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This part380.com blog helps individuals and organizations mobilize (act and comply) for DOT regulations, with a proactive management philosophy.

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?”



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?


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.

Free Windows 10 Upgrade Ends Shortly

Windows 10 Offer

Hurry! Hurry Hurry!

If you have purchased a device running Windows 7 or 8.1 in the last year or so, like I have, then you should qualify for the free Windows 10 Upgrade. But like any offer, this one expires in a few days on July 29, 2016, the one-year anniversary of the operating system’s initial release.

After July 29, the full price will apply for either the home or work editions.

The main reason for updating, in my opinion, is for the enhanced security features and malware protection.

Don’t wait until the last minute to download the product. Windows 10 has been noted for taking a while for the download. I’m assuming millions of people will have put off upgrading, as I have, and that could slow down things, too.

For more information, please visit Microsoft.

Thank you for reading this.

Normalization of Deviance . . . (Part 2)

normalization of deviance

A Predictable Surprise . . .

Should it take a driver over 30 minutes to spot a trailer? Should it take no less than three drivers over 30 minutes to dock a trailer?

Sure, docks aren’t always easy to maneuver around. Some are tight, really tight. Others have low overhangs or drooping tree limbs or even wires. A few are almost impossible “to bump.”

But how about over 30 minutes, three drivers and the destruction of the right front corner thrown in as a bonus?

CR England

The blogger who videotaped this backing disaster reported several months prior at this same location, another pair of drivers also gave up, and he backed the truck in for them.

A Normalization of Deviance?

In our last blog we discussed Normalization of Deviance.

“The gradual process through which unacceptable practice or standards become acceptable. As the deviant behavior is repeated without catastrophic results, it becomes the social norm for the organization.”

Normalization of Deviance is the result of a gradual erosion or drifting away from a standard, a rule, a policy or an established practice, etc., on a company-wide or organizational-wide basis.

“Social normalization of deviance means that people within the organization become so much accustomed to a deviant behavior that they don’t consider it as deviant, despite the fact that they far exceed their own rules for the elementary safety” Dr. Diane Vaughan

The more such deviations from the standard are allowed, the more “normalized” they become. Oft-times the rule-breaker knows of the risk but feels justified . . .

  • “This is how things are done ‘in the real world.'”
  • “We got a job to do.”
  • “We’ve never had an accident.”

The trucking industry is noted for its driver turnover. The American Trucking Association tracks driver turnover. For large fleets (more than $30 million in annual revenue) driver turnover was 102 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015. If the economy was better, turnover would be higher as drivers switch jobs for better paying positions.

Driver turnover has resulted in the rise of the “newbie” truck driver. Every year thousands of newbies obtain their Class A CDL to drive truck. Some attend truck driving schools, but that is not yet a current requirement of the federal government. Some train with a friend or family member. It is estimated a majority of new truck drivers will not complete a year on the job.

Poor training and lack of training standards contribute to driver turnover or “churn.” The trucking industry has been in denial on this issue for decades.

Backing is one area in which poor training and lack of training standards is evident. There are dozens of YouTube videos showing the sometimes comic, sometimes tragic results of poor training and a lack of training standards in backing.

When an ill-trained driver is behind the wheel, it doesn’t matter how many spotters the driver has in assisting him — he is likely to bump something, run over something or hurt someone.

Backing is not always easy to teach. Backing is a skill. Backing must be learned and most learning comes from experience. A newbie driver cannot teach another newbie driver how to back.

The basics of backing, however, can be taught or the driver indoctrinated:

  • Always do a good setup (usually on a 45 degree angle to your target)
  • G.O.A.L. — Get Out and Look – maintain good visual control of your vehicle, check your progress, when necessary. That means walking your intended path.
  • Pull far enough ahead for your setups. If the free space is there, why not use it?
  • Pick touchstones on the way to your target.
  • Respect property: don’t climb over curbs, drive on the grass or leave deep skid marks.
  • Use the painted dock lines to keep the trailer straight.
  • Always use spotters if possible, and communicate with your spotter.
  • Always have good visual contact with your spotter. Stop if you can’t see the spotter.
  • Bump the dock gently . . .

Following these backing guidelines will make learning how to back an enjoyable process — not a trial to be avoided . . .

What are the fruits of an industry in denial about its backing problem?

The results are what’s known as a predictable surprise – a crash, a fender bender, a ripped-off door or property damage . . .

