DOT Driver Qualification and Background Checks

Mike Coffey, SPHR

It’s Coffey Time

Not that coffee. Yesterday, Mr. Mike Coffey held his webinar on “DOT Driver Qualifications and Background Checks”

Mike is the president of Imperative Information Group and conducts professional background checks on CDL and CMV drivers for small to medium sized businesses and motor carriers.

Why Background Checks are Important

Your name is on the side of the truck. Any wild or crazy driving reflects badly on you and the other folks you work with and work for. A bad hire can destroy a business.  A bad hire can take down a lot of people with him. Lawsuits, fines, higher insurance are a few of the consequences of a bad hire.

Know the Regulations

To know the regulations, know how a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) is defined:
Parts 382 and 383 — apply to CDL drivers
Parts 390 and 391 — apply to non-CDL drivers (everyone).

Know what a Safety-sensitive function is under Part 382.107. Say a CDL driver fails a DOT drug test and you forbid him from driving. The fact is, until the driver is cleared by a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP), he has no business being around trucks, performing Safety-sensitive functions. Even trucks between 10,001 GVWR and 26,001 GVWR.

Driver Applications: The Three Imperatives

  • The app must be furnished by the motor carrier.
  • The app must be completed by the applicant/ driver.
  • The app must be signed by the driver.

Part 391.21 has a number of driver application requirements that must be followed.

Top Tip: All regulated drivers (even non-CDL) must list all of their previous regulated employers.

Top Tip: CDL drivers should provide a complete employment history for the last 10 years, explaining any periods of unemployment.

Part 391.23(a.) Investigation and inquiries.

Top Tip: First start with a CDLIS check — then get MVRs from respective, required states.

(Some experts even recommend doing CDLIS searches at every annual review.)

Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) is a nationwide computer system that shows every license your driver has held in the past three years. From there, ordering required Motor Vehicle Records (MVRs) is easy.

Top Tip: Ask previous employers questions like:

  • Is the drive eligible for rehire?

  • Has the driver ever acted in a threatening or coercive manner?

  • Has the driver ever acted in an unsafe manner?

Know the requirements of the General Confidentiality Rule (49 CFR 40.321)

Top Tip: Get specific written consent from the driver. A mistake is using blanket forms where a driver signs off on a form and it is copied and sent to all previous employers.


49 CFR 40.25 (d) — If feasible, you must obtain and review this information before the employee first performs safety-sensitive functions. If this is not feasible, you must obtain and review the information as soon as possible. However, you must not permit the employee to perform safety-sensitive functions after 30 days from the date on which the employee first performed safety-sensitive functions, unless you have obtained or made and documented a good faith effort to obtain this information.

This means at least two or three documented attempts within the first 30 days of hire.

Mike detailed many other requirements in qualifying new DOT drivers and listed numerous traps and pitfalls.

Here is previous webinar from 2015:

Thank you for reading this.



John Taratuta is a trucking safety advocate and Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599

The $250 CDL Special

“Climb Aboard. We’re Going for a Ride”

We're going for a ride.

“We’re going for a ride.”

The $250 CDL Special

Their Youtube videos have gotten millions of hits.

With almost 4 million views this video may be one of the most popular YouTube videos on trucking.


“We have been in business since 1998 and have a 100% pass rating.”

“You will pass.

“CDL Test Truck of Allen, TX has a 100% success rate when it comes to their clients officially passing the exam, with 99% passing the road test on the very first try.”

Says one former client . . .

“I passed my road test on Tuesday, and I start my job on Sunday. Thank you so much Jennifer and Billy for providing me with your service.” ANNA, May 13, 2015

CDL Realities

Becoming a truck driver is a marathon — not a dash to the finish line. Run a well-practiced marathon.

A CDL is an entry-level license to learn. Commercial Driver Learner.

Truck diving is like a craft or trade. Safe driving takes a number of years to master.

A good driving school will put you in a position to make lots of mistakes. That’s the time to make most of your driving mistakes — in a controlled environment.

Are there any good truck driving schools other there? Yes the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) published a list of truck driving schools they certify. Go there to learn the trade, if possible. Don’t get taken for a ride.

Thank you for reading this.

Disclaimer: Reference to any specific product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, company name or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the author.

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Issues in Truck Driver Training


Several pileups involving 44 vehicles occurred Sunday afternoon on I-94 in Michigan. Poor visibility combined with drivers who were going too fast for conditions and following too closely, resulted in the pileups, including one with six tractor-trailers and one fatality.

Poor driving habits lead to errors and mistakes. Studies suggest driver errors and/or mistakes can result from learned habits, which in turn can be corrected by training.

Training is on the minds of leading motor carriers. Carriers are either expanding their in-house training or breaking into training by investing in truck-driver training schools.

Training Issues

Issue # 1. Good truck driver training is not cheap; cheap truck driver training is not good.

Cheap training is any training that does not offer real value. Without quality, there is no value. Without safety there is no quality.

Cheap truck driver training schools are euphemistically known as “CDL Mills.”

California style: driver training tractor with no fifth wheel hitch.

California style: tractor with no fifth wheel hitch.

Issue # 2. Funding for Workforce Training is Political.

Truck driver training runs from $1800 to multiples times that amount. Workforce training funds are generally based on federal money, doled out by the state, sometimes tied into quasi-governmental entities that administer the funding. Union members may have special or additional training funding programs. Veterans have another program. In my experience, these programs are bureaucratic, even nightmarish at times when they are corrupt and drivers have their CDLs cancelled.

Usually the driver is expected to invest in his own career. For some lacking those funds, this may be an impassable hurdle. For others, the bureaucratic hoops for federal/state funds are another kind of hurdle. Who should pay for the training? What’s a fair solution?

Issue # 3. Demographics and Social Engineering

Fact: The workforce is getting older. Young people feel compelled to go to college by their friends and family, even if they won’t be happy there (or later from the millstone of student debt). At the same time there is a pool of unemployed who are not attached to the labor market. This is affecting almost every industry from agriculture to construction to manufacturing. Some say this is because a number of states offer alternatives to work in the form of welfare payments equivalent to $15 to $25 /Hr. Attracting those folks back into the labor market is seen as a major challenge.

Issue # 4. Training Follows a Circular Pattern

Trucking is a service. One cannot build up an inventory of unused capacity in trucking like a manufacturing plant can. When the economy slows, training is the first area to be cut. When training or safety is cut, few may notice any difference in operations or may attribute losses to other considerations. Safety culture works like that. Nothing happens until something happens. Sometimes a wake-up call is a major crash. Other times it’s a visit from a DOT auditor and a shutdown notice. Corrections and change may take years to get things right again.

