Don’t Get Blown Away . . . Trucking In High Wind Conditions

Rollover from wind

Danger: High Winds

On Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, at least three tractor-trailers rolled over in Iowa. Wind gusts are suspected to have contributed to the crashes. This is a concern because truck rollovers are the number one cause of fatalities for commercial drivers, especially if the driver is not wearing a safety belt.

Facts on the Wind

Weather reports usually tell us two or three characteristics of wind: direction and speed and sometimes the speed of any gusts. A straight tailwind is great. Pushing air is one of the biggest reasons trucks do not get great fuel economy. A headwind always takes extra fuel to overcome air resistance (drag).

There are several ways wind is defined. Basic wind speed is a measurement of average wind over a period of ten minutes. (ISO 4354) As it is an average, that means actual wind speeds can be higher. Wind speed fastest mile measures the speed of the wind as it moves one mile and are typically higher than wind measured over a period of ten minutes.

Wind gust speed, a sudden increase or decrease in wind velocity, is determined by a gust factor (about 1.5) applied to the average wind speed. Surface winds are considered dynamic and are constantly changing.

Trucks pulling dry vans or reefers are most at risk for high-wind hazards. A trailer does not have to be moving to be damaged. A strong enough wind gust can break a trailer sitting in a parking lot.

Side wind gust

The most critical wind direction is wind blowing perpendicular to the direction of travel or a side-gust wind. Drivers may first notice a rocking sensation from the wind gust, as if riding in a boat.


Vehicle speed has an effect on whether or not a loss of control will occur at a given wind gust speed.

side wind gust

Loss (or gain) of vehicle control may be induced by driver inputs as steering, accelerating or braking.


Here the driver was able to make an unbelievable recovery by pulling off the road into a Kansas field.

Wind gusts can cause the trailer to swing out in low traction conditions as standing water, snow or ice.

trailer swing-out









Leave plenty of following distance between other commercial motor vehicles. A number of states enforce a 500 foot following distance rule for trucks. Drivers may be given tickets for following too closely on bridges also.

One company had three of their trucks traveling together, blown off the road in strong winds.


50 MPH winds

Gusts approached 50+ MPH, lifting this trailer’s wheels off of the road.

Tips for Driving in Windy Conditions

• Check the weather as part of the trip-planning routine.

• If the weather turns bad, keep a “weather radio” handy and tune in to the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) system. NWR is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous around-the-clock weather information.

• Keep in mind that actual wind speeds and gusts may be higher than broadcast weather reports. Wind can be unpredictable.

• Reduce speed in windy conditions.

• Reduce speed in inclement weather: rain, snow, or when driving on icy roads.

• Reduce speed in low traction conditions as rain, snow, or ice.

• Don’t bunch up several trucks in a road convoy.

• Don’t drive in risky, high wind conditions.

• Insure any freight is properly distributed for a low Center of Gravity.

Thank you for reading this.

Positioning the Commercial Motor Vehicle When Stopped


“Car Hits Parked Truck”

If one does a Google search on “car hits parked truck,” the search results in over 35 million results. Everyday, it seems, someone is running into the back of a truck somewhere.

Rear-end collisions are always destructive and messy. Running into a truck is almost like running into a brick wall. Metal twists and bends. There is always the chance of under-ride. There is the chance of fire. People can get seriously hurt. It’s a mess.

But it only gets worse.


If the collision does result in an injury or fatality, it is likely that the crash will result in a lawsuit. Both the truck driver and company will be sued. Pre-trial dispositions will be taken and every safety practice, policy, and procedure will be called into question.

Somebody has to pay for this collision. Somebody will pay . . .

Even if a settlement can be negotiated before the trial, insurance premiums will rise. There is the chance that the insurance coverage was not enough, so assets will have to be sold to make up the difference.

What’s the best alternative? Collision avoidance.

Here are some commercial motor vehicle positioning tips used by safety conscious fleets:


The breakdown lane is for Emergencies only. Answering a phone call from dispatch is not an emergency. Checking directions or a map is not an emergency. Even running out of fuel is not an emergency, and one driver was fined $1000 for this. Yes — non-emergency stops are illegal. Drivers need to do their pretrip planning and pretrip inspections to avoid any and all non-emergency stops on the shoulder of the expressway.

The expressway is not a rest area. Again, unless it’s an emergency situation, there should be no parking and napping on the side of the expressway or ramps, and definitely no sleeping. Drivers need to keep track of their hours and leave a safety margin for themselves to find a place to park. This is difficult, but not impossible.