Note in the below video:

  • The drivers don’t know how to position or setup the vehicle for a good back.
  • None of the drivers walk back and visually check their setup.
  • The spotter-driver standing in front of the truck does nothing to stop the truck from being damaged.
  • The drivers routinely drive over the curb and on the grass . . .
  • The truck is not properly positioned after 34 minutes . . .

Thank you for reading this.

Normalization of Deviance . . . the Root of Evil


Repeated Mistakes . . . Errors Made Over Time

NASA did it. Air Traffic Controllers do it. Fire fighters do it, and doctors, too. In fact, no one is immune from making rule deviations that can end in a bad way.

How bad? Really bad . . . like Chernobyl bad , or the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia bad, or Bhopal bad, and in any number of lesser-known catastrophes.

What happened in each of these instances were not simple mistakes or human error, but a series of perhaps small errors, shorts cuts or deviations from rules and standards. Each error may have been insignificant in of itself, but when combined with other errors or rule deviations, over time the results can be injurious or deadly.

Safety experts call these repeated mistakes or errors made over time, a normalization of deviance.

In fact, deviations (sometimes going under the name of errors, mistakes, or oversights) are common occurrences in most workplaces. These deviations are made without the intention of hurting anyone, usually under pressure or within time constraints. The person breaking the rules may even feel justified — they are saving time and money while getting the impossible done.

Many of these violations or shortcuts often result in no ill effects. The violations, shortcuts or deviations then continue. A normalization of deviance takes place. What should never happen, starts to happen on a routine basis.

At Chernobyl the emergency core cooling system was disabled and had everything went according to plan, it would have been no big deal. At Bhopal, many safety systems were not in working order, but management expected to find any leaks before something bad would happen. In the case of the space shuttle Challenger, NASA knew they had a critical seal problem for six years, but expected a solution or workaround before a dangerous or deadly situation developed. A lapse years later into that same approach resulted in the loss of Columbia.

In many situations, the normalization of deviance is subtle, even invisible to the people involved. It’s “how things get done” around here. Efficiency takes precedent over inspections or maintenance. Small equipment defects are let go, or standards are not met . . . on a regular basis. Operators start spending more time with their electronic devices than their instruments or gauges.

What happens next is no accident . . .

To be continued . . . .

Thank you for reading this . . .

Defensive Driving: Dead On or Merely Dead?

Speed and inexperience

Is Defensive Driving Dead?

If you have ever taken a driving course, then you likely have been exposed to some aspect of instruction known as defensive driving.

What is Defensive Driving?

The written standard for driving, ANSI/ASSE Z15.1 Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operations — defines defensive driving in Definition 2.5 as . . .

Driving to save lives, time and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.

This definition originated from the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Defensive Driving Course.

The National Safety Council created the first defensive driving course in 1964 and has been the leader in driver safety training ever since.

The National Safety Council cuts to the chase right away on their defensive driving page . . .

Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death and injury in the workplace and the cost of a single accident could easily exceed $1.4 million.

And accompanying NCS video on distracted driving ends with a driver talking on a cell phone and missing a curve . . .

distracted driving


What’s wrong with this picture?

A lot according to some safety theorists, starting with the basic concept of defensive driving. It’s negative, perhaps even too negative.

ReplacIng Defensive Driving with a Positive Mental Framework (PMF)

The concept of defensive driving was developed to counter what is known as reactive driving. Reactive driving is a style of driving in which the driver reacts to current driving situations. Defensive driving is about planning ahead and being more responsive and proactive. Reactive drivers react to situations, ofttimes with negative consequences. So a comparison of reactive and defensive driving has a built-in negativity.

The concept of defensive driving, say some safety training experts, should be replaced with a positive mental framework as in the AAA Foundation’s Zero Errors Driving (ZED) 3.0 Program. The phrase ‘defensive driving’ is never mentioned. The terminology of the IPDE process (I-Identify–Locate potential hazards within the driving scene. P-Predict–Judge where the possible points of conflict may occur. D-Decide–Determine what action to take, when, and where to take it), the foundation of driver’s training for millions of U.S. students, has been streamlined. Words as “minimize, separate, compromise, and stabilize” have been eliminated, with a focus instead on vehicle timing and positioning.

Other concepts and terms have been modified:

  • “Space margin” is used instead of “space cushion.”
  • “Probable” refers to things that are more likely to happen.
  • “Conflict probability/probabilities” replaced the words possible, potential, and immediate, and indicates the seriousness of a hazard.

The Smith System® also avoids the term defensive driving, calling itself “the leading provider of collision avoidance driver training.”