Issue # 5. There are few Training Standards

Competency is defined as the ability to apply knowledge and skills to produce a required outcome. Competency is expected to develop from  education, training and experience. Competency is generally based on a prescribed level of training.

The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) promotes truck-driver training and driver finishing standards. PTDI-certified courses are currently offered at 58 schools in 19 states and one Canadian province, according to their website. 

Until standards are universal, training and competency will suffer. Training and competency are suffering. Drivers are set-up to fail. Some carriers employ questionable training practices. They invest little or no money in training and shift 100% of the risk and consequences to subcontractors, some who have been killed, along with their trainees.

There is no agreement on what a competent truck driver should look like. That decision, and the unintended consequences that inevitably follow, will be made by some DOT bureaucrat in Washington D.C., based on the report of the  Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee.

Training should not end when a driver gets a CDL. Safety training should be a core part of every driver’s career from beginning to end. Better motor carriers acknowledge this.

Action expresses priorities. Gandhi


Workforce training is an essential investment for safety and productivity. Since the recession started in 2007, there has been an overall under-investment in training, apart from a few exceptional motor carriers. This lack of investment has resulted in a loss of productivity and repeated safety issues.

The good news is that corrections are being made. It is one of the goals of this safety blog to contribute to effective training solutions and safety indoctrination.

Thank you for reading this.

Please help support this Blog with a Micro-payment.  $1 U.S.D.
For use in training or company newsletters the fee is $5 per 1000 trucks.

J TaratutaJohn Taratuta is a trucking safety advocate and Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599

4 Bad or Dangerous Moves

Dangerous Moves

Maneuvering a truck on today’s roads comes with its own special set of challenges. One wrong move can have dire consequences.

Here are four bad or dangerous moves . . .

R-Turn Squeeze Play

1. Right Turn Squeeze Play

The right turn squeeze play can occur when the truck driver swings left to make a right turn. Given a small amount of space, a right-turning car will pull next to the trailer and get caught in the “squeeze” between the trailer and the curb.

Solution: Stay straight as possible in making right turns. Make “square turns” in turning right or left. A square turn gives the driver visual control of the situation to the extent possible. Make turns at a slow speed — idle speed is recommended.

Overhead clearance

2. Overhead Clearance

In addition to both sides, a driver needs to always be aware of overhead clearance. There are several reasons for overhead clearance collisions, including not focusing on the task at hand, missing warning signs, or being distracted. Getting off of a “truck route” can get a driver into trouble. Sometimes drivers are assured by other people that there is enough clearance, and in reality there is not. This goes for both driving under something or backing to a dock.

Solution: There are times a driver has to stop and check the clearance. There is no other way.








3. Bridging

“Bridging” happens when the truck goes under a bridge, but due to a rise on the other side, the trailer starts to rise enough to get caught under the bridge.

Solution: Go slow, roll the window down to listen and always be ready to stop and visually check things out.

Swerved for deer.

4. Swerving for a Deer or Other Animal

Animals in the road.

Wildlife is most active during dusk, dawn, and night. Deer are most frequently hit during dusk and dawn, and at night—bears and moose .

“Do not swerve if a collision is unavoidable. Swerving to avoid an animal can often cause a more serious crash or result in loss of control behind the wheel.” AAA

Solution: As a general rule at low beam, a tractor-trailer’s headlights will illuminate about 250 feet in front of the vehicle. High beams will illuminate for approximately 350-500 feet. So to not “overdrive” your headlights. When you see yellow animal-crossing signs, reduce your speed to 45 mph at night.

Action Summary

  • Mind your turns.

Turn by the book.

  • Stop and check the overhead clearance, if necessary.
  • Be mindful of “bridging.”
  • Adjust your speed in areas marked or known as animal crossing areas.

Thank you for reading this.

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Safely Using Removable Tow Hooks

Truckstop after snowstorm.

Stuck, Trapped, Broke-down or Otherwise Immobile

Nobody likes a breakdown. Nobody likes having to call a tow truck.

Because it is a topic not usually covered in truck driver training, drivers may be unfamiliar with how to use tow hooks, especially removable tow hooks. Improper towing or recovery operations can hurt someone or damage a truck.

Warning: Information here is presented only as a topical introduction. Improper towing of a heavy truck can and does result in serious injury or death, or damage to the vehicle. Do not rely on this information as it is provided.  Knowledge does not equal understanding or skill.

“Recovering or towing equipment or vehicles is an inherently dangerous task.” U.S. Army

The function of tow hooks is to serve as an anchor to a tow truck. Merely wrapping a chain around some part of the frame, suspension or undercarriage can damage or stress these parts or warp or twist the frame. A tow hook, when properly used, is engineered to distribute the stresses and strains during the towing or recovery procedures.

Towing — generally means a routine/standard tow that does not require special techniques or special equipment, as in a recovery.

Recovery — is generally defined as the use of one or more of the techniques as the use of air bags, winching, hoisting, up-righting, removing, or otherwise relocating a vehicle when the vehicle is found in such a location, state or position in which it could not remove itself from the location, state or position under the use of its own power, even if it were in complete operating condition.

recovery job

This is a recovery.


Safety Tip: If using a wire rope or steel cable, wear leather gloves when handling the wire rope or cable. Small frays in the wire strands can cause severe lacerations to your hands.

Caution must be taken to never slide the wire rope through hands, even when wearing leather gloves. The hand-over-hand method must be used when inspecting or handling wire ropes, and when inspecting the rigging, hands or body should never be placed between cables, ropes, or chains under tension.

WARNING: Stand clear of a chain, wire rope, steel cable or winch cable before it is tightened. A chain or cable being tightened may break and whip back with enough force to seriously maim or kill. Keep the length as short as practically possible to minimize whip should a failure occur. 

Removable Tow Hooks

Many vehicles come with removable tow hooks.

Recovery Hitch Sockets

Tow hooks may come in sets.

two-hook set

Set of tow hooks.


Tow hooks mounted on frame under the hood.














The tow hooks may be mounted on the frame under the hood. Check your owner’s manual for the stow location.

Open the hood. Remove the hook or hooks. Close the hood and insert the hook per manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations.

Inserting the tow hook.

Some hooks twist in position, others have a safety pin or bolt to hold them in position. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations.

As hooks are worth between $50 and $100 apiece, be sure to stow or secure the hooks after each use.

