how they have to handle their own set of road rules. Thankfully, most truck drivers are able to stick to these rules and avoid problems that can get themselves, or other drivers, in trouble.
Here are 20 things semi-truck drivers are not allowed to do on the road.
Few things are more annoying for drivers on the road than someone who has their stereo going so loud that they can be heard from yards away. Truck drivers may be inclined to have their radios a bit louder than usual, due to the huge noise of their large engines. That’s understandable but it’s not good to have it be too loud. A truck is already a huge distraction, both due to its size and its sound. Hearing loud music blaring away just adds to the situation and comes off as pretty unprofessional, to boot. No one can blame a trucker for wanting tunes on the road but noise moderation is a must.
When a driver is on a job, the task at hand is everything. They have to ignore many things, from various delays to family emergencies. The company has a lot of money invested in their cargo and making them reach their destination on time. As such, the driver is given full responsibility for the truck and its contents, which means they can’t leave it unattended for more than a half hour at the most to grab something quick to eat. There’s no stopping at a hotel or going on a shopping spree. Some companies have trucks outfitted with sensors or cameras to check how long it’s left unattended. It’s always the driver’s responsibility to ensure this truck is never left alone for an extended period.
Truckers have a code of conduct for how they handle each other. Most of them are good folks who are cordial to each other. They all know what it’s like to face the same challenges on the road and they get along well. It’s important to have this bond because truckers talk on CB radio and can give each other warnings about traffic and other issues. Keeping quiet on a huge jam you just got out of is just bad form. Also, experienced truckers are encouraged to give tips for rookies to handle things and avoid mistakes. A trucker who basically brushes off his compatriots and is on his own won’t last long in the business, as there’s a brotherhood on the road.
It’s easy when guys in the same profession get together to chat about what they do. Truckers are much the same, as they’ll gather after work or at diners between stops to swap stories. They’ll talk of rough hauls, long trips, and other tricks of the trade. What they won’t talk about is exactly what cargo they’re hauling at any given moment. Sometimes, it’s the company itself that wants things kept quiet. For the most part, truckers just use their own discretion. You never know who might be listening in on a CB call and unwanted listeners are more common than people think. Stating that you’re hauling a freight-load of something that can be easily resold for a profit is like free advertising for bad company.
Truck drivers are human and are prone to the same aggravations as other drivers. They can be annoyed to get caught in a huge traffic jam, be stuck in poor weather, or suddenly get cut off by someone on the road. One thing they shouldn’t do is lean on the horn too much. Too many drivers tend to enjoy blasting those huge semi horns, sometimes for no real reason. To other drivers, suddenly hearing those huge blasts can be very annoying and a major distraction, to boot. It’s one thing to warn of a crash or other issue but another to just show the horn off and as a rule, this is one a trucker shouldn’t be breaking often.
Like many drivers, truckers are always careful about traffic rules. Cops can come down harder on trucks breaking rules because of how dangerous they can be. This has led to some truckers using the old trick of having a radar detector in their rigs to warn of any police presence. Thus, they can adjust their speed or cut down on other issues an officer may notice. The problem is that the companies don’t like these scanners, as it just encourages a trucker to be more carefree about the rules when the cops aren’t around. Several ban them from use and some states are cracking down on them, too. It may be nice for a trucker to get a police alert but neither the cops or the companies like it.
Some truck companies pay a “flat rate” for their drivers, which is the same fee no matter the haul or the time. Other companies pay out by the mile, so truckers may be tempted to take longer journeys for more cash. Sadly, a few drivers like to be sneaky and take the longest route possible to pad out the journey and get more cash. Instead of taking shortcuts, they’ll go as long as possible and have even been known to double back on the same roads just to get a few extra miles and a few extra bucks. Many companies have special meters and even GPS trackers to ensure the trucks aren’t doing this. A trucker should be careful because trying to add to their time could cost them their job.
No, we’re not talking about using their truck for a party in the parking lot of a football stadium (although, obviously, that’s not allowed either). Rather, truckers are openly told they need to keep at least three car lengths between themselves and the car in front. Many are encouraged to make that space even further. It’s logical because, with so much size and the time it takes to slow down, the truck needs more space. Highway police are always ready to ticket a driver who’s way too close to another car because of how dangerous it can be. Most drivers are smart enough to let these trucks have all this space but it’s up to the drivers to ensure they don’t tailgate, for everyone’s safety.
To be fair, the vast majority of hitchhikers are decent people who just need a ride for a few miles. Sadly, there are exceptions that can be rather dangerous. It used to be that a truck driver picking up a passenger wasn’t that big a deal. Today, companies come down very hard on this. Even if the hitchhiker is a good sort of person, having an extra passenger on a delivery is hugely frowned upon. It’s a reason some companies have cameras inside the trucks, to keep an eye out and ensure this doesn’t happen. Some truckers may want to give a person a break or have some company for a bit. But they’re held by the rules that anyone thumbing for a ride should be passed by quickly.
Truck drivers often undergo extensive training to handle rigs before a company puts them out on the road. One of the biggest challenges is understanding that a semi-truck can’t slow down like a regular car. All that weight carries a lot of momentum and thus, the driver has to be careful to judge the timing of when to stop. As such, a hard brake is never recommended. True, sometimes there will be an incident in front of them or some oblivious driver might keep cutting them off. However, drivers are still told that hitting the brakes behind a semi should not be done. It’s not just the truck itself but also the cars behind them that come into play, and a hard brake can cause one bad pile-up.
