Managing Space = Managing Time

Montreal A40 crash

Trucker attempts to save driver before Highway 40 truck explosion.

Chain Collision

On Aug 10, 2016, Carol Bujold was in a chain collision involving several trucks on an elevated portion of Highway A-40 in Montreal. He immediately went to check on the tanker driver who stuck his truck from behind.

Bujold noticed two things: the driver was trapped inside and the truck was on fire. He got a crowbar from his truck and attempted to pull open the door, cutting his hand.

In a matter of seconds the truck was engulfed and there was nothing more Bujold could do. The tanker driver perished in the inferno. The collision is under investigation, but the incident began with a stopped vehicle in the lane.

The Key to Defensive Driving

The key to defensive driving is in managing time and space. More space gives you more time and more time gives you more space and more options. This is a fundamental rule of safe driving, no matter your age or level of experience.

Basic driving practices are such as those of the Smith System:

  • Aim High In Steering ® — Look further ahead than other drivers
  • Get The Big Picture ® — See more around you than other drivers
  • Keep Your Eyes Moving ® — Be more aware than other drivers
  • Leave Yourself An Out ® — Position better in traffic than other drivers
  • Make Sure They See You ® — Make yourself more visible than other drivers

Here is a video of the aftermath of the Montreal Highway A-40 crash that shows how quickly the vehicle was engulfed.

GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING!

A Special Note to New Truck Drivers and Hauling Hazmat

When training new truck drivers, I am always asked if they need their hazmat endorsement?

My answer has always been the same: Get three to five years experience before hauling hazmat.

Why do I say that? For several reasons.

Note in the video above, only one person made an attempt to help the trapped driver. What if several people had fire extinguishers and attempted to aid the driver? Would it have made a difference? Would there have been a few extra seconds to help the driver?

The facts are these: In the event of a hazmat collision, it is likely that no one is obligated to help a truck driver in harm’s way. No one is going to rush in and see if they can help. It doesn’t work that way. It’s not that they don’t care . . . but there are special rules in place at the scene of a hazmat crash.

Secondly, fire and smoke are a big red flag to first responders, hazmat or no hazmat. Years ago I taught driver’s ed. We had a video that talked about “The Rule of Thumb,” when smoke or fire are present at an accident scene. The Rule of Thumb tells first responders (and everyone else) to stay back far enough to literally cover the scene of the accident with your thumb, if you see smoke or fire coming from a vehicle.

So there you have it. There is a reason hazmat is called dangerous goods. Get some experience, a lot of experience, if you decide to haul it, in my opinion.

Thanks for reading this.

 

Texting & Trucking . . . A Deadly Combo

total crash

Why Didn’t You Stop?

Before passing sentence on John Wayne Johnson, who admitted his guilt on nine counts — including five counts of first-degree vehicular homicide, the judge asked him a question. Why didn’t he stop his tractor trailer?

Johnson had no answer.

In an earlier disposition, Johnson admitted he was texting a woman while driving .

The April 22, 2015 crash resulted in the deaths of five nursing students. Two other students were seriously injured. Johnson slammed into stopped traffic at an estimated 70 MPH on I-16 eastbound near U.S. 280.

Criminal charges against the company were dropped in exchange for a $200,000 payment to a nursing program. Johnson was sentenced to five years.

So far, settlements in this collision have added up to about $80 million.

Buried in a 2014 company Driver Manual, was the following: Use of handheld electronic devices while driving. Absolutely no texting while driving!

Texting is an Industry Problem

While the DOT has huge fines in place for both commercial drivers and motor carriers, some drivers are not getting the message.

“Everybody does it,” said one trucker.

The following recommendations on abating texting come from Lance Evans, Senior Safety & Loss Control Representative at Great West Casualty from an earlier post:

  • Have a Policy and Procedures manual. (Update it, if you haven’t recently.)
  • Signs posted so when a driver leaves the yard they see the company is serious about this issue. “No call, no text, no ticket, no crash.”
  • Stickers in the Tractor that say “It can wait.”
  • Stress the issue in safety meetings.
  • Ask your insurance company about discounts available for having a policy on the use of a hands-free device.
  • Signs on the trailer, “Is our driver texting” or “Is our driver on the phone” 1-800 xxx-xxxx or @company name (twitter).
  • Lastly, reward drivers by showing appreciation for following the Company’s Safety Model.
  • Stress the point that lives matter, one life lost is one to many.

Thank you for reading this. Much thanks to Lance Evans of Great West.

New Protected Left Signal

Left turn

 

Avoiding Intersection Crashes

About 40 percent of crashes are at intersections. To avoid the risk of an intersection crash, safe fleets minimize making left turns. It doesn’t matter how much experience a driver has. It doesn’t matter how much training a driver has. Making a left turn, like backing, always has an element of inherent risk. So major fleets (like UPS and others) have a policy against both, if possible.

The risk in making a left turn comes from missing visual cues or in mistiming the turn. Sometimes oncoming vehicles can visually blend in with the background. Sometimes pedestrians, wheelchairs, or bicycles are hard to spot in the crosswalk. Slowing for a pedestrian in a left turn can result in a commercial truck blocking the path of an on-coming vehicle and lead to a greater risk of collision.