Top Tip: Be cautious about buying any replacement hooks online. Old or used tow hooks may have damage not visible to the unaided eye. I recommend buying only OEM replacement hooks, if possible. Any off-market tow hooks should undergo certified non-destructive testing (NDT) of their integrity to determine if they are suitable or safe for your intended purposes, in my opinion.

Safety Tip: Be cautious about using any equipment or procedures not designed or intended for towing or recovery operations. A Michigan man was killed when the chain broke while he pulled a tractor-trailer pulled out of a construction site by his bulldozer. Pushing a vehicle can be dangerous as well or result in vehicle damage. Only rely on the advice or services of trained towing and recovery specialists.

What about using recovery straps?

recovery strap

Recovery Strap — Note, loops, no hooks.







Recovery straps are flat with sewn loops (no hooks are  attached on the ends). They are made of nylon (not polypropylene or Dacron) and will stretch. Recovery straps are safer than chains, easier to use, and not as heavy.

As a general rule of thumb, each inch of strap width will allow you to pull a load of about 10,000 pounds. Recovery straps may be rated by their towing capacity and break strength, and number of plys. Here is a chart to determine the proper size/ply of the strap in relation to the load.

Recovery strap chart

Action Summary

  • Train drivers in the proper use of removable tow hooks and procedures.
  • Have a written towing or recovery policy.
  • Use professional towing and recovery services.

Thank you for reading this.


Slam, Bam, Kapow! Preventing Another I-80 Truck Pileup

I-80 Wyoming pileup 4-16-2015

Remembering the Wyoming Pileups of April 16 2015

The person with the camera was at a loss at the amazing sight. A cavalcade of tractor-trailers, from some of the biggest fleets in the U.S., slammed into each other with a steady cadence.

Three pileups on I-80 occurred that day due to blizzard conditions that dumped about 10 inches of snow. The worst pileup was near mile post 342. Roads were described as icy and slick and driving as treacherous.

What went wrong?

Training wasn’t an issue. These drivers are probably the best trained drivers we have ever produced.

Equipment wasn’t an issue. Most equipment was A+, top-notch, primo equipment.

Experience, perhaps, is a question mark. Many drivers, especially new drivers, take their cues from other drivers. They watch what everyone else is doing and try to do the same.

Drivers have a tendency to drive in packs. When two and three tractor-trailers are slamming into the pileup together, what does that tell you? Riding side-by-side or passing in blizzard conditions is highly risky.

How about some radio silence on the CB? Did you know that CBs are starting to get banned in certain areas? The CB should be a safety tool. How about saving Channel 19 for the real work and find another frequency to ratchet-jaw?

Accidents Don’t Happen

Safety experts say collisions, incidents or “accidents” just don’t happen. In almost every case a number of risk factors (and “red flags”) are also present. Here the slick roads, heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions all contributed to the crashes. And a primary crash can lead to secondary crashes, so a crash in itself is a risk factor for another crash to occur.

According to the Wyoming Highway Patrol the primary root causes in these crashes were no mystery:

  • Speeds too fast for the blizzard conditions,
  • Loss of control.

Seeing it actually happen as it occurs, for myself at least, is unbelievable.

Drivers appear stunned. And some were seriously hurt. The trucks hit hard and form a solid wall of steel and twisted metal. Some drivers are trapped, but fortunately the snow absorbs most of the spilled diesel and there is no fire.

Here’s another view from the other side . . .

Winter Driving Blues

There are two times, I believe, winter can be dangerous: at the start, when drivers need to adjust their driving style to the new realities of winter, and at the end of winter, when dry roads can quickly become icy or slick due to inclement weather.

Right now we are only in the first phases of winter.

 New Drivers Listen Up

If you are new to truck driving, be aware that fresh snow can pack hard and form ice. Once a road is iced up, a driver needs to really slow down, or even get off of the road, if necessary. It can take hundreds of feet for a truck to come to a stop on a snow-packed or icy road, If a truck is light or empty additional distance is needed to stop. All stops need to be smooth and gradual. This takes more space. A panic stop will result in a skid or jackknife. A driver easily needs three to four times as much space to safely stop. And If the ice is wet, it will take 10 times the distance to stop. 10X!  Even the Kiwis know that.

“On ice it can take up to 10 times the distance to stop.” NZ Transport Agency

In the Wyoming crash, drivers really did not even see what they were driving into. Visibility is poor. There was no way they could safety stop. They did not “leave themselves an out.” The results speak for themselves.

I hope we can do better than last year. We really need to.

Action Summary

  • Start indoctrinating your drivers for heavy winter driving.
  • Have a written policy for driving in inclement weather. Everyone (drivers, dispatch, schedulers) needs to know when to say no, when enough is enough.
  • Drivers need to “read the road” for red flags: No oncoming traffic on the opposite side says something is up. Heavy wet snow will pack and form ice, wet ice. Ice forming on the wipers, or the outside of the mirrors, is a red flag, etc.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.




Odds and Ends

King of the Road

Transportation Research Board

Item 1. TRB Week

This week is TRB Week. The Transportation Research Board (TRB) 95th Annual Meeting will be held January 10–14, 2016, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, in Washington, D.C.

The meeting is expected to attract more than 12,000 transportation professionals from around the world. The meeting program will cover all transportation modes, with more than 800 sessions and workshops, and 200 exhibitors. As such, this is the largest event in North America for U.S. DOT and State DOT Officials.

Two semitrailers collided early Saturday morning on Interstate 80 at mile marker 257 or the Elm Creek interchange that sent four to the hospital.

Item No. 2. Unrestrained Passenger in Bunk Seriously Hurt

Two semitrailers crashed early Saturday morning on Interstate 80 at mile marker 257 or the Elm Creek interchange that sent four people from the two trucks to the hospital.

One of the most seriously injured was in the sleeper at the time of the collision and was not restrained or buckled in.

393.76 (h) Occupant restraint. A motor vehicle manufactured on or after July 1, 1971, and equipped with a sleeper berth must be equipped with a means of preventing ejection of the occupant of the sleeper berth during deceleration of the vehicle. The restraint system must be designed, installed, and maintained to withstand a minimum total force of 6,000 pounds applied toward the front of the vehicle and parallel to the longitudinal axis of the vehicle.

Although this rule has been on the books since 1971, drivers still have questions about it. The DOT is currently putting a passenger restraint rule into place.

