Driving Tips for Log Truck Drivers

Date: February 28, 2023

Caldwell Spence, Senior Risk Control Consultant

How to Tackle Tail Swing Radius, Turns, Curves, Backing, Stopping, Parking, Night Operation, and More

Log truck drivers are an integral part of the transportation industry. As such, it is important to ensure their safety on the roads. To encourage safe driving practices, we have compiled a list to help log truck drivers tackle different situations they may face while on the road.

Tail Swing Radius/Log Overhang

Drivers must be aware of the dangers that exist to nearby structures, approaching traffic, and motorists following behind log trucks when logs extend past the rear of the trailer. To tackle tail swing radius/log overhang, remember these tips:

  • You are responsible for your load! Maintain your lane and do not turn while a vehicle is in danger of being struck by your extended logs.
  • Make it visible! Always mark the longest log, per State statutes. At BITCO, we recommend a minimum of two highly visible load flags and an amber strobe light on the longest log, day or night. Check State laws for flag requirements.
  • Certain States have limits on load length and some require Permits, while others do not. Ensure you know the laws in your State. We recommend going shorter, when in doubt. For States with no limit on length, avoid logs "sweeping" the road.
  • Before your trip begins, become familiar with your route while considering stops along the way for fuel or breaks, avoiding congested downtown areas when possible, and turns along the way, including the mill entrance or possible roundabouts.
  • Watch for others and watch your load. Be aware of other vehicles, structures, and pedestrians.
  • Check your mirrors – look left, right, and left again before starting your turn. Signals should be used well in advance when preparing to make a turn.
  • Know the distance between stop signs/lights and railroad crossings. Don't get trapped with your logs extending over the tracks. If necessary, choose a different route.

Turns, Curves, and Stopping

Log truck drivers must always exercise caution while negotiating curves, making turns, and stopping. The more informed and prepared a driver is, the safer their drive will be.

  • Speed kills! Speed is often a cause of rollovers and other vehicle accidents. Traveling too fast also allows less time to react to situations that may be "around the bend."
  • Always slow down well in advance of turns, curves, and stops.
  • Use downshift gears and the exhaust brake or "Jake Brake," as necessary, to reduce vehicle speed.
  • Drive below the posted speed limit. Speed limit signs state the maximum safe speed for automobiles, not log trucks – especially when loaded.
  • Maintain your lane. Crossing the center line may result in a head-on collision. On multi-lane highways, drifting into another lane may result in sideswiping other vehicles. If your truck/trailer leaves the highway surface, the drop-off or soft shoulder may cause a rollover due to a momentum shift of the vehicle and its load.
  • If your loaded log truck is involved in a hard-braking incident or vehicle accident, logs may shift and slide forward, striking the truck's cab and possibly injuring the driver. Aluminum "headache racks" offer minimal protection from logs striking the cab, especially when there is enough space for the logs to gain momentum before making contact. The type of "headache rack" that provides the best protection is one that is constructed of heavy metal and welded onto the front of the log trailer. Logs should be loaded as close to this guard as possible.

Backing Up

Backing a log truck is extremely dangerous, especially with a loaded truck, and should only be performed when necessary. Use the following recommendations when considering backing:

  • Drivers should avoid backing log trucks into or out of highways at all costs. The time it takes to perform this maneuver creates increased exposure to being struck by other motorists traveling on the Highway. If backing is necessary, never attempt backing into or out of a Highway without Spotters/Flaggers. Also, be sure traffic warning signs, such as "Log Trucks Entering Highway," are posted in each direction, well ahead of the logging site.
  • Always check behind your truck/trailer before backing. Back-up cameras on vehicles are helpful, and some loggers have even installed them on their trailers.
  • When possible, plan your travels to avoid backing up, especially for stops along the route for food or breaks. Finally, before driving away, perform a walk-around, as other vehicles may have parked behind or beside the log truck after you parked.


Always obey parking laws when parking your log truck/ trailer. When it is necessary for a driver to park their vehicle parallel to a highway, always park on the right side of the road, with the flow of traffic. Doing so will reduce the risk of an accident and ensure you are not liable if your truck/ trailer is struck by another vehicle. Check your State/local statutes for specific information.

The safest and most secure place to park your truck is a gated, fenced, and lighted office/shop/yard with a security system, including video surveillance monitored by a third-party vendor. The company's policy should include controls for vehicle key security.

Night Operation

Driving a log truck at night can be a challenging experience but careful planning and safety measures can greatly reduce the risk of an accident. When driving at night, consider the following:

  • Perform pre-trip/post-trip inspections.
  • Make your lights and tape "pop!" Keep an old rag or towel handy and frequently wipe dirt/road film off lights and reflective tape to improve their visibility.
  • Driving at night is more dangerous due to reduced visibility, resulting in less time to react to other vehicles, pedestrians, and wildlife. Slow down and keep your eyes moving.
  • Get on board with Telematics! GPS monitoring and dash cameras have proven to be very valuable for owners and drivers of log trucks. BITCO has successfully used GPS information and dash cam video to defend our customers and their drivers during lawsuits resulting from vehicle accidents. GPS units or dash cameras from a provider are best, as they store information in a "cloud" rather than on a SIM card. SIM cards are unreliable and may be lost or damaged. It is imperative that companies have someone in management analyze the data from these systems and coach drivers on the results.


Check out these other recommendations to help you arrive at your destination safely.

  • Handheld devices are not allowed while driving. Hands-free devices, such as Bluetooth, may be required. Check your company's policy as well as State and local statutes.
  • Seatbelts are required while driving. Drivers increase their chance of surviving a crash when wearing a seatbelt. Also, while the fine for not wearing a seatbelt may be low, this violation can have a negative impact on DOT/CAB Reports, as the penalty is one of the highest point values in the system.

With proper training and practice, drivers can become safer and more efficient. For more safety tips, contact your local Risk Control Consultant. To find a BITCO agent near you, click the button below.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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