The keys to the positive mental framework in driving are planning ahead and being prepared. Says a ZED 3 teaching guide . . .

“Expect the unexpected” is a catchy phrase that has little or
no application. “Expect other user errors and be prepared” is a more practical guide. It is hoped that this approach will produce drivers who are active seekers and copers rather
than defenders or passive acceptors.

Thank you for reading this.

A Bus, A Truck, An Intersection

FL 7-2-16 crash

Dateline: Wakulla County, Florida Panhandle

The bus and tractor-trailer were on fire, entangled in live power lines. First responders started pulling passengers from the bus, until they could do no more because of the flames. Fire trucks had to stand down until the power was shut off to the utility pole. By that time, the vehicles were engulfed in flames.

The driver of the tractor-trailer,  Gordon Sheets, 55 of Copiague, New York, was fatally injured in the July 2nd, 5:20 AM collision, when a bus loaded with farm-workers ran a stop sign and a flashing red light. Sheets was headed westbound on US-98 (the Coastal Highway), when his tractor collided with the southbound bus from Woodville Highway. Four on the bus succumbed to their injuries and another 20 were injured, including the bus driver who was hospitalized in critical condition. A passenger in the tractor-trailer was not injured said ABC News.

The collision remains under investigation by Florida Highway Patrol.

The One Critical Factor in Most Fatal Collisions

Failure to yield right of way is the one common factor in most fatal cashes. A driver can fail to yield right of way due to: missing visual cues as warning signs or other information indicating another vehicle’s intentions, not seeing an approaching vehicle, or sometimes by simply carelessness or negligence. Examples of a failure to yield right of way include:

  • a driver making a left turn fails to yield to oncoming traffic
  • a  driver enters the street from a private driveway or sideroad
  • a driver aggressively merges onto a highway. or
  • a driver does not heed a flashing yellow or red light, or yield or stop sign.

In the crash above, the bus was traveling a state-highway and perhaps did not expect to see an intersection that was controlled by a stop sign.

Every intersection carries an element of risk. The defensive driver needs to acknowledge this risk and modify their driving habits.

What to Do . . .

Over the years, however, there has been an ongoing controversy by defensive-driving experts on just exactly what should a defensive driver should be doing when approaching an intersection and what it is called.

Is it looking? As in . . . Look both ways — or Look left-right-left, or Look far ahead?

Is it scanning? As in . . . Scan the intersection, Scan the road, “Scan high ahead,” or Scan the mirrors every 3-5 seconds?

Is it checking? As in . . . Check your mirrors, Check both ways, or Check the intersection?

Is it watching? As in . . . Watch for cross-traffic or Watch for caution signs or Watch for other vehicles?

Whenever ideas fail, men invent words. Martin H. Fischer

Other visual technique concepts include: active searching,  selective visual skills (AAA), and visual selective attention (motor skills performance theory). 

All in all, good defensive driving involves the active acquisition of information. However it is understood, this is what we need to teach all drivers.

Thank you for reading this.

When White on White is Code Black . . .

 light effects

White Trailer, Bright Sky

What we know is that the vehicle was on a divided highway with Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. Telsa

So reads the June 30th press release from Tesla Motors on the May 7 crash involving a driver of a Telsa in Autopilot mode with a tractor-trailer in Williston, Florida. Autopilot is considered semi-autonomous driving (Level 3) as control of the vehicle is shared and human intervention is required. Fully autonomous driving, without any human control, is considered Level 4

Florida is one of several states that allow  “autonomous” or “self-driving” vehicles. Williston, FL is known as the hometown of the horse “Foolish Pleasure,” winner of the 1975 Kentucky Derby.

The driver involved in the collision was Joshua D. Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, a former Navy Seal, entrepreneur and technology enthusiast. Brown named his car Tessy and posted various performance videos on YouTube, including a video of a near side collision with a small boom truck . . .

Note: the driver of the boomtruck does not signal and isn’t using his mirrors . . .

In the May 7th crash, neither the Autopilot nor Brown saw the truck. In the resulting collision, Brown was fatally injured. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration informed Telsa it is opening a preliminary evaluation of the Autopilot system.

How Can This Happen?

It seems almost impossible that someone could not see a tractor-trailer. Yet crashes involving “invisible” trucks are not that uncommon.

One of the factors in these kind of collisions is a truck making a left turn. Savvy transportation companies discourage left turns and indoctrinate their drivers against making left turns in traffic.

Why are turns dangerous?