“When I was running team I had to make an emergency stop and my co-driver, who didn’t think he needed to use it, ended up in a heap against the shifter. He was really wide awake, too.” Driver


“Any authorized person sleeping in your vehicle while it is moving should use the bunk restraint. In an accident, an unrestrained person lying in a sleeper bunk could be injured. He or she could be thrown from the bunk.”  Driver’s Manual

A 2013 study  of over 700 collisions involving a passenger in the sleeper berth compartment by the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center found that whether a passenger was in the seat or bunk did not matter to the extent of the driver’s injuries. What did and does matter how injured a passenger becomes in a crash is whether the passenger is restrained or not.

Remind drivers to wear their restraints while in the bunk. The life they save could be their own.

Institute a safety policy requiring drivers or their passengers use the restraint system when in the bunk while the truck is in motion.

Thank you for reading this.

Updates From Some Recordkeeping Webinars



Here are a few highlights of some Recordkeeping Webinars I attended this week.

The first was a HNI U webinar,Your Critical Guide to OSHA Recordkeeping, on completing the OSHA 300 log and OSHA form 300A, hosted by Mr. Kyle Meinert.

One key thing every employer, especially smaller trucking companies, should know is that even though a company may be exempt from filing these OSHA forms, starting in 2015, employers are still required to report directly to OSHA:

  • All work-related fatalities
  • All work-related inpatient hospitalizations of one or more employees
  • All work-related amputations
  • All work-related losses of an eye

There was a lot of other useful OSHA information covered in this webinar. Employers may access the webinar for free at HNI U by registering. I recommend you to do so.

The second webinar I attended was JJ Keller’s Recordkeeping & Audits: Dotting all the i’s for the DOT,  by Darin Hansen and Heather Ness.

Some “Recordkeeping” Notes:

Recordkeeping is a means of verifying compliance. Amen.

Get the driver’s MVR before they start driving. And after each and every DOT medical exam thereafter.

Be advised: There are new medical forms as of April 20, 2016. Be ready.

If you do the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP), a new consent form must be kept on file as of February 1, 2016. Prepare accordingly.

Document why any post-accident drug screens were not done. Keep documentation for Reasonable Suspicion testing, as well as any proofs for required training.

Supporting documentation for Hours of Service must be in a “usable format.”

. . . if the motor carrier receives in the ordinary course of business electronic or printed reports or other communications in which the data is converted to a more readable or usable format, the motor carrier must retain such reports or communications and provide them to investigators upon demand. Federal Register/Vol. 75, No. 111

JJ Keller recommends time cards (exemption sheets) be kept in the vehicle when the driver is driving (even if not required to do so).

Keep copies of any official reports for the DOT accident register.


Keep your fleet distant data— fleet MPG, total distance by each jurisdiction (state/province).

Keep track of all mileage for FTA/IRP, including deadhead (empty) and personal conveyance (personal use by the driver — like going to a restaurant).

Keep fuel receipts, Make sure fuel receipts show proper information. Make sure drivers enter proper information when fueling. Avoid writing on the fuel receipt (its considered “altered”). Keep records for 3 years after close of the year.

Look for gap miles: starting and ending mileage don’t match on your records.

Recordkeeping is your prime defense to show compliance in case of litigation.

This Webinar was one of JJ Keller’s best.

These are a few highlights of my jottings from this week. Both Webinars were fast paced and chock full of information.

Thank you for reading this.



Out of Service

“Out of Service.”

Nothing runs a chill up the spine of a DOT regulated motor carrier than the words “Out of Service.” But, unfortunately, DOT Out-of-Service orders do happen.

The usual reason a DOT Out-of-Service (OOS) order is directed against a motor carrier is for not cooperating in a timely manner in an audit or a request for information or some other action on part of the motor carrier.

In late December 2015, a medium sized carrier with over 300 trucks on the East Coast was given an out-of-service order. The reason for the order according to published reports, was that the motor carrier had received an “unsatisfactory rating” by the DOT in October 2015, and had not submitted a corrective safety plan or an administrative appeal before a 60 day response period.

Motor carriers also may receive a “conditional rating.” Says one DOT safety and compliance consultant . . .

“Conditional ratings continue to be very damaging. They are also difficult to get upgraded. Oh yes, I can do it, probably as well as anyone, but don’t expect it’s going to be fast, or cheap. The general waiting line once the petition is filed is 3 months. In other words, your petition is going to sit on a DOT officer’s desk for 3 months before he looks at it. Also, it takes a significant amount of my time to put these things together. Time is money. Therefore, if you think you’ll call me, I’ll write a letter, charge you $500, and boom! the rating is upgraded . . . no, oh, no.” Eric Arnold

Some Lessons Learned

If your company receives an adverse DOT safety rating (Conditional or Unsatisfactory), then time is of essence in getting the matter corrected to the satisfaction of the DOT. Waiting to the end of a deadline period may not stop the clock or the DOT from issuing an Out-of-Service order. Merely submitting a corrective safety plan (CSP) may not result in an automatic abeyance of the OOS order. The CSP, after all, needs to be approved — and things never move fast as you would like in any bureaucracy . . .

Key Points

• Always respond to DOT requests in a timely matter.

• The government’s “business day” ends at 5 P.M., not at midnight.

• Don’t wait until the last minute and drop something in the mail hoping that since it has been postmarked that you are good to go. As someone said, “hope is not a strategy.”

Thank you for reading this.

More . . .  What are some Driver Out-of-Service (OOS) Violations?


A Dangerous Distraction

Exploding e-cigarette causes semi driver to crash.

The Facts . . .

On Tuesday, Sgt. Stephen Wheeles of the Indiana State Police for the Versailles District reported a personal injury crash occurred on I-65 northbound near the 35.5 mile marker at the Jackson/Scott County.

The driver suffered burns to his face, and had lost a lot of blood due to cuts.

The culprit?

An electronic cigarette exploded in the driver’s face, injuring the driver and resulting in loss of control of the vehicle. The driver was taken to the hospital for treatment for his injuries.

An informal Survey of Smoking Policies

A number of companies follow a smoking policy like that of C.R. England . . .

It is the trainer’s choice on rules for smoking and chewing tobacco in the truck, such as no smoking or chewing, no smoking in the sleeper, opening the window, etc.

Other company policies say . . .

Smoking shall be permitted in designated areas only.


Distracted driving is an issue in the area of collision prevention. Distracted driving is the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity and distracted drivers are estimated to cause anywhere from 25% to 50% of collisions. Common distractions are the use of cell phones and electronic devices.

Other deadly distractions while driving include cokes, smokes, eating and engaging in conversations.