This is another no-brainer, for sure. Today, reading can be something a driver can do a lot more than they used to. The use of texts and onboard computers helps to catch up on some reading while the long drive goes on. Some drivers even think they’re capable of checking out a map or newspaper on long stretches where the road is clear. That’s dangerous for a regular driver but a huge no-no when you’re hauling several tons of cargo. Maybe an audiobook is okay—but not a physical one. Likewise, even reading a map can be risky because of the distraction factor. If a trucker wants to enjoy reading time, it should be when they’re at a full stop.
Amazing as it sounds, in this day and age of high technology, truckers still use CB radios. It may seem strange for technology from the 1970s to still be commonplace, however, CB radios are seen as much easier to use than phones. Truckers have special codes and frequencies to get through to others and call for help, if need be. Sure, a driver should have a cell phone yet the CB is usually the way to communicate. That’s because some trucks can be in remote areas where cell coverage is sketchy, not to mention the rules cutting down on the use of phones. Those can be too distracting while a CB can be much easier. Sometimes, the old ways are the best.
There’s a reason why truck companies put those 800 numbers on the backs of their trucks. They take the safety of other drivers very seriously and know the damage a reckless truck driver can cause. That’s why obeying the speed limit is one rule that’s drilled into drivers to never break. It doesn’t matter if they’re lagging behind or if the road ahead is clear. It doesn’t matter if it’s only five miles over the limit, they are not to go over it. Yes, it can be annoying for cars to be stuck behind a truck that insists on going 50 miles per hour when everyone else is doing 70. But it’s always for a good reason, as even a few miles over the limit can get truckers into trouble.
Long before the advent of cell phones and texting, a regular cause for car accidents was someone reaching for an item inside a car. It happens; someone drops a pen or other item and needs to reach to get it. This takes their eyes off the road and thus, runs the risk of an incident. Given that a semi-truck’s interior is larger, a driver has to reach further in order to find something that’s been dropped. Since they’re driving a vehicle with several tons of weight and a lot of momentum, even a brief glance away from the road can be bad. It doesn’t matter what it is, if something is dropped inside a truck, the driver has to leave it there until they can stop.
Obviously, weather is a serious issue for truck drivers. Semi-trucks can handle a rainstorm better than a regular car yet it’s still recommended that if it’s a truly bad storm, they should pull over and wait it out. However, even subtle changes in temperature can affect a truck. A very windy day can make it harder to balance the cargo correctly. Also, if you’re hauling perishable items, being in a high-heat area is a risk. Thus, truckers are encouraged to have constant weather updates in their rigs so as to know any slight changes that can affect their ride. Even if it’s a clear day, ignoring the weather is not a smart idea for truckers.
Truckers are often on a schedule. How tight it is depends on the cargo and what company they work for but truckers are expected to be on time or even early to make their deliveries. While fueling is important, the gas station is not meant to be a long stop. Some truckers may want to rest there but they are told that the actual fueling has to be as fast as possible. That’s both to accommodate other trucks and ensure they get back on the road ASAP. Some companies are very strict on giving drivers a time limit for how long they can be at a station. Even without that, truckers accept that gas stations are not meant to be for an afternoon stop.
This is one of the “no brainer” prohibitions on this list. Even an expert driver in a top-notch safety-laden car knows that texting is a major no-no today. It cannot be counted how many accidents have been caused by someone taking time typing on their phone rather than focusing on the road. For truckers, the risk increases because of the size of their rigs. A regular car is one thing but a huge semi can be even more damaging to other drivers and passersby. Most states have laws banning texting but even without that, a trucker who’s caught doing it can be in for some serious punishment.
Changing lanes in traffic on a highway is a major deal. When you’re driving a massive semi-truck with tons of cargo, changing to another lane is pretty risky. The fact is that there’s a major reason most highways have a “truckers only” lane. With traffic so major and so many cars speeding around, the risk of a bad merge is high. So, no matter how slow a lane may seem, a trucker is expected to stick to it all the way. Sure, they can shift lanes now and then but never half of what a normal car would do in the same area. The size alone means that a semi shifting lanes isn’t a common sight on a highway.
This may seem like an odd rule but it’s still there. Truck stops are always a boon for drivers. After hours on the road, the chance to pause at a stop, get some food, and rest up is pretty important. Some drivers spend some time at a stop while others just pause for gas and a quick meal. One rule that sticks is that even if the stop is brief, they can’t leave their headlights on. It’s considered a distraction for other drivers and also a rule of etiquette that’s remained in place for years. It may be an odder quirk but turning off the headlights at stops is a rule truckers keep to.
This is a rule that's beaten into drivers in training and taken very seriously. Companies will come down hard on any violators because this is dangerous not just for the truck driver but anyone on the road. It’s only natural for fatigue to set in when a trucker is handling hours on the road all the time and the usual tiredness of a long road rip sets in. When they’re handling a massive load of freight, the risks of falling asleep can be far worse than in just a regular car. As soon as a truck driver feels the slightest sense of getting tired out, they have to pull over for some rest. Even if it’s just a quick nap, it’s more important than having reaction time slowed by road fatigue.
Sources: Mental Floss, Smart Trucking.com, and Wikipedia.