Defensive driving is driving so as to prevent accidents in spite of the
incorrect actions of others or adverse driving conditions, such as weather,
traffic, lighting, vehicle or road condition, or the driver's physical or
mental state. The defensive driver assumes that other drivers may make mistakes
and is on guard in the event an error is made.
Your safety program should include defensive driver training on the proper way
to negotiate a downgrade. The main reason for loss of vehicle control on
downgrades is brake failure, and the main reason for this is the use of
improper control techniques by the driver. The brake system may be damaged or
misadjusted and may not have sufficient capacity for downgrade control. Primary
countermeasures for preventing a runaway are: adequate driver skills, frequent
checks on brake operation, and adequate preventive maintenance. Here are some
areas that should be addressed regarding defensive driving and tips to help
your drivers become defensive drivers.
Have drivers been trained to properly control their vehicles on downgrades?
Do drivers know how to select proper gearing for downgrade descents?
Do you periodically have qualified personnel ride with your drivers to assess
their driving habits?
If vehicles are equipped with brake application pressure gauges, do drivers
know how to use them?
Do your drivers know how to check the condition of braking systems?
Do drivers perform a pre-trip inspection to assure that all vehicle brakes are
Is brake system maintenance performed as needed, and are brakes adjusted
Are brake system maintenance intervals adjusted to reflect the terrain that
vehicles normally operate on (e.g., shortened for mountainous terrain)?
Are drivers aware of the concept of a preventable accident? A preventable
accident is one in which the driver failed to exercise every reasonable
precaution to prevent the accident. This is irrespective of the extent of
property damage or personal injury, to whom it occurred or the location of the
To be a defensive driver in negotiating downgrades, drivers should:
Know the gearing on their vehicle. The gear to select for descending a grade
should be no higher than that required for ascending the same grade; however,
some vehicles may require a lower gear.
Put the truck in the proper gear and check brake function before descending
long, steep grades.
Use a lower gear if speed cannot be controlled with light (10 psi) brake
Do not use the hand lever to apply only trailer brakes. This could overheat the
trailer brakes and cause them to fail.
COPYRIGHT ©2005, ISO Services Properties, Inc.