Some intersections are big and complicated. Some cities like Memphis, TN or Broken Arrow, OK, are now in the process of adding the next generation of traffic signals.  The new signals allow protected and permissive left turns from dedicated left-turn lanes.

The Flashing Yellow Arrow Left-Turn Signal

The new left turn traffic signal head includes the standard Red, Yellow and Green arrows which have been used for years, along with an additional “flashing yellow arrow”.
protected left turn

If the signal is a…
Red Arrow Stop. Left turn is not permitted.
Green Arrow It is safe to turn left. Oncoming traffic must stop.
Flashing Yellow Arrow Left turn is permitted, but driver must yield to oncoming traffic or pedestrians.
Steady Yellow Arrow Driver must prepare to stop as arrow is about to turn red.

The biggest difference in the new signals is between the yellow arrows. A steady yellow arrow is like an ordinary yellow light, you must stop, if it is safe to do so, as the arrow will soon go red. The flashing yellow arrow permits a left turn, after yielding to traffic or any pedestrians.

Like any intersection, always be ready to yield the right of way, even on a green.

Thank you for reading this.

 

 

 

“You’re Letting This Man Still Drive a Truck?”

Danny_Clyde_Burnam

Unstoppable

Nothing was going to stop him. The bobtail truck driver hit a car at an intersection. An off-duty policeman, noticing the erratic driving, tried to stop the driver. But for some reason he wouldn’t stop, even driving under a 12 foot bridge.

The driver, Danny Clyde Burnam, 57, did not stop at a police barricade, drawing fire from police.  At least one police round struck Burnam. Burnam then sped up, doing 60 MPH in a posted 25 MPH speed zone.

Burnam did stop after striking about a dozen vehicles, finally colliding head-on with a car with three young men inside, driving it into a building, and fatally injuring Jeffrey Oakley. Another occupant was seriously injured.

After Burnam was arrested, a police check revealed Burnam was no stranger to the law. His record showed dozens of arrests, many involving drugs and alcohol, and a number of felony convictions, including domestic violence and battery.

The name Burnam, it turns out, was another alias used by Danny Clyde Williams, who had eight social security cards at the time of his arrest.

“It’s unbelievable how somebody has a record of 55 charges and you’re letting this man still drive a truck. I can’t even process that right now.” Mother of one of the victims.

What Happened?

How does a bad player like this fall through the cracks? Who dropped the ball? Why does this happen? Did the trucking company follow the rules and regs?

Finding driving talent is difficult. Some say it’s the job. Some say it’s the pay.

Most truck drivers with at least five years of experience, however, love the job. Truck driving takes skill and acquiring any skill is the product of hard work. An increase in skill in any job is usually followed by an increase in pay. Trucking is no exception. Generally, the longer one successfully works in trucking, the more money one makes. This means keeping a clean driving record, no tickets, no collisions.

Most truck drivers . . . are average. The average driver can have a less-than-perfect driving record and may have been involved a collision or two in the past.

The sub-average driver may have had a number of tickets or was involved in several collisions. These usually get the attention of insurance underwriters, on a case-by-case basis.

Danny Clyde Williams or whatever his name really is, falls into a different category. He is a high-risk driver. The whole purpose of CSA 2010 (now simply CSA) was to identify and monitor the high-risk driver . . . if you recall.

Our whole driver-licensing system is based on the honor code, that implies drivers will honestly represent their history and driving record. The problem is, if a driver is willing to snub his nose in the face of the DOT rule book, cheat, or lie, then there’s not much any government agency can do.

The last line-of-defense is the motor carrier. Every carrier has their own system to vet new drivers. In most cases, their vetting system works. Most carriers have sufficient controls in place to catch any sub-average drivers.

In-house hiring systems can fail, when faced with hiring a high-risk driver who will employ fraudulent means to secure employment. Identifying these drivers is difficult because they are willing to lie and are good at covering their tracks.

Rogue driver

Driver to shipper, “Ain’t no little girl going to tell me how to back my truck.”
It’s all in the attitude . . .

rogue driver

Even after getting towed, the rogue driver left the parking lot by driving out over the curb . . .

Vetting the Driver

To avoid hiring or retaining the high-risk driver:

  • Use a professional background checking service when hiring. I’m always impressed as a loss control rep, when a small organization invests in these type of vetting services. They are not cheap, but neither is a bad hire . . .
  • Pay attention to the driver’s employment history. Try to talk to every previous supervisor, if possible.
  • Look for employment gaps. Is the driver hiding a job in which he was terminated for good cause?
  • Everyday is probation. Usually a string of safety incidents is telling you something about this driver. Investigate every safety incident or collision, especially if not reported by the driver.
  • Don’t skip anything. Do your required background checks. Road test the driver. Find out as much as you can about this person. Fill out all required DOT paperwork, from A-to-Z.
  • Finally, trust your instincts. If you see red flags, pick up bad vibes, or a bad attitude, get someone else’s opinion on whether or not the driver is a good candidate for your company.

