We all hope it’s not going to happen… But if you’ve opted for life on the road as an HGV driver the chances are you are going to have to deal with a breakdown at some point – so it’s a good idea to be prepared.
Whether it’s in town, on a quiet sleepy lane or on a motorway, your main priority during a breakdown should be road safety. Always think about your own safety and those around you first, before deciding what course of action to take.
The General Rule
The general rule if you encounter a problem when driving is to put your hazard lights on to alert other traffic and slow down by breaking as gently as possible, then pull over to the left as soon as you safely can.
Below, I’ll cover a couple of specific instances and outline what needs to be done when they occur.
Unfortunately these are more common than you may think, and there are certain procedures you should follow for road safety.
A blow-out, particularly of one of the front tyres, can make your vehicle difficult to control but it’s important to keep hold of the steering wheel.
Signal and try to steer a steady course to the left hand side of the road, breaking gently. Always be aware of other traffic or pedestrians and avoid sharp steering or hard breaking.
Pull on to the hard shoulder as far to the left as you can. Turn on your hazard lights and any sidelights if it’s dark or the visibility is poor.
For road safety, it is important that you leave your vehicle by the passenger door while you wait for help – it can be dangerous to remain inside in case of a collision. You should have a high-visibility jacket in your cab which you can put on to be seen by other drivers while you wait.
Call for assistance using the roadside emergency telephone, as this will instantly alert the emergency services to your exact location.
The new ‘smart motorways’ sometimes use the hard shoulder for traffic during busy periods, so, if possible, try to leave at the next exit or service area where you can call for help.
To ensure the safety of other road users it’s important to use your hazard lights to let other drivers know that you have stopped, particularly if your vehicle is blocking any part of the road.
You could also consider using a warning triangle in addition to your hazard lights, although these must not be used on motorways. Place your triangle 45 meters from your vehicle on a straight road; on a windy or hilly road place the triangle where a driver will see it before the bend or hill.
High visibility clothing will ensure that other drivers can see you when you’re out of your cab, which is particularly important on motorways and high-speed roads. If your vehicle operator has their own safety clothing guidelines, make sure you are familiar with these before you set off.
No one wants the hassle and potential hazards of a breakdown, but if you follow these simple rules you’ll be able to keep yourself as safe as possible.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides a valuable service, updating members with the latest information on issues affecting road safety and other news from the industry. Matching delivery work with available vehicles, over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.