  • It can take up to 40 seconds for a tractor trailer to clear an intersection in a left turn.
  • Turns should never be rushed. Drivers negotiating turns need to travel at a speed slow enough that they can not only see what is coming at them, but where they are going and who might cross their path.
  • The backdrop can make a truck invisible. The most dangerous times are in twilight, before the sun appears or after it disappears. In these times, reflectors and reflective tape may not shine as well as they do in pitch darkness, especially if the backdrop is brightly lit.
  • Fog and inclement weather can hide a truck until it’s too late for another driver to see it.
  • Not all drivers follow the rules . . .  some drivers do not slow down for intersections, do not cover the brake before the intersection, or check for traffic.

In short, the majority of drivers do not drive defensively. I’ve road tested thousands of drivers. Most drivers can pass a driving test, but few can pass with flying colors.

That’s why we need to stress defensive driving. Safe Level 4 autonomous driving may be a long, long ways off.

Thank you for reading this.

Maintenance Matters . . .

no maintenance

Don’t Worry About It . . .

Long ago I checked the oil on a company F-350 that I needed to use to haul some wood mouldings. Nobody told me to check the oil. It was already an ingrained habit from operating farm equipment. Always check your fluids — all of them.

The oil was black and tarry. I had never seen anything like it before.

I mentioned this fact to the company owner.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “It’s on a lease.”

I cringed when I heard that. To make a long story short . . . the truck later required some major service . . . and the wood moulding plant — built with a government loan — experienced several fires, resulting in the eventual loss of the business to the auction gavel.

The Golden Window of Opportunity

Anything made has a service life. Almost anything made needs both routine and preventative maintenance (PM) or it won’t even come close to its expected life. Pay now or pay later.

But investment in maintenance shouldn’t be a burden. In fact it can — and should— represent an opportunity.

That window of opportunity presents itself in the period of time a part or system starts to show poor performance — prior to a repair being made. The part may be in a sub-critical condition and is doing its job, but could be showing signs of wear, a need of an adjustment or a service. This is the time replace the part or do the repair — before it fails.

The window of opportunity is the basis of a good maintenance. Good maintenance means preventative maintenance. Most of our maintenance efforts (translation: 80%) should be preventative maintenance.

Another key to good maintenance results is the preventative maintenance inspection.

Risk-Based Preventative Maintenance Inspections (PMI)

• Insure risk of failure is reduced to as low as possible.

• Result in optimum inspection schedules.

•.Focus inspection efforts on the the most critical areas.

• Create value from inspections.

There are many apps out there that can help in setting up or refining your preventative maintenance program.

Than you for reading this.

Worth Repeating . . .


Officials said a man was driving a box truck with his son in the passenger seat when he swerved to miss a tractor trailer that was pulling off of the shoulder back into the travel lane.
The box truck reportedly struck the rear end of the tractor trailer.

Worth Repeating

It appears from the above photo that the tractor trailer was in the breakdown lane. The breakdown lane is named the breakdown lane because it is for emergency use only.

Why was the driver in the breakdown lane? To make a phone call, according to WSOC-TV.

The tractor-trailer driver is being charged with “misdemeanor death by vehicle” and is being held on a $1 million bond.

The diver of the box truck has been hospitalized and his passenger — his 12 year old son — did not survive the collision.

It is worth repeating: if you do not have an emergency, then stay out of the breakdown lane. Making a phone call, checking a map, even running out of fuel, are not considered roadside emergencies.

Check your fuel, check your map and make your calls before getting on the highway.

No Passengers

A second point that arises from this incident — one you may not like — is that trucks are no place for additional passengers.

I say that having ridden in trucks from an early age.

Passengers can get hurt by climbing in and out of trucks. A while back, a young lady fell out of a cab in Michigan and was fatally injured.

Each passenger represents an element of risk.

The Federal regulations say no passengers in any commercial vehicle and they are there for a reason. Most (if not all) insurance companies do not want commercial vehicles or work trucks to carry any unnecessary passengers . . . ever.

That’s all for now.

Thank you for reading this.

Are You DOT Regulated? One Neat Trick from Loss Control


Stop! In the Name of the Law . . .

You are driving your work truck down the road, pulling a trailer, when flashing emergency lights appear in the mirrors. You pull over to let the police car pass, but lo and behold, the police car pulls behind you. You are puzzled because you know your equipment and driving habits are good.

