What Is Defensive Driving in Trucking?

by Pride Transport | Feb 02, 2024

At Pride Transport, we make sure all our truck drivers are equipped with the driving skills they need to stay safe on the road. From knowing how to properly check their equipment to staying healthy while on the road, safe driving strategies are paramount for anyone who sits behind the wheel for a living.


While it’s extra important for big rig operators to know how to drive safely, it’s just as crucial for the general public to remember that any vehicle can become a weapon if it isn’t used safely. Adopting defensive driving techniques can keep our country’s roadways that much safer for everyone who uses them.


What Is Defensive Driving?

You might be familiar with the phrase “defensive driving” already, but do you know what it means? 


In short, defensive driving is a set of skills you can learn to operate a vehicle in a way that considers and avoids possible collisions with hazards. Potential obstacles can be everything from other vehicles, pedestrians, or animals to environmental elements like potholes or ice. Obstacles might also be psychological, like driver fatigue, road rage, or even the influence of drugs or alcohol.


Defensive driving techniques can include:

  • Keeping your eyes on the road
  • Checking your mirrors frequently
  • Wearing your seatbelt
  • Avoiding driving under the influence
  • Reducing your speed when a road’s surface is wet or icy
  • Regularly checking your tires
  • Washing your vehicle—especially your windows—frequently
  • Knowing when to avoid driving altogether, such as in snowstorms and floods
  • Not counting on other drivers to drive safely


Essentially, when you drive defensively, you’re driving with your eyes and mind on the issues you might face on your route and employing driving techniques that allow you to overcome those issues. Adopting a defensive driving mindset can help you predict and react more quickly to road conditions and the potential issues they might present you (and your vehicle) with. Learning how to drive defensively keeps our roadways safer because it helps drivers generally stay more aware of the road they are on, as well as the other drivers traveling the same path. 

Accident Prevention

Especially when used in hazardous driving conditions, defensive driving techniques help drivers to be proactive about avoiding accidents. Think about defensive driving as a shield: It is a tool you can use to protect yourself from objects that might hit you, whether that is other drivers, or weather conditions like heavy rain.


Defensive driving is especially important for truck drivers who operate long, heavy vehicles that are more likely to cause damage to other people and vehicles in an accident. Truck drivers will need the wherewithal to determine the size of their vehicle and how much room it will need to stop or turn without colliding with surrounding vehicles and other potential hazards.

pride transport truck

How to Avoid Human Error While Driving

While defensive driving is mostly about maintaining awareness of and reacting appropriately to your physical surroundings, understanding how the state of your body and mind might affect your driving will help you recognize when you might not be driving on the defensive.

Things like stress, exhaustion, and dizziness can get in the way of your ability to drive safely, and cause accidents–the exact opposite of the purpose of defensive driving. Avoiding getting behind the wheel in fragile states will help you stay a defensive driver so you can use your expert collision-avoiding skills.


The first strategy to minimize the effects of those human errors is to control what you can. While you can’t change other people on the road, you are able to make the decision not to get in a vehicle if you have been drinking alcohol. Don’t let yourself get distracted by your phone or any other passengers you might have in your vehicle. You should also make sure to get enough sleep before hopping into the driver’s seat.


Long haul drivers are especially susceptible to excessive fatigue after many hours behind the wheel, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has Hours of Service limitations that require drivers to take regular breaks. This mandated time off can help drivers avoid getting too sleepy when sitting behind the wheel.


Staying focused, alert, and prepared for unexpected situations relies more on common sense than you might expect. If you don’t feel safe, the right defensive move is to pull over whenever you are safely able to do so and take a break from driving.

Compliance With Traffic Laws and Regulations

Part of defensive driving is understanding and following speed limits, signals, and right-of-way rules. The better you know the rules of the road, the more safely you can navigate your space and react to the mistakes of other drivers. 


The more you drive a particular road, the more likely you are to be familiar with its nuances. For truck drivers who might be driving routes far away from home that they don’t know as well, observation is key. Keep an eye out for speed limit signs and lane markings, as well as notices for construction sites or any road features that might make you change your route. And it might sound silly for us to remind you, but use your turn signals! Giving that sign to other drivers protects them and you!

How Defensive Driving Affects Everyone on the Road

Defensive driving protects not only you but also all the other drivers on the road. Getting behind the wheel of any vehicle is inherently risky, and you have to have a certain amount of trust in the other drivers and the elements you’re driving in. Employing defensive driving techniques—even those as simple as being on the lookout—keeps you ready to respond in case of an obstacle in your way. 


Defensive driving is a proactive approach to legal and responsible driving and helps you avoid reckless driving. At Pride Transport, we do all that we can to ensure our drivers stay healthy, are well-versed in our top safety tips, and are happy with our community. 

If you’re interested in driving as part of our proud team, check out our job openings.

pride transport driver looking out window

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