Have a Plan
Truckers who have done it share tips for running millions of miles without getting into an accident
By JIM KNEISZEL
IT TAKES 7-8 YEARS for a trucker to reach a million safe miles. Mike Crawford, a long-haul driver out of Springfield, Mo., breaks it down further, figuring he had to drive a minimum of 2,742 miles per week for 14 years to reach 2 million miles without an accident. That record is humbling and a source of pride for the 60-year-old owner-operator who hauls for Prime Inc.
“It’s all common sense,’’ Crawford says of road rules that helped him rack up the safe miles. “Slow down, take your time and keep your composure. I don’t allow myself to get upset about traffic or other circumstances that I don’t have any control over.’’
Take the pedal off the metal
Those rules helped Crawford avert a tragedy. As is his habit, he slowed to 5 mph below the 40 mph speed limit as he rolled into the tiny town of Kiowa, Okla., at dusk a few years ago.
“A kid on a bike comes flying out of nowhere, right in front of me,” he recalls. He was coming from my right and I had time to apply the brakes and swerve safely to avoid him because I was going slow enough. If I was going 50 through that zone, I’d have hit the kid.’’
The situation reinforced for Crawford that truckers need to expect the unexpected and drive accordingly.
“I’m safe at 70, but I’m safer at 59,’’ he says. Crawford expects other drivers to make dangerous maneuvers and road crew workers to fall in front of his truck in construction zones.
“If it doesn’t happen, I’m lucky. If it does happen, I avoid an accident and the construction worker and I are going home safely that night,’’ he says.
Drive like it’s winter
Jim Ricks, one-time America’s Road Team Captain and 22-year driver for C.R. England Trucking, has 3 million miles of accident-free driving to his credit. Doing short runs in Twin Falls, Idaho, weather is huge safety concern for him, so he always drives like he’s on a ribbon of ice. He recalls how keeping his eyes trained toward the horizon saved him a few years ago.
“I could see a half-mile ahead there were white lights, red lights, white lights as a car was spinning out in the left lane,’’ he says. “I went down into the median and missed the whole works.’’
Ricks credits ample following distances and awareness of traffic for his safe driving record. And he takes it nice and easy in maneuvers. “It takes me a quarter-mile to change lanes. I drive the same way in January when the road is covered with ice as I do on the Fourth of July, as smoothly as I can,’’ he says. “It makes you safer and the equipment lasts longer.’’
Don’t forget truck maintenance
Patience and a good night’s sleep are the keys to driver Javiar Cantu’s 1.6 million miles of safe driving. The Edinburg, Texas-based owner-operator, who drives for Celadon Group Inc., also cites truck maintenance for his success.
“You have to have the vehicle in tip-top shape because a slight mess-up can cost you dearly,’’ says Cantu, 44. But he admits making great time on runs used to be his main priority. “When I started, I was in a hurry to make an extra mile or dollar,’’ he says. “But you get a little older and wiser and if you see an overturned rig or a big wreck on the interstate, it opens your eyes and you know there’s no reason to go so fast.’’
The American Trucking Associations, working with numerous trucking companies, awarded the following Million Mile Safe Driving Awards in 2007:
- 1 million miles- 313
- 2 million miles- 70
- 3 million miles- 15
- 4 million miles- 1