You might be a contractor, builder, racer, have a masonry or landscaping business. There might not be a trailer, if you are a welder, or operate a service truck,

You’ve never had a problem before. But this time it’s different. Perhaps your work took you across the state line (interstate commerce). Perhaps you passed a weigh station. Perhaps you drove on an interstate highway.

And you’re getting cited. Perhaps it’s a warning ticket or even a $100 fine.

What did you do? You have been ticketed for failure to register for, and to display U.S. DOT Numbers.

When did that start?

Oh — about thirty years ago, says the officer.

It Doesn’t End There . . .

If you’re lucky, you won’t be cited for not carrying a DOT medical certificate, not having an annual (periodic) inspection on your vehicle (truck and trailer), and not keeping a Record of Duty Status (RODS) or an exemption sheet.

Once you register for a U.S.DOT number, there are some record-keeping requirements that go along with it. Not having a DOT number is not a legitimate or legal excuse for failure to follow these requirements.

How Do I Know . . .

“If you have a truck or trailer with company signs, and/or a trailer with more than one axle, I will be writing you a ticket if you do not have a U.S. DOT number.” DPS Officer

The rules for interstate commerce (movement of goods or people between state or national lines) seem fairly straightforward . . .

You need a U.S. DOT number if you operate in interstate commerce and:

• Operate vehicles that are over 10,000 lbs,
• Transport between 9 and 15 passengers (including the driver) for compensation,
• Transport 16 or more passengers, or
• Haul hazardous materials.

A continuation of an interstate trip is also considered interstate commerce. Examples would include: picking up passengers from another state at an airport, moving product from a dock that came from another state or country, or making the final delivery of a partial load that has crossed the state lines.

If you do any of these things, the above rules would apply, even if your vehicle does not cross state lines.

Do I need a U.S. DOT number if I operate in Intrastate Commerce?

Most states follow the federal guidelines for interstate commerce. If your vehicle is rated at 10,001 pounds or more, you haul people or hazmat, then you need a DOT number.

A number of states, however, follow their own guidelines and use a 26,001 GVWR threshold as the definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle. Some states may use a lessor weight as 18,001 pounds GVWR.

From personal experience, asking your state DOT or motor carrier enforcement for this information is generally difficult. The people with the exact knowledge are most likely in the field, not sitting by the phone waiting for your call.

Another information source is a state trade or professional association. They may have a knowledgeable compliance person on staff, depending on the size of the association.

The quickest and perhaps most reliable method to determine state DOT requirements is to go directly to your state code, via a Google search. Search for your state’s definition of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

Ex: “Colorado CMV definition” or “CO code CMV definition”

Several searches should narrow down your state’s exact definition of a CMV. Once you know your state’s definition of a CMV, you will know what state rules you need to follow.

Thank you for reading this.

Condition White

Condition red

Dealing with Imminent Danger

Do you pay attention when you drive? Are you always “in the moment” when  you are behind the wheel?

Remember those post 9-11 alert colors that were to indicate a potential attack? It turns out a similar color code was used during WWII (the Big One) for pilot and gunner training to help them stay alert and stay alive.

  • Condition White – resting state
  • Condition Yellow –   Psychologically alert and ready.
  • Condition Red – dealing with imminent danger.

Researchers found If a pilot or gunner was day dreaming, and not alert and ready, they could not go from condition white to condition red.  They would fail at their task.

Driving a vehicle is similar. Like the WWII pilots, when we drive, at most we only pay attention to the road about 25% of the time behind the wheel. Our minds are not on the task at hand. We have a million things going on and driving is sometimes the least of our concerns. We drive in Condition White . . .

Worst yet, most of us don’t know that we are not paying attention to driving. Another factor: in the electronic age, new and improved distractions keep coming at us everyday.

When something happens in Condition White, it’s too late for us to do anything about it. We react — we don’t respond.

After the fact, we often excuse our bad reaction  . . .

The vehicle came out from nowhere . . . It happened so fast, I didn’t see it coming . . .  They shouldn’t have been there . . .

Condition Yellow

The idea here is to avoid dealing with imminent danger.

An imminent danger is any condition where there is reasonable certainty that a danger exists that can be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the danger can be eliminated through normal enforcement procedures. OSHA

By not exercising due care and maintaining a proper look out as good drivers should, we can put ourselves in a position of imminent danger.

And we can’t jump from Condition White (relaxed, not paying attention) to Condition Red (taking evasive actions).

The key to safe driving is to always maintain a mental state of readiness and alertness while driving. This is ‘Condition Yellow.’

Another name for Condition Yellow is relaxed concentration. Relaxed concentration helps in decision making . . . and driving is all about making decisions.

