Habitual offender

| October 30, 2006

Bad truckstop etiquette is one of the 6 worst bad driving habits, including bright lights in the parking lot.

Behind every bad driving habit is an unprofessional attitude.

“I’m not a philosopher, but I think a lot of it is that the drivers start out scared of the trucks, and they’re a lot more careful then,” says Raymond Courtney, director of the Commercial Truck Driving Program at Middle Georgia Technical College in Byron. “But as they drive, they become more complacent and start thinking they can do anything with the truck, and they just don’t pay attention.

“An experienced or conscientious driver would not let that happen,” says Courtney, who’s been an instructor since 1998.

Changing the unprofessional attitude that’s the breeding ground for bad driving habits is the ideal solution, but it’s not easy.

“They think, ‘I got away with it this time, I got away with it last time, I can probably get away with it all the time,’” Courtney says. “It’s like smoking. They know it’s bad, but they do it anyway.”

Like smoking, bad driving habits take their toll, and nobody is immune. If you’re lucky, you’ll learn your lesson early on.

“I developed some bad habits shortly after I got out here,” Courtney says. “I was taught to pay attention to the little things when doing a drop-and-hook. But I saw lots of drivers just back in, hook up and give a tug, so I got into that bad habit,” he says.

His truck’s fifth wheel had a safety latch.

“I hit a bump and activated that safety latch, and it closed the jaws on the fifth wheel,” Courtney says. “When I backed into the trailer, it broke the fifth wheel.”

He was stuck two days in Augusta, Ga., awaiting repairs.

“I broke that habit real quick,” he says.

It’s the kind of story an experienced driver can now laugh about. But some bad habits demand a lot more when they seek their due. Semi drivers have fewer wrecks than four-wheel drivers, but fatal injuries and catastrophic property damage are more likely when big trucks wreck. About 5,000 people die each year in wrecks involving semi-trucks, although that number was lower and rose about 10 percent between 1992 and 2002. “I’m not going to go out there and kill an innocent family. I couldn’t live with myself,” says Pipho Transport company driver Cliff McKenzie of Phoenix.

Read on to find the six worst driving habits and how to avoid them.

The worst among truckers’ habits is driving too fast, and it’s a simple one to fix.

“Everybody’s in too much of a hurry these days,” says Transfreight company driver Craig Den Engelsen of London, Ontario, Canada. “Slow down.”

Excessive speed is the primary cause of rollovers, which account for more than half of all big truck accidents.

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