Areas with guardrails, bridges, and tunnels are extra risky. Guardrails signal some sort of off-road hazard. Guardrails can act as “channels” and direct vehicles into a commercial vehicle that is parked next to the guardrail. The same with bridges or tunnels. There is no “out” for another vehicle to get around the parked vehicle. So, for example, a driver notices he has a flat tire and decides he will wait for road service. If the truck must remain on the expressway, then driver should stop well beyond the guardrail, bridge or tunnel, put on the emergency flashers and set up the warning triangles.

• Don’t stop in an exit ramp, if at all possible.

Street Parking

Don’t park in center turn lanes.

Don’t park in places marked no parking.

Don’t park in church parking lots. (The pavement is usually thin and not designed for a heavy truck.)

Don’t park in malls where truck parking is restricted.

Don’t park near schools. Some jurisdictions have strict anti-idle laws near schools and/or other civic buildings.

Never drop a trailer against the flow of traffic or in an oncoming lane, as vehicles may run under the kingpin.

If legally parked on the street, a couple of 24 inch traffic cones with reflective tape can be placed behind the vehicle.

Other Parking Situations

Don’t park in curves or under overpasses or other areas where the vehicle may be not be easily seen.

Don’t park in an area before bright lights that can hide the silhouette of the truck at night.

Drivers should never walk along the truck with their backs to traffic.

Make sure drivers know how to properly set up warning triangles in an emergency.

Thank you for reading this.


Other Related Blogs 

The Breakdown on Breakdowns




Five Good Habits of Professional Drivers

window view

Habit 1. Professional drivers keep their windows and mirrors clear.

Professional drivers use a good quality automotive glass cleaner when washing their windows—never dish soap or common household cleaners.

Tip: Don’t use the window-washing squeegee device found in self-service fuel stations as it may contain embedded gas, oil, and road salts that will transfer onto your windshield. For best results use a microfiber cloth to apply the cleaner and another microfiber cloth to wipe it off.


Habit 2. Professional drivers keep their window wipers in good working condition.

Professional drivers know the rule of thumb is to replace the wipers every six to twelve months— the frequency depending on driving conditions and climate.

Tip:  Replace your wipers during normal service. Don’t to wait until the wipers start to chatter or streak. Clean the wiper blades whenever you are cleaning the window glass. Some drivers use 303 wiper treatment on the blades.

Washer Reservoir







Habit 3. Professional drivers keep their window-washer reservoir full.

Professional drivers top the window-washer reservoir with a quality windshield glass cleaner.

Tip: Don’t use plain water as it can become a breeding ground for bacterium. Be wary of cheap, “home-brew” cleaning solutions that may damage paint or the rubber on the wipers.


Habit 4. Professional drivers check their tire air pressure frequently.

There are all kinds of tire pressure systems. Tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), adopted by about 1/3 of fleets (NACFE 2013 Benchmark Study), cannot add air to an underinflated tire, and automatic tire inflation systems (ATIS)— used by about 10% of fleets (Ibid)—  while able to restore air to tires, usually can not report the actual inflation pressure in any given tire. The best tire inflation checker, for the majority of fleets, is still the professional driver.

Tip: Check cold PSI with a quality air gauge.






Habit 5. Professional drivers constantly check their vehicle.

Every time they stop, professional truck drivers do a quick walk around the truck before hitting the road. They check the tires, the lights, brakes, load securement, etc.

Tip:  If you are out of view of the truck— be sure to check the coupling release, too.

It’s not Easy

It’s not easy being a pro— if it were, everyone would be above average and there would be nothing new to learn. Simply put, professional drivers have high standards and do more than expected.

Thank you for reading this.



Operation Safe Driver Week is in Full Swing

Roadside Inspection

This week marks the CVSA’s 2015 Operation Safe Driver Week which runs October 18-24.

The goals of Safe Driver Week include increasing vehicle traffic enforcement, safety belt enforcement, driver roadside inspections and driver regulatory compliance, all aimed at pinpointing unsafe driving behaviors.

The top five warnings and citations issued to CMV drivers were:

  1. Speeding
  2. Failure to use a safety belt
  3. Failure to obey traffic control devices
  4. Improper lane change
  5. Following too closely.
  • 392.2S Speeding may result in up to 10 CSA Severity points, depending on the speed and/or location (school or construction zone, etc.).
  • 392.16 Failing to use seat belt while operating CMV has a Violation Severity Weight of 7 points.
  • 392.2LC Improper lane change and 392.2FC Following too close can result in 5 points each.
  • 392.2C Failure to obey traffic control device is pegged at 5 points.

These types of infractions are considered Dangerous Driving and a number of these violations will result in a company’s Unsafe Driving BASIC to be flagged with an Alert.