Another term that comes to mind is mindfulness. Mindfulness means you are aware of what is happening right here, right now.

Paying attention to driving takes effort. According to Daniel Goleman there are two kinds of distractions sensory distractions (things happening around you) and emotional distractions (your inner dialogue, thoughts, etc.). Emotional distractions can be the most powerful, especially while driving. Note how many accidents you hear about occur when people are traveling on occasions of weddings, funerals, job interviews, or some big life event. It’s easy to run a light, miss a stop sign or fail to yield right of way when something is on your mind . . .

So learn to both concentrate and relax while driving. This seems paradoxical, but driving in a state of relaxed concentration is a critical driving skill that can be learned and taught.

Thank you for reading this.

Your Loss Control Plan (Part 2)


Loss Control to Major Tom . . .

In Part 1 we reviewed inherent risk and the duty of a business to engage in reasonable diligence or due diligence in the conduct of daily operations. Not all risks are apparent. Every business faces risks that can be hidden. Reasonable diligence is about the management of risks. In business one effective tool to manage risk is a Loss Control Plan.

A good Loss Control Plan goes beyond a simple checklist. Some key elements would include:

Safety Policy — sets the expectation that it is the responsibility of all personnel to create and maintain a safe work environment. The Safety Policy should include a Safety Policy Statement:

  • Safety and health in our company must be a part of every operation. Without question, it is every employee’s responsibility at all levels.
  • We will maintain a safety and health program conforming to the best practices of organizations of this type. To be successful, such a program must embody the proper attitudes toward injury and illness prevention on the part of supervisors and employees. It also requires cooperation in all safety and health matters, not only between supervisors and employees, but also between employees and their co-workers. Only through such a cooperative effort can an effective safety and health program be established and preserved.
  • The safety and health of every employee is a high priority. Management accepts responsibility for providing a safe working environment and employees are expected to take responsibility for performing work in accordance with safe standards and practices. Safety and health will only be achieved through teamwork.  Everyone must join together in promoting safety and health and taking every reasonable measure to assure safe working conditions in the company. OSHA

The next part of the Loss Control Plan should detail everyone’s (Management, Supervisor’s and Employees’) responsibilities in meeting these goals. Additional topics should include:

• New Employee Orientation
• Training
• Safety Meetings
• Incident Reporting, Investigation & Analysis
• Standards & Procedures
• General Safety Information

Depending on the type of operations the following areas of concern may need to be covered:

• Hazard Communication Program
• Safety Data Sheets  (SDS)
• Lockout/Tagout Program
• Hearing Conservation
• Confined Space

Start With a Template

There are many templates (models or examples) available from sources as your insurance company and/or industry associations that can help in putting together a Loss Control Plan and all of its associated components.

Other Loss Control Planning tips:

Get inputs from staff, especially line staff. They know the risks.

Review your Loss Control Plan, especially in times of change.

Contact your insurance company for assistance. Many insurance companies have a loss control department. (It may be known as risk management, risk engineering, or a number of other names.) Usually there are no charge or fees for this help.

Thank you for reading this.

Your Loss Control Plan (Part 1)


A successful dairy farmer buys a tractor-trailer for his son-in-law to haul steel. Nothing unusual about that. Then the son-in-law breaks his arm. He can’t drive, but knows a friend who can. On the friend’s first trip he brakes hard, loses a steel coil and the coil takes the cab off of the truck. No one is hurt, but the trucking venture closes.

A potato farmer buys a tractor-trailer to make deliveries to a major city about 250 miles away. His son will drive the truck and is advised to get some experience. “What for?” he responds. “Any idiot can drive a truck.” On his first trip, in an exit ramp, the newly-minted driver rolls the fully loaded truck on its side. The truck is damaged and later sold after it was repaired. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

An 18 year old tractor-trailer driver takes a friend with him. Seven miles from the origin of the trip, he shows off how fast he can take an S curve around the “devil’s punchbowl,” a naturally occurring sinkhole. He rolls the truck in the curve and his friend is fatally injured.

Inherent Risk

All of the above disasters happened to people I know. All of these stories are examples of the inherent risk in trucking operations.

Inherent risk — the probability of loss arising out of circumstances or existing in an environment, in the absence of any action to control or modify the circumstances. businessdictionary.com

Every business has its share of risk. Without risk there is no reward. Most businesses share their risk with a risk partner — their insurance company. They have no choice. It’s the law.