Thank you for reading this.

Mindful . . . or Mindless Driving?

collide

Driving on Autopilot

You probably have heard the stories . . .  Drivers not remembering a thing on how they arrived in another city or state.  Or driving several times in the loop around Indianapolis in a mental haze, after missing their exit . . .

Psychologist Dr Ellen Langer calls this state “mindlessness,” a kind of autopilot. Langer believes mindlessness can be a learned behavior. Mindlessness is also stress inducing.

How so?

First, there is a confusion in being mindful—the opposite of mindlessness—with being stressed, according to Langer. Stress is when you feel “stuck in a rut,” says Langer, while mindfulness is how you feel when at play.

Secondly, stress can come from certainty. You expect something to happen, you are certain it will happen . . . and it doesn’t happen. It could be a vehicle signalling to the right—then swerving to the left in front of you. It could be traffic coming to an unexpected stop, etc.

If we feel really stressed about a situation, this ‘stressor’ can trigger the “fight-or-flight” response, resulting in adrenaline and cortisol to surge throughout the body.

The key is not to try to avoid stressful situations. The key is to be more mindful, to redirect our thoughts, to quiet our minds and the stress response.

What is Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness, as I study it, is a simple process of noticing new things.” Dr Ellen Langer

Mindfulness results in not only less stress, but higher levels of productivity and even creativity.  As an added bonus—you not only feel better, but younger.

Mindfulness, in essence, is just mind training.  Maria Gonzalez, MBA, Mindful Leadership

Mindfulness means to be aware and to live in the present.

Where are we, if we are not “here and now,” in the present moment?

If we’re not being mindful of the present, we are either remembering something (the past) or engaging in fantasy (the future). In driving, this can be dangerous.

Some of my worse driving experiences have occurred when I did not practice mindful driving, including almost running the same red light two nights in a row, and pulling out into oncoming traffic. Not good. The funny thing is . . . I can’t recall now what was so important that I risked my own life and the lives of others.

Another time, in a rush to catch a plane to a safety conference, I nicked my front bumper backing out of the parking stall. Looking back, it was pure mindlessness . . .

Practicing Mindfulness In Driving

• Acknowledge the intention that you will practice mindful driving at the start of the trip.

• As you drive, be alert of three things:

  • What you see: Are you watching the road, the mirrors, the instruments?
  • What you hear: Are you listening to the sounds of the road? The vehicle? (Mindful Driving)
  • Yourself: Are you staying alert? Are you tired or bored?

For most of us, our mind will tend to wander after driving for a while, unless we make an effort to rein it in. We want to ponder on past difficulties or future challenges, and focus less and less on driving.

Mindfulness and mindful driving are not a set of skills that can be learned in a session or two, but take time to incorporate into our daily driving routine. Make the self-investment in being more mindful in everything you do.

Thank you for reading this.

Shock Loss

shock loss

A Nightmare Scenario

It’s every trucking company’s worst nightmare. Bad crash. Your truck. Your name on the side of the truck.

It’s every insurance company’s worst nightmare as well. A loss of life. Loss of property. Multiple vehicles. A shock loss . . .

Nobody can really predict a bad crash. They are really ‘statistical anomalies’ or abnormalities. Outliers. Nobody can really plan for them or predict them.

There is a reason they are called shock losses. They are life-changing events that will always be remembered by those whose lives were touched by these tragic events . . . from the victims, to the first responders to the hospital personnel.

Jamison Pals family

One such crash happened this weekend on I-80, that resulted in the loss of five lives . . .

 

 

 

 

Perhaps a crash of this magnitude is a lagging indicator that more work needs to be done by truck-driver training schools, motor carriers and the risk engineering departments of insurance companies.

Perhaps better technology will provide a partial answer.

I’m personally in favor of higher standards. Higher standards  means to me having better driver training—to keep the vehicle under control at all times.  Higher standards means better driver vetting and monitoring. Higher standards means constant communications on safety. Higher standards means more work and better coordination of safety efforts.

About 80% of motor carriers simply do not get it, in my opinion. They are not willing to do the work, are indifferent, or don’t care . . .

Same for the insurance carriers with the weak or non-existent loss-control sections and aggressive underwriters. There is no better way to put yourself out of business then with a series of shock losses . . .

Let’s work to achieve industry-wide higher safety standards to reduce these major crashes.

A Tip For Better Safety Performance

It’s true. Safety is not one or two things. Safety in trucking means doing a number of things right, consistently and repetitively, day in and day out.

Many times we rely on others to provide us with the safety tools. Many drivers are also left to their own devices when it comes to better safety performance.

One way to increase performance is to ‘self-program’ your mind by means of self-talk or self-instruction.

This isn’t a voodoo mind control technique. This is a proven way, based on sports psychology, to increase performance.

Self-talk can consist of simple, affirmative statements:

  • I want to be safe.
  • I will drive accident free today.
  • I will focus on driving.

Self-talk can increase motivation, but should not be used to focus on a specific goal (“I will drive at least 600 miles in the next 11 hours”).

It would be most helpful to use a coach to implement a company-wide self-talk program.

Thank you for reading this.