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Basic Control of Your Vehicle

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To drive a vehicle safely, you must be able to control its speed and direction. Safe operation of a commercial vehicle requires skill in:

  • Accelerating.
  • Steering.
  • Stopping.
  • Backing safely.

Fasten your seat belt when on the road. Apply the parking brake when you leave your vehicle.

2.2.1 – Accelerating

Don’t roll back when you start. You may hit someone behind you. If you have a manual transmission vehicle, partly engage the clutch before you take your right foot off the brake. Put on the parking brake whenever necessary to keep from rolling back. Release the parking brake only when you have applied enough engine power to keep from rolling back. On a tractor-trailer equipped with a trailer brake hand valve, the hand valve can be applied to keep from rolling back.

Speed up smoothly and gradually so the vehicle does not jerk. Rough acceleration can cause mechanical damage. When pulling a trailer, rough acceleration can damage the coupling.

Speed up very gradually when traction is poor, as in rain or snow. If you use too much power, the drive wheels may spin. You could lose control. If the drive wheels begin to spin, take your foot off the accelerator.

2.2.2 – Steering

Hold the steering wheel firmly with both hands. Your hands should be on opposite sides of the wheel. If you hit a curb or a pothole (chuckhole), the wheel could pull away from your hands unless you have a firm hold.

2.2.3 – Stopping

Push the brake pedal down gradually. The amount of brake pressure you need to stop the vehicle will depend on the speed of the vehicle and how quickly you need to stop. Control the pressure so the vehicle comes to a smooth, safe stop. If you have a manual transmission, push the clutch in when the engine is close to idle.

2.2.4 – Backing Safely

Because you cannot see everything behind your vehicle, backing is always dangerous. Avoid backing whenever you can. When you park, try to park so you will be able to pull forward when you leave. When you have to back, here are a few simple safety rules:

  • Start in the proper position.
  • Look at your path.
  • Use mirrors on both sides.
  • Back slowly.
  • Back and turn toward the driver’s side whenever possible.
  • Use a helper whenever possible.
  • These rules are discussed in turn below.

Start in the Proper Position. Put the vehicle in the best position to allow you to back safely. This position will depend on the type of backing to be done.

Look at Your Path. Look at your line of travel before you begin. Get out and walk around the vehicle. Check your clearance to the sides and overhead, in and near the path your vehicle will take.

Use Mirrors on Both Sides. Check the outside mirrors on both sides frequently. Get out of the vehicle and check your path if you are unsure.

Back Slowly. Always back as slowly as possible. Use the lowest reverse gear. That way you can more easily correct any steering errors. You also can stop quickly if necessary.

Back and Turn Toward the Driver’s Side. Back to the driver’s side so you can see better. Backing toward the right side is very dangerous because you can’t see as well. If you back and turn toward the driver’s side, you can watch the rear of your vehicle by looking out the side window. Use driver-side backing–even if it means going around the block to put your vehicle in this position. The added safety is worth it.

Use a Helper. Use a helper when you can. There are blind spots you can’t see. That’s why a helper is important. The helper should stand near the back of your vehicle where you can see the helper. Before you begin backing, work out a set of hand signals that you both understand. Agree on a signal for “stop.”