It is my contention that every motor carrier needs to have a crystal-clear driving policy covering all aspects of driving, including driving while distracted. Research shows distracted driving, like impaired driving, increases the risk of a crash. We may personally know, based on anecdotal experience, of drivers who crashed while pouring a cup of coffee, or choked on an almond or jelly bean, or while drinking a soda or a coke when driving. These incidents and crashes occur on a daily basis.

Several states already ban a person smoking in a vehicle with children present.(Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Louisiana)

Some cities  as Bangor, Maine; Rockland County, New York; Keyport, New Jersey; and West Long Branch, New York, also ban smoking in cars around children, as does the United Kingdom.

Smoking is prohibited on interstate passenger-carrying motor vehicles under §374.201. Passenger motor carriers need to announce to passengers that smoking is prohibited; and post and maintain international no-smoking symbols and legible no-smoking signs in all vehicles transporting passengers.

Some motor carriers are hesitant to enforce a smoking ban as the prevalence of current cigarette smoking by drivers is more than double the general population (51% vs. 19%). Smoking is considered a driver health risk factor like hypertension and obesity.

Forward-thinking motor carriers are establishing smoking cessation programs for their drivers. One excellent resource is Driving Healthy, co-sponsored by Travelers and Northland insurance companies, both leading underwriters of truck fleets.

Action Summary

Encourage drivers not to smoke while driving or to complete a smoking cessation program.

Develop a a crystal-clear driving policy covering all aspects of driving, including driving while distracted.

Formulate a policy on the use of electronic cigarettes or vaping while driving.

Thank you for reading this.

To learn more . . . Driving Healthy

Driving Blind



Winter Driving Woes . . .


Winter Woes

Trucking in winter can be challenging. Moisture can freeze in brake lines and valves. Batteries that were strong in summer become weak in the cold. Fuel can gel. Grease cups can freeze up. Drivers are susceptible to injuries from slips and falls.

The Case of the Missing Driver

A year ago Tim Rutledge went to check on his brakes in Indianapolis. But he didn’t think to chock his wheels before climbing under the truck.

Here’s the rest of the story . . .


Flooding is another problem that occurs almost every winter.

Detours due to flooding can run hundreds of miles off-route. But not for our next driver . . .

Please don’t try this at home, folks!

If this driver had given the matter some thought he might have reflected on the corrosion that will develop in his electrical wiring and lighting systems. We never want to expose the wiring system to any more moisture than necessary.

Secondly, the driver had no idea what was under water, as debris, a washed-out section of the road, glass or other tire hazards, etc. It’s never a good idea to drive in the ‘zone of avoidance.’

Strong Winds

Strong winds and wind gusts can be hazardous. Wind is totally unpredictable.

Drivers need to be cautious on windy days not only in driving, but in opening or closing the hood. In opening the hood, a strong wind can cause the hood to strike and injure the driver. Drivers have also become trapped under the hood and injured. Tarping a load can become impossible in a strong wind.

Action Summary

Review your winter operations policy for contingencies as frozen brakes and brake lines, gelling fuel, road flooding, and operations in windy conditions or inclement weather.

Make sure drivers know your expectations during the challenging winter months. Review all appropriate safety procedures.

Remind drivers that slips and fall are always among the top causes of injuries on the job. The risks increase in inclement weather.

Thank you for reading this.

Avoiding a Winter Driving Jackknife

All tractor-trailer drivers need to understand the vehicle dynamics of a jackknife and how to prevent one.


If in a Jackknife

If the tractor-trailer starts to jackknife, immediately take your foot off the brake (and/or fuel), feather the clutch, and correct the skid as you would normally.

Jackknifing can occur more easily with empty or lightly loaded trailers or when the weight of the load is poorly distributed. The tractor and trailer brakes are designed for use with a full load, and as such, are sub-optimal for an empty or partially loaded trailer. Air brakes have a different feel than regular brakes as found on a car or SUV. Air brakes have what is known as “brake lag” and the brakes may feel spongy.

Exercise caution on slippery roads. There have been situations where the tractor-trailer lost traction before cresting the hill. The truck and trailer then slid backwards down the hill, jackknifing on the bottom. Equip the tractor with tire chains on icy roads (if permitted or required), or do not attempt to drive if road conditions are poor.

Never use the “trailer hand brake,” if so equipped, in a jackknife or skid. Use of the trailer hand brake will make the situation worse.

[Never use the trailer hand brake if the trailer is swinging out (trailer swing or slew.)]

The idea is to regain control of the vehicle. Panic braking will guarantee a slide-off, skid or jackknife. Smooth driver inputs and keeping all tires rotating at the same speed will help to maintain control or regain lost control of the vehicle.

Prevent Jackknifes

• Pre-plan your route.

Slow down.
• Always slow before turns and curves. Braking while turning or in a curve can lead to a jackknife.

• Reduce speed gradually. Stay off of the brakes in slippery conditions. Slow means slow.

• Increase following distance for conditions.

• Always maintain pull on the trailer.
What this means is that after slowing before a curve or sweeping curve, “pull” or lead the trailer through the curve with a little power (feather the fuel). Turns at small intersections, however, should be done slowly, at idle speed.

• Engage the inter-axle differential on slick upgrades.

• Disengage the inter-axle differential on slick downgrades.

• Avoid “emergency situations.” Slow down before turns and curves and intersections, and/or going downhill.

• Do not use an engine brake in bad weather conditions.

More On the Inter-axle Differential Lock

The inter-axle differential (IAD) lock is also known as the power divider or power divider lock (PDL), or “diff lock.”

The inter-axle differential lock or Power Divider is for use in low-traction situations only. Read your operator’s manual for full instructions an specifics!

The inter-axle differential is not meant for use on dry pavement.

The inter-axle differential lock can be engaged while in motion (as when approaching a slippery hill) as long as:
— The wheels are not spinning, or
— The vehicle is not on a curve or in a turn.

An inter-axle differential (IAD) works in a similar manner to the main differential (splitting power between the two wheels), except it splits the torque equally between the two axles of a tandem, rather than the two wheel ends of an axle.

What happens if you engage the diff lock when the wheels are spinning?  You may hear a grinding sound and feel vibration while the diff lock tries to engage.

What happens if you leave the diff lock on while driving?  Driving with the diff lock on will cause high stresses and strains in the drives, and can result in accelerated component wear or even catastrophic failure.

To Use The Inter-axle Differential Lock

Flip the switch and press the clutch briefly (some recommend to feather the clutch, as in a normal shift); do likewise to disengage the lock.

Caution: You should not activate the differential lock when the wheels are spinning (when traction has been lost and/or the tandems are rotating at uneven speeds).

