Driver Knowledge Tests

What’s the safest way to get into and out of a heavy vehicle?

It’s easy to get hurt when getting into and out of, or onto and off of trucks, trailers and other heavy vehicles. A 110kg driver jumping down half a metre creates around 200kg of force! In an uncontrolled environment like this, it can cause serious damage to ankles or knees.

Getting into a heavy vehicle

  1. The truck should be immobile, i.e. parking brake on, gearbox in neutral, and (preferably) engine off.
  2. Check that there are no cyclists or other road users approaching which might be affected by your door.
  3. Check that the door won’t be pulled open unexpectedly by strong winds and make a mental note if the steps are wet.
  4. Open the door and climb up using the provided steps. Maintain three points of contact – either both hands on any handles or grab rails plus a foot on either the step or inside the cab, or both feet on the steps or cab and one hand on a hand hold.
  5. Make sure your feet are in the cab before pulling the door closed.

Getting out of a heavy vehicle

  1. Make sure you’ve stopped the vehicle safely – handbrake, gearbox in neutral, engine off.
  2. Double-check there are no cyclists or other road users coming – every year, several cyclists are killed or seriously injured by people opening vehicle doors in front of them.
  3. Keep a firm hold of the door while you open it so that wind doesn’t grab it.
  4. Take your key.
  5. Check whether the steps are wet (they’ll be more slippery, therefore more care needs to be taken), then climb out of the cab backwards using the stairs and maintaining three points of contact.
  6. Close the door

Getting onto and off a trailer or flatbed truck

Some trucks have footholds like this one on a rigid curtainside:

Other trucks and trailers don’t and therefore it’s useful to use a trailer ladder which stores behind the cab and can be fastened to the side when you need it.

Some trailers have built-in steps and catwalks, like this:

The catwalk has a safety rail down the left and the stairs have a grab rail on the right

Stock trucks and trailers often have a rail at the top for protection:

When getting onto and off a trailer, use three points of contact.

What not to do when getting into or out of a heavy vehicle

  • Don’t jump out of the vehicle as this is an easy way of twisting (or breaking) your ankle. If you do twist your ankle it can cause you to fall into the road.
  • Don’t use tyres or wheel hubs as a step.
  • Don’t try to carry items when you are climbing up or down.

The same principals apply whether it’s a truck, a large ute, a forklift, a grader or a bus.

How to reduce the risk of injury getting on and off a vehicle

  • Always use 3 points of contact
  • Use a ladder for trailers and other tall vehicles
  • Use a dock for unloading, if available
  • Educate your drivers using toolbox sessions and training.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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