Driving a truck is quite a different experience to driving a car. Trucks are much bigger, heavier and more cumbersome vehicles that require much more time and distance to manoeuvre and come to a stop. Driving a truck requires good concentration and most of all strict adherences to all safety requirements.
However, do not let this put you off, they are extremely useful for a variety of tasks, including moving house, transporting business goods or moving heavy or bulky items throughout New Zealand, and are often overlooked as an option as people do not realise they are able to drive one using their regular car licence.
Your New Zealand Class 1 Full Drivers Licence allows you to drive any vehicle that has a Gross Laden Weight or Gross Combined Weight of not more than 6000kg. This means the total weight of a vehicle together with any load it is carrying, including any equipment and accessories must not exceed 6000kg.
Every truck has a manufacturer or New Zealand Transport Authority recommended Gross Laden Weight that varies dependent on the size and capabilities of the truck, if this is below 6000kg then you are able to drive the truck using your Class 1 licence.
Most people who are capable of driving a car can manage a small truck perfectly well with a bit of advice before getting behind the wheel. Keep in mind the optimum goal is to maintain a high level of safety on the road, not only for you and your cargo, but for everyone out there on the road with you.
Before You Hit The Road
Before hitting the road it is a good idea to familiarize your self with the vehicle, here are our three top tips before beginning your drive.
Do An External Inspection. Before getting in the truck perform a quick external inspection. Walk around the outside, take a look at the tyres, windshield, reflectors, check for any obstructions underneath, and generally make sure that everything seems in order. Once inside, before starting the truck up, familiarise yourself with the vehicles controls. This includes the windscreen wipers, head lights, hand brake, gear lever, foot pedals and indicators. You do not want to be searching for these items while driving as it will take your attention off the road.
Get Comfortable. Adjust the position of the seat, rear vision and side mirrors to suit. When driving a larger vehicle you need to rely on your mirrors more often, particularly when reversing, parking and turning. They need to be in the correct position to provide the optimal viewing range. Finally check fuel and other gauges to make sure you are good to go. If you are still unsure, it’s a good idea to take the truck for a practice run around the parking lot, or up and down a quiet street.
Don’t Forget Your Drivers Licence. Remember always carry your driver’s licence with you at all times when driving on New Zealand roads.
While On The Move
Follow The Road Rules. As with driving a car, you must follow the New Zealand road rules; always ensure you signal properly, wear your seatbelt, stop, give way and be courteous to other drivers.
Watch Your Speed. Leave other vehicles with enough space and adhere to speed restrictions (for trucks that usually means no more than 90 km/hr in a 100km/hr speed zone). Speeding only increases the risk of getting into an accident, slow down to a speed that you feel comfortable with and be prepared to let other vehicles pass.
Drive To The Road Conditions. Be particularly careful in wet or icy situations.
Pay Attention. Keep track of what is going on around you, look ahead and behind and be ready to react according to the situation. Be mindful of your blind spots, these are generally speaking located to the side in front of the cab, behind the side mirrors and also right behind the truck. Other drivers on the road most likely will not be aware that you cannot see them.
Avoid Distractions. This means no checking your phone or texting while driving, and can also include eating, talking, passenger interaction and listening to loud music. Anything that takes your attention off the road is a distraction, you need to focus on driving and give it your full attention, for your safety and the safety others.
Avoiding Fatigue. This is also extremely important for any driver, but more so if you are driving an unfamiliar vehicle and do not always know how it will handle in unexpected circumstances. When you are tired your reaction time is much slower and your ability to concentrate is impaired. Plan to take frequent breaks on your trip, with each at least 30 minutes in length, preferably every 2 hours or more frequently as required depending on the length or your journey.
Parking, Breaking, Loading And Unloading
Secure Your Load
Pay attention to how your cargo is loaded; make sure it is secured properly. You do not want your items moving around while in transit, not only will this cause damage, if heavy it may cause the truck to veer to one side unexpectedly. If carrying heavy loads make sure you check the recommended weight limits of the truck, these must not be exceeded, the vehicle is only designed to be safely operated within these limits. Ensure doors are firmly secured, or the load is not hanging over the sides.
Think Before Braking, Parking and Turning
Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is trucks are larger and heavier than your average car. This means caution is required particularly when parking, breaking and turning. Leave yourself more time and distance to break fully and safely or you may find yourself in the middle of an intersection or rear end someone by accident. Avoid having to slam on the breaks, breaking to fast may cause you to lose control of the vehicle. When turning or changing lanes give yourself a wide berth, and frequently check side mirrors to avoid collisions.
Driving a truck for the first time can be simple and safe as long as you keep in mind trucks are much larger and more powerful than the average car. Take into account the above precautions, particularly when driving a truck for the first time, keep safe, go slow and enjoy the drive.