Note: Some trucks may be equipped an alarm (that sounds like like a low-air warning alarm), to remind the driver to shut the interaxle differential lock off. Some trucks may have a warning lamp or light on the dash or the switch itself.

Driver-Controlled Differential Lock (DCDL)

DCDL is an option on some vehicles, that is manually turned on and off by a switch. DCDL allows maximum traction potential to each wheel end of an axle. DCDL is to be applied only as needed (for very short periods of time and at low speeds due to the possible handling characteristics of the vehicle with the lock engaged).

Note: Proper operating instructions for any of the above systems vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Always refer to your owner’s manual for further instructions.

 Winter Tip: Never enter a dry roadway when the wheels are spinning (like from an icy driveway). A sudden grab of the pavement while the wheels are spinning can send a shock to the differential and blow it out.

Training Tip: Have your drivers attend a tractor-trailer skid school in your area. Skid-school may last from 1/2 a day to a full day and its a fun way to master a jackknife or skid situation under controlled conditions.

Thank you for reading this.

Read more . . . A Winter Driving Warning

Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Dennis Todd memorial procession

Be so good they can’t ignore you. Steve Martin

That saying brings to mind the name of Mr. Dennis Todd, who passed away on March 16, 2015, from natural causes.

Here is what others have said of Mr. Todd . . .

Dennis was a beloved member of the community.

He was well-known for his quick wit, practical jokes, his devious smile and his overalls.

Todd was so dependable that even heavy snowstorms couldn’t keep him away when he was needed at collision sites.

Dennis had a big heart; he would help anyone in need, and he was a very loyal and devoted friend who will be greatly missed by all those who had the honor of knowing him.

For about 25 years Mr. Todd owned Todd’s Towing in North Bend WA. Dozens of his towing friends put together a memorial procession in his honor. Attendees at Mr Todd’s funeral were requested to wear their best pair of overalls in his memory.

Mr. Todd was interviewed prior to passing by the film crew of the “Highway thru Hell” documentary, airing on the Discovery Channel.

Trucking is the lifeblood of America and literally puts food on the table for millions of people. But trucking can’t do it without the assistance and help of the many ancillary support segments as towing and recovery, first responders, insurance and risk management, repair, special equipment, vehicle accessories, fuel suppliers, restaurants, banking and finance, law enforcement, and other sectors, too many to mention. When the chips are down, in every sector there are people like Mr. Todd, who put on their overalls in the middle of the night, in the worst of conditions, to risk life and limb, to help restore a semblance of order out of chaos.

As we move into another year, may we remember and uphold the high standards in business and safety as exemplified by Mr. Dennis Eric Todd.

Thank you for reading this. Please have a Happy New Year and a prosperous 2016.



Driving in Canada


Running Up North

Sometimes drivers are required to run into Canada. There are 13 provinces and territories in Canada and, unfortunately, 13 sets of driving rules.

Here are few highlights of some Canadian rules . . .

Speed Limiter Rules

Two Canadian provinces – Ontario and Quebec – have speed limiter rules for heavy trucks. Any U.S. based truck traveling to or through Ontario and/or Quebec must have the governor set to 65 miles per hour or less. Yes, they check it . . .

HOS Reset

In hours of service, Canada allows a 36 hour reset, not the 34 hours required by the USDOT. Drivers in Canada are allowed 13 hours of driving within a 14-hour workday, with 10 hours off. Drivers must again follow DOT rules while traveling south of the border.

Clean Background Checks

A driver with any prior felony criminal convictions (including DUIs) or even an arrest record may be not allowed in Canada. This is a permanent, lifetime bar. There is an administrative process to gain entry, resulting in special travel papers — which must be requested at least 6 months prior to the intended entry date.

Guns, Knives, and Other Weapons

Canada has strict weapon laws. Drivers need declare to Canadian Customs authorities any firearms and weapons in their possession when entering Canada. Weapons include certain kind of knives and pepper spray and mace. Anything not declared is kept by authorities, if discovered. For more information, visit the Canadian Firearms Program.

Tinted Windows

No tinted windows are permitted in five provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It is illegal to have any tint at all on driver and passenger side windows.

Cell Phones and Texting

Distracted driving laws for electronic devices have been enacted in all Canadian provinces. Every province has a law that says you can’t text unless you’re parked. One driver was even ticketed for texting while in a fast-food line. A wearer of an Apple Watch changing music was ticketed for distracted driving in Quebec.

Using a voice-activated navigational system, as the Siri feature on an iPhone to ask for directions, is permitted in Nova Scotia, since an October 2015 Supreme Court ruling.

Some Special Rules

In Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) drivers need to honk the horn before passing.

In B.C. and the Yukon, a flashing green light doesn’t mean you have the right of way to make a left turn. A flashing green is activated by a pedestrian at a pedestrian crossing when a pedestrian pushes the crossing button, in these two provinces.

In Ontario (and only Ontario) lane markings generally serve an advisory or warning function. Drivers may cross solid lines but can still be charged, if they pass when it’s not safe.

Ontario also has large fines for wheel-offs, up to $50,000 Canadian.

Tip: One major U.S. carrier does a full DOT inspection on its vehicles every time it crosses the border.

Thank you for reading this.

Trucking Bloopers

In lake

What is the primary root cause of most of the woes in trucking? The verdict is in. Human error.

Human error is responsible for over 95% of all collisions, goofs, and bloopers in trucking.


Climbing an 8 inch curb in Chicago? Nope, it’s not going to happen . . .


Note the guy wire anchor on the lower right. The driver didn’t . . .


Another good way to take down a telephone phone is with a 16 foot high load.


Works like a charm every time . . .


Maybe if I pretend not to notice, then no one else will notice it either?


The excuse? The GPS made me do it . . .


The first driver whipped around the corner on the icy road like a drift racer from the Fast and Furious. 


Leaving the ditch as the only option for the second truck . . .


Hauling steel is not for the faint of heart.

no bulkhead

Especially without a trailer bulkhead or headache rack. . .

The only source of knowledge is experience. Albert Einstein


Thank you for reading this.


Dealing with Ice and Snow, Oh My!


From record lows in California to record snow in Texas, snow and ice are on many driver’s minds.

Here are some “rules of the road” for driving on snow and ice.

(1.) Don’t drive beyond your skill level.

If driving on snow and ice is new to you, then first practice in a parking lot. Start, stop and make a few turns. Know when your wheels start to break traction. If you have a tach, learn how to use it so you are better aware whenever the tires break traction.

(2.) Plan your trips.