The agreement to share risk is commonly known as an insurance policy. It is a contract. Its purpose is to protect the assets of the insured.

Being a contract, both parties to the contract have certain duties and obligations. One of the presumptions of any contract is that the parties act in good faith — that is honestly and fairly, so both can receive the benefits of the agreement.

Another presumption (at least on part of the insurance company) is that risks are controlled — reasonable efforts are made to prevent losses and/or harm to others. The contract language may call for commercially reasonable efforts, reasonable best efforts,  every effort, or even commercially reasonable and diligent efforts in this area.

What does this mean?

The standard of care would be reasonable diligence (due diligence).

— It means the care and attention that is expected from and is ordinarily exercised by a reasonable and prudent person under the circumstances.

It’s no coincidence that one legal definition of reasonable diligence arose from lawsuits involving transportation . . .

“A fair, proper, and due degree of care and activity, measured with reference to the particular circumstances; such diligence, care, or attention as might be expected from a man of ordinary prudence and activity.”

Due diligence in the prevention of losses (loss control) can mean to your business, depending on the level of risks involved, having a loss control plan.

To be continued . . .

Thank you for reading Part 1.

The Climb

Mt Everest

A Legendary Conquest

It’s the stuff that legends are made of. A young, successful couple go on a quest to prove to the world that vegans can do anything by climbing the Seven Summits — the tallest mountains in the world.

One of their expedition leaders has a similar goal: to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. He finally succeeds on this, his fourth attempt, but on the way down, he had spent all he had and pays the ultimate price. . . The young couple both in their 30s, don’t make it to the top and also pay a price. Youth alone does not provide any immunity against altitude sickness in the death zone. She dies and he is stricken . . .

What’s the connection to transportation, you might ask?

We can see similar results everyday when drivers push themselves beyond their personal limits. Perhaps they are tired or not feeling well. Perhaps their health isn’t what it used to be. Perhaps their schedule was delayed and their sleep cycle was interrupted.

But they push on. They are so focused on the mission they miss their own vital signs. They bop until they literally drop.

In the majority of cases, pushing to the limits results in single vehicle collision. The truck runs off of the road. Sometimes the driver is seriously injured. If the vehicle rolls, it is likely the driver will be seriously injured or even fatally injured, His driving career is tarnished and could be over . . .

If the driver finds himself in the Land of Nod on a heavily traveled road, he may crash into other vehicles. If so, there is the likelihood of multiple injuries or even fatalities.

If the driver survives, he will be in a world of hurt. The odds are that his driving career is over. He may be sued with his company. He may be criminally prosecuted and jailed.

It doesn’t matter how good his driving record. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t intend for a collision to happen. There will people looking for justice or the closest thing they can get to justice.

Who’s to Blame?

Is the driver to blame? Is the carrier to blame? Is no one to blame? Is the “system” to blame?

Will new technology solve this problem?

Time will tell.

In the meantime, drivers need to know their limits. Drivers need to learn how to read their own vital signs. They need to know about fatigue management and the signs of sleep.

The one thing we know about sleep for sure is that you can not fight it. When your brain shuts down, there is little a person can do other than get some needed rest.

Don’t try to make the climb if you can’t do it. Stay out of the zone of death. Know when to say no . . .


Thank you for reading this.

Drivers . . . Check Your Wheels

wheel-off in Key Biscayne

Wheel-Off in Key Biscayne

On Monday morning, two joggers were hit by one of two tires that broke free from a rear trailer axle of a passing tractor-trailer, while running on a path along the Rickenbacker Causeway in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Stephanie Hilzinger was hit from behind and knocked unconscious by the rogue tire. She is hospitalized in critical (but stable) condition. The other free tire rolled into a parking lot.

A Freak Accident?

While generally called a ‘freak accident,’ wheel-offs are not that uncommon.

Wheel-offs can result from the loss of the duals when the axle spindle nut becomes loose, or when the lug nuts loosen and the tires have nothing to keep them in place.

There are a myriad of situations that can lead to wheel-offs:

Bad drivers:

Constantly run up and over curbs, fire hydrants, scrub the tires, run fast and hard through deep potholes or uneven rail-crossings. They leave their marks in the parking lot by making tight turns and dragging the trailer wheels. In short, they are abusive to the equipment and were never properly trained on how to treat the equipment or are indifferent and simply don’t care. All those stresses and strains start to add up and take their toll over time.

If you start to notice tire wear from axles knocked out of alignment, tire failures from running into things or unusual damage, it might be time to start asking some questions and check to see if you have a one-man, rapid-depreciation program that you are not aware of . . .

