Two of our most recent informative blog posts discussed ways that your drivers can improve their visibility while truck driving, but this post focuses on watching out for wildlife. Deer-vehicle collisions, in particular, account for thousands of wrecks each year. As a fleet manager whose drivers log seemingly countless hours on the road, your trucks are at high risk for collisions. Here are several tips for helping your drivers avoid a run-in with wildlife:
What is the Risk to Truck Drivers?
No matter the size of your fleet rigs, deer will run out in front of everything from motorcycles to tractor-trailers. Although deer-vehicle collisions often cause much more damage to smaller vehicles, a single deer can cause a myriad of problems for truck drivers as well. In addition to hood or cab damage, hitting a deer will put both the cab driver and any nearby vehicles in danger.
If you assume that the size of your fleet’s tractor-trailers will protect the person behind the wheel, think again. Deer have hit semis in such a way that the body swung up and crashed through the windshield, landing inside the cab. In another case, a truck driver swerved to avoid hitting a deer and wound up flipping the semi over onto the road. Deer-vehicle collisions can cause truck damage, lost time, and insurance woes.
Heed Warning Signs
The best way to avoid hitting deer is with attentive driving. If your fleet drivers regularly travel 8- or 10-lane interstates, running into wildlife may be the least of your worries. Anytime driversmove through a forested area or switch to a smaller highway, however, they need to be continually on the lookout for deer and other animals. In many cases, drivers report that deer or other animals “appeared out of nowhere.” While this does frequently occur, much of the time the driver will have some warning or at least an idea that they are in a deer-heavy area.
For example, long stretches of highway are often isolated, so deer are less likely to be scared off by frequent traffic. In addition, many rural highways are built along creeks, rivers, and lakes, all of which attract deer. If your driver routes go through a heavily forested area or anywhere that water meets the road, the person behind the wheel should be aware that they are driving directly through deer habitats. Rural roads are not the only potential areas for crashes, however, as many collisions occur within city outskirts.
Remind your drivers to slow down and use caution if they see a highway sign warning that the area is high-traffic for deer. Every state is home to at least a few deer, but fleet drivers should especially mindful while driving through states known for their heavy populations of the animals. Depending on where your truck routes are, drivers should also watch for elk, horses, moose, wolves, and cougars. For the purposes of this article, however, we will continue to focus primarily on avoiding deer-vehicle collisions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, deer-related accidents alone cause millions of dollars of damage each year.
Anticipate Increased Activity
Do you know the time of day and year that deer are most prevalent? Deer-vehicle collisions can occur at any time throughout the year, but most occur in November, at the peak of mating season. Male deer are on a mission to find a mate, which can make them bold and therefore less afraid of traversing roadside. Aside from breeding season, other factors for increased deer populations by the road include farmers harvesting crops as well as hunters in the woods and outdoor enthusiasts on lakes. Another peak in deer activity occurs in May and June, as one-year-old deer begin to disperse to new areas.
Deer typically travel in small herds, and frequently cross highways in a single-file manner. A single deer on the road means that more may be gathered near the shoulder or tree line. As primarily nocturnal feeders, deer are most active around dawn and dusk. At night, driverscan see the reflection of a deer’s eyes long before the deer’s figure is visible. Encourage your drivers to scan their entire field of vision, including shoulders and ditches on both sides of the road.
We already mentioned a case where a semi swerved around a deer and wound up flipping over. Another aspect of this accident is that another semi, driving closely behind the first, hit the overturned vehicle and also lost its load. In another instance, a van hit a deer and, while braking, was hit from behind by a semi.
If you or your drivers are ever traveling behind a car that is braking suddenly or otherwise acting erratically, this may be a sign that a collision is imminent. Avoiding tailgating will give your drivers a wider field of vision and more reaction time. This means that, if they see a deer on the road, they will have the option to brake instead of swerve, lessening the chances of crashing into another car that has swerved to avoid wildlife or other road hazards.
If your drivers are in a deer-prone area or spot a deer ahead, what can they do to help lessen their chances of a collision? If no other cars are around, honking the horn in short bursts may scare deer off. Note that honking will likely not work on other animals such as moose. Tell your drivers to brake quickly, but to stay in their lane without swerving. It is always better to hit a deer head-on than to risk sliding off the road or into another vehicle. If your drivers see numerous deer alongside the road, they can alert other drivers to the potential risk by tapping the brakes or briefly putting on the flashers.
How to React if You Hit a Deer
Avoiding a collision is not always possible. Instruct your fleet drivers to turn on their flashers and carefully pull over if they hit a deer. After cautiously getting out of the cab, they should put down flares or reflective safety cones to alert other motorists of your presence. Finally, they may need to alert highway patrol or call the police to fill out an accident report.
Maintaining a clean truck on a regular basis will increase your fleet’s visibility while on the road, which can help your drivers avoid wildlife as well as other road hazards. Fleet Clean services include hand-brushed cleanings and full trailer washouts. For more information or a free job quote, call 877-477-9274 or fill out our online contact form.