Minimize travel. About one-quarter of crashes are weather related. Only travel as absolutely necessary. Top off the fuel tank and check air in the tires. Keep extra blankets and provisions in the vehicle.

(3.) Go slow.

We can’t control the weather, but we can control our speed. Snow and ice are enemies of traction and without traction there is no way to control the vehicle. An apt expression is that of the U.S. Navy Seals: “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” You can’t go too slow, especially in icy conditions. In Michigan (calling itself the Winter Wonderland), drivers can get a speeding ticket even at 10MPH or less, if that speed is “too fast for conditions.”

(4.) Keep a space cushion.

Increase the following distance and allow more time to slow and for turns and curves.

(5.) Never spin the tires.

spinning on ice

Tires get hot. Warm tires melt packed snow and can form ice. Spinning the tires means the wheels have broken traction. Use sand to regain traction in a parking lot. Another winter trick on snow is to start off in a higher gear. Until the ground is frozen, stay on firm, yard surfaces as gravel or pavement. Know how to properly use your axle interlock, if your vehicle is so equipped.

From my observations, it seems it takes drivers about a week or two to adjust their style of driving to winter conditions. Take it slow, drive defensively, and you will probably get there.

Related . . . Driving in Hazardous Conditions




The Accident Severity Model


The Accident Severity Model 

One of the most profound implications of the federal rule requiring the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) is the real-time capture of driver performance data.

What if this data could be used to prevent serious collisions? Sounds futuristic?

Omnitracs (formally a division of Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM), but now owned by Vista Equity Partners, a U.S.-based private equity firm) recently announced their Accident Severity Model can do that (that — meaning the prevention up to 85% of the most serious accidents by the riskiest drivers) . . . and more.

What the Data Says . . .

Did you know that about 50% of the fleet’s drivers will have 90% of the major collisions? Another way to look at this statistic is to say the other half of drivers will have only 10% of the serious collisions.

A serious or major collision is considered by Omnitracs  to be one of the “Big Six:”

  • Roll-Over
  • Run-off Road
  • Head-on
  • Jack-knife
  • Side-swipe
  • Rear-end

The severity of these collisions was further compounded by the fact that the drivers were completely disconnected from the driving task. Drivers . . .

  • Took zero evasive action
  • Could have seen the point of impact 6-7 seconds prior to impact (if awake), and
  • Made no attempt to minimize damage at the point of impact (brake or steer).

Drivers were sleep impaired or driving drowsy and the data indicate that 75% of these loss of control collisions occurred between the hours of 11 PM and 6AM.

10% of the riskiest drivers have 31% of the collisions.


Preventing Collisions

The Accident Severity Model is focused on helping the 10% riskiest drivers to prevent “loss of control” collisions as well as preventing the frequent, low-value claims. The model does this through the use of predictive modeling, by detecting subtle changes in driver physiology.

Part of Omnitracs’ program includes training of front-line management (as driver managers or dispatchers and driver supervisors) on techniques to speak with drivers when the data shows elevated driving risk. Drivers (preferably spouses, as well) are provided with a two-hour long sleep-science education class to better understand their behavior.

Once an at-risk driver is identified by the model, appropriate interventions (called remediations by Omnitracs) are then discussed with the driver as taking a rest break, bumping the appointment time, or the timing of future breaks.

“The biggest challenge with trying to manage severe accidents is they are typically infrequent and appear to be random. However, contrary to popular belief, many are not random at all, but a natural culmination of a series of subtle indicators that can be detected and addressed well in advance of an accident.” Omnitracs

Technological changes make new collision prevention and accident-prevention tools available to fleets of any size. This in turn will result in carriers of all sizes competing on safety as their primary competitive edge.

Thank you for reading this.

Related: “I Thought I Could Make It . . .”





The Dangers of On-Street Truck Parking

two burned out trucksThe car was traveling at high speed when it went out of control and struck the parked tractor-trailer. The resulting fire spread quickly, killing the three occupants of the car, and setting a second tractor-trailer with hazmat on fire.

“Despite no parking signs, neighbors said truckers often leave their rigs parked overnight.” WPVI-TV

This early Sunday morning collision in Philadelphia only illustrates the dangers of on-street parking.

Parking commercial motor vehicles (“garaging” to your insurance agent) can be challenging. Many municipal codes prevent overnight parking in residential areas. Some codes ban any standing, stopping or parking for any duration unless loading or unloading or some other work is being performed. Parking in an industrial area may expose the vehicle to theft or vandalism.

New startups like Truck Smart Parking Services are putting together apps and packages to help solve the problem.

In the meantime, I would encourage every carrier to have a clear parking policy. Drivers should be guided by the policy as to what is and what is not acceptable. Drivers may have permission to take their vehicle home and often park near their homes. If they are pulliing a trailer, this means they might park on the street.

These days street parking is not a good option (if it ever was— this is an old problem) because many drivers are distracted while driving or might not be alert to a parked vehicle. It doesn’t matter whose fault an accident was, or how legally parked the vehicle was, when someone gets hurt or worse.

My suggestion here is for management to craft a parking policy that encourages away-from-street parking to the extent reasonably possible, preferably in a secure lot. There are always trade-offs and risks no matter where a vehicle is parked. Choose wisely.

Thank you for reading this.

Related: Positioning the Commercial Motor Vehicle When Stopped


Disclaimer: Reference to any specific product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, company name or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the author.

Preventing Crashes at Intersections


On Thursday, a semi was headed westbound on Highway 24 when a pickup pulled in front of it at the intersection of Woodman in Falcon, Colorado. The truck driver was ejected from the truck as a result of the crash, resulting in fatal injuries.

40% of Crashes

About 40 percent of crashes are at intersections. Intersections range from complex expressway interchanges to simple, rural crossroads. In an uncontrolled intersection, there are no traffic control devices.

What is one of the main causes of intersection crashes?

In a study of intersection crashes by the NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis, when comparing intersection crashes with non-intersection crashes, it was found that the “critical pre-crash event” — defined as an event that made the crash imminent (i.e. something occurred that made the collision inevitable) — was “turned with obstructed view.” NHTSA analysts  found  “turned with obstructed view”  occurs at intersection crashes  335 times more than at non-intersection crashes, usually in left-turns.

It is found that regardless of type of traffic control device, traffic signal, or stop sign, illegal maneuver and inattention were observed significantly more than expected in crossing-over crashes, while turned with obstructed view and misjudgment of gap or other’s speed in turning-left crashes.

False assumption of other’s action was found as the most significant critical reason in turning-left crashes at traffic signal and in turning-right crashes at stop sign.