Bad drivers allow dirt and grime to build up on the wheels — leading to corrosion — and potential loose lug nuts. Bad drivers don’t take the time to properly inspect their equipment or may not even know how to do an inspection.

But not every wheel-off is due to a bad driver . . .

Bad Mechanics

I grew up around trucks and wheels. Things are a lot easier now then “back in the day” when all mechanics had were hand tools and a lot of grit. I’m still amazed —looking back, how my father, not a big man, could, rain or shine, repair a tire or dress the wheel bearings out in the middle of a gravel yard.

All I will say on the subject of mechanics is that there is a proper procedure to be followed in the inspection and repair of wheels. If you are not sure about what you are doing, have your work checked out by someone who has the knowledge and experience.

Bad Components

“Parts are parts,” the old saying goes. But it’s not true when it comes to wheels. Only use good, quality parts. Be cautious of ‘super deals’ or cheap knock-offs. Don’t hand your reputation over to an inferior supplier . . .

Train Indoctrinate Your Drivers

Your safety culture is your primary defense against wheel-off risk.

Drivers and mechanics need to know how to do good inspections of the tires, wheels, suspension, and brakes.

Here is a basic wheel inspection:

Grab each lug nut and give it a hard twist to check for looseness.

check the lugsVisually inspect the wheel . . .

  • Check for looseness as indicated by rust streaks or shiny metal.
  • Look for oxidation on aluminum rims.
  • There should be no missing lugs or missing studs.
  • Look for any cracks or breaks at the lug holes or any other part of a rim
    or cast spokes.
  • Check for evidence of slippage of wheel assembly on cast spoke hub.
  • Note if any stud holes are elongated.
  • Check if any wheel nut, stud, or clamp is loose, or if there is rust or corrosion
    indicating possible looseness.
  • Check if any wheel, nut, stud, or clamp is broken or missing.
  • If equipped, check if there is an improper spacer installed between dual wheels.

This needs to be done on a daily basis.

Let’s prevent wheel-offs.

Thank you for reading this.

Manage The Easy

Manage the easy

“Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy.” — Lao Tzu

Managing the Easy

How does one ‘anticipate the difficult by managing the easy’ in the realm of motor vehicles?

One place to start is with written hiring standards. What is the minimum age and level of experience necessary for the job? How many tickets or collisions can a new driver have and still be eligible for the job? What kind of prior convictions should be disqualifying for the job? How far back should you look at their past driving history? Should any criminal convictions be disqualifying?

Answers to these questions will vary depending upon your operations. Certain driving jobs require a higher level of experience and higher standards.

Once you have your written hiring standards down, the next step is a road test. This is not always done or done correctly. “Yeah, we ride with them,” is not a road test. Coaching someone on the route is not a road test. A 100% pass rate is not a road test.

If the driver is a CDL driver, they need to take a pre-employment DOT drug screen and the results need to get back before that driver is put on the road.

Every DOT regulated driver should fill out a DOT application for employment.

A background investigation is also required. Any employment gaps should be looked at. Prior employment needs to be verified. The whole process needs to be documented.

A DOT regulated driver needs a medical certificate (DOT physical) from an approved medical examiner.

It’s a good idea to inform your new hire on how things are done at your organization by means of some sort of orientation. At a simple level, this might mean going over some basic policies and procedures:

  • Cell phones and electronic devices policy
  • Passenger policy
  • Drugs and Alcohol policy
  • Personal Use of Work Vehicles policy

Many insurance companies require written acknowledgments of these policies, signed by the employee. Don’t wait for your risk partner to nudge you in this direction . . .

Orientation might include a discussion of safety including defensive driving, load securement and what to do in the event of a collision. Do you have an employee manual? That, too, can be gone over in detail.

On the Road

Once the road, the driver paperwork does not end. A system needs to be in place to collect hours of service documentation (logs or time cards) and records of vehicle inspections or roadside inspections. 

A DOT accident file needs to be in place for DOT recordables.

Event recorders (as cameras) are now becoming standard equipment at larger fleets, because most of the time they can prove the commercial motor vehicle was not at fault.

Savvy companies have a preventable accident program in place. Each incident and collision is carefully looked at for preventability, not only during any probationary periods, but throughout the driver’s career at the organization.

Safety can be emphasized and reinforced with safety reward programs and safety incentives. 

It’s the little things that can make a big difference in safety. The little things make managing the difficult become easy . . .

Thank you for reading this.