The next most prevalent critical reason for an intersection crash was “inadequate surveillance,” appearing about 6 times more often in intersection-related crashes than in non-intersection-related crashes.

Other reasons for intersection crashes include: illegal maneuver (4.1 times), false assumption of other’s action (3.8 time), misjudgment of gap or other’s speed (3.1 times). Reasons may vary by type of maneuver, whether vehicles were turning right, left, or going straight through the intersection.

The results show that significantly more than expected drivers were assigned critical reasons such as external distraction, false assumption of other’s action, misjudgment of gap or other’s speed and turned with obstructed view when they were turning left at intersections controlled by traffic signals. Also, significantly more than expected drivers were assigned critical reasons such as internal distraction, inattention, illegal maneuver, too fast or aggressive driving behavior, and critical non-performance error when they were crossing over at intersections controlled by traffic signals.

In short, if a crash happens at an intersection, the crash only occurred because one or both drivers made some sort of error. One driver may have misjudged the other driver’s speed or closing gap, while the other driver may have misjudged the other driver’s intentions, or may not have been paying attention at all. The result is chaos.

The results also show that significantly more than expected drivers were assigned critical reasons such as inadequate surveillance, misjudgment of gap or other’s speed and turned with obstructed view when they were turning left at intersections controlled by stop signs. In addition, significantly more than expected drivers were assigned critical reasons such as inadequate surveillance, inattention, external distraction, and illegal maneuver when they were crossing over at intersections controlled by stop signs. The crashes characterized by turning-right at stop sign have false assumption of other’s action assigned as critical reason significantly more than expected

Some Intersection Safety Tips

Here are some defensive driving tips for intersections . . .

• If you are stopped and a vehicle approaches with the turn signal on, do not assume the signalling vehicle is going to turn: wait until the vehicle starts the turn so you know for sure, before pulling out.

• Approach intersections assuming that cross traffic may not obey traffic control devices and anticipate the need for collision avoidance.

See and be seen. Keep vehicle lights and reflective devices wiped clean at every stop, and assure that all lights are operational. Keep the headlights on 24 hours of the day.

Rock and roll. Be mindful of the “A pillar” blind spot where the cab meets the ends of the windshield. This can obscure vision. Rock and roll in the seat to look around the pillars.

obscured view

This truck had a number of objects dangling in the driver’s view, when it was hit by a train. 

• Keep the windshield and mirrors clean and be sure the driver’s view is not obstructed.

• Use a window-wash treatment as Rain-X in bad weather. Keep a spare jug of window wash in the truck in winter.

• When practical, avoid making left turns. UPS follows a no-left-turn policy in about 90% of their turns.

• Always be ready to yield right of way at an intersection, to avoid a collision.

Cover the brake at intersections. Physically move your right foot from the throttle to over the brake pedal.

• Never signal another driver to proceed. The driver may not look and end up in a collision.

Know any other great intersection-safety tips? Please share them.

obsecured view

Thank you for reading this and have a safe weekend.

Critical Reasons for Truck Crashes


The Facts

The 62-year-old truck driver drifted off the road into the grassy ditch alongside the highway, rolling his truck and trailer.

A family of four was stopped for a left turn when their pickup truck was struck in the rear by a bobtail semi truck, killing their two daughters in the back seat and critically injuring the parents.

Three adults and four children were in a jeep, stopped in a construction zone, when it was struck from behind at an “Interstate speed,” killing all seven . . .

These crashes had one thing in common: police concluded that the drivers were not paying attention to the road.

In a study of truck crashes (the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS), conducted from 2005 to 2007), the “immediate reason” leading up to the crash is referred to as the “critical reason.” (The critical reason is not presumed to be the same as driver’s fault.)

Although the critical reason is an important part of the description of events leading up to the crash, it is not intended to be interpreted as the cause of the crash nor as the assignment of the fault to the driver, vehicle, or environment.

In February 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHHTSA), National Center for Statistics and Analysis, released a statistical analysis of crash data from the NMVCCS study classifying the critical reasons in truck crashes.

Critical reasons concerning driver error in truck crashes are broadly classified as:

  • Recognition errors,
  • Decision errors,
  • Performance errors, and,
  • Non-performance errors

The analysis found that driver error occurs in 94 percent (±2.2%) of the crashes.

Here’s the Breakdown . . .

Recognition error (as driver’s inattention, internal and external distractions,
and inadequate surveillance),  at 41% (±2.2%) was the most frequently
assigned critical reason.

Decision error (driving too fast for conditions, driving too fast for the curve, false assumption of others’ actions, illegal maneuver and misjudgment of gap or others’ speed) accounted for about 33 percent (±3.7%) of the assigned critical reason.

Performance error (such as overcompensation, poor directional control, etc.) was the critical reason in about 11 percent (±2.7%) of the crashes.

Non-performance error (ex. driver fell sleep) was the critical reason accounted for 7 percent (±1.0%) of the crashes.

Other driver errors were recorded as critical reasons for about 8 percent (±1.9%) of the drivers.

Critical Reason Attributed to Vehicles (2% of Crashes)

Critical reason attributed to vehicles are about 2 percent of the NMVCCS
crashes, (although none of these reasons implied a vehicle causing
the crash).

  • Tire problems accounted for about 35 percent (±11.4%) of vehicle-related
  • Brake related problems as critical reasons accounted for
    about 22 percent (±15.4%) of such crashes.
  • Steering/suspension/transmission/engine-related problems were assigned as critical reasons in 3 percent (±3.3%) of such crashes.

Critical Reasons Related to the Environment (2% of Crashes)

Critical reasons attributed to the driving environment (road and/or weather conditions) were assigned to about 2 percent of truck crashes.

  • In about 50 percent (±14.5%) of the 52,000 crashes the critical reason was attributed to slick roads.
  • Glare as a critical reason accounted for about 17 percent (±16.7%) of the environment-related crashes
  • View obstruction was assigned in 11 percent (±7.2%) of the crashes.
  • Signs and signals accounted for 3 percent (±2.5%) of such crashes.
  • The weather conditions (fog/rain/snow) were cited in 4 percent (±2.9%) of the crashes.

Using the Data

Please help spread the word about these critical crash reasons to your safety personnel, driver managers, fleet supervisors, and drivers. Drivers can do two things, and only two things while driving, to avoid a collision: manage their speed and manage their space.

As many truck-car collisions are due to errors on part of the car driver, the commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver needs to drive defensively. And as all collisions are considered to have an element of “randomness” associated with them, CMV drivers need to be on high alert at all times.

Thank you for reading this.