Best Practices

Don’t wait for the DOT to flag your CSA scores. Unsafe Driving violations are considered problem driver behaviors by the DOT.

But it’s not the DOT’s problem.

Review your CSA scores, safety and performance data. If you have repeated bad players with bad driving habits on your team, they need to change their problem behaviors.

Like right now . . .

Thank you for reading this.






Just Another Mile of Road . . .

Hamilton Road

Just Another Mile of Road

There is nothing special about Hamilton Road, in northern Michigan. Its shoulders are wide, like many roads in the area, to help spot deer. The road is kept up and in good shape and lightly traveled.

The truck driver was familiar with the road, having worked for his employer for five years, one-third of his driving career. But, this summer on an early Wednesday morning, for some reason, he didn’t negotiate the above curve.

Perhaps it was a deer in the roadway, springing out like they sometimes do. Perhaps it was something else. We’ll never know because the 36 year-old driver was found trapped and “unresponsive” in his overturned tractor trailer. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Rural-road, Rollover Crashes are the most Prevalent

The DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) was established in 1992 to track all Transportation related crashes. Prior to the BTS, fatal crashes were closely tracked from 1975 onward by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Their findings about trucks (vehicles over 10,000 pounds GVWR) include:

Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of all fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred on rural roads, and 24 percent occurred on rural and urban Interstate highways.

Rollover was the first harmful event in 1 in 20 (five percent) of all fatal crashes involving large trucks and 3 percent of all nonfatal crashes involving large trucks.

Single-vehicle crashes made up 21 percent of all fatal truck crashes, 15 percent of all injury crashes, and 22 percent of all property damage only crashes involving large trucks in 2012. The majority (63 percent) of fatal large truck crashes involved two vehicles.

For truck driver, speeding was the most often coded driver-related factor; distraction/inattention was the second most common.

What do the Numbers Really Say?

One thing we know for sure is that every crash is different. The roadway is different. The vehicles involved are different. And the drivers are different.

Tracking statistical data, however, can point to trends. For example, one insurance company noted that their data showed a lot of limo and bus collisions occurred when the vehicles had no passengers. The implication is that the limo and bus drivers may have let their guard down a little when driving, after making their drops.

European Truck Accident Causation study found the top 3 main causes for collisions between a truck and other road users are:
1. Non-adapted speed,
2. Failure to observe intersection rules,
3. Inattention.

So what do the numbers really say?

  • Truck crashes are trending upwards. Car crashes, too. Insurance is likely to rise.
  • All drivers need to be mindful, not mind-full. Pay attention. Don’t become another statistic.

Thank you for reading this.








Ignorance: More Deadly Than a Speeding Bullet?


War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. George Orwell

Too Big to Quench

The fire was big and hot. Too big for the local Fire Department without help from an airport foam truck. So hot the driver could not be found.

Cause of the crash?

A sudden swerve by the tanker driver to avoid a mattress on the road . . .


mattress on road

That’s right. Police say the driver crashed after swerving to avoid mattresses that fell from the roof of another vehicle.

The mattresses are fine. The tractor, tanker, and driver are now just memories.

Sure, the driver probably believed he was doing the right thing. The outcome was not what he expected or desired.

Preventable or Not?

Insurance companies see accidents as random events. That means in any given time or place the “odds” — a measure of the likelihood of an event’s occurrence — have an equal probability of happening  — or not happening (for a given set of like organizations).

Somewhere out there another mattress will fall off another vehicle. But we just can’t predict when or where. It will be another random event.

“Luck is the residue of design.”

We can, however, prepare our drivers for these freakish events. We know, for example, that 90% to 95% of crashes are due to human error. Driving means operating a vehicle at high speeds inches away from other humans operating their vehicles. Human drivers are prone to making errors. Sometimes serious errors. This means we need to always drive defensively. Fully automated driving is years, if not decades away (according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute).

Defense driving means asking ourselves and our drivers questions like:

  • What do I do if a mattress is on my path in the roadway?
  • How should I safely crest a hill?
  • How should I check traffic at an intersection?
  • What should I do for a tire blowout?

These are just a few “random” events I pulled from today’s Google Alert on truck crashes.

There are many driving situations that should be reviewed periodically with drivers. Top companies do this in the form of a newsletter, in the context of a safety meeting, a Qualcomm message, or a call from a dispatcher.

Prepare today for tomorrow’s random events. It will save lives and property and help keep everyone’s insurance rates down.

Thank you for reading this.









Driving Blind

blind driver

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. Helen Keller

An Eye Opener . . .

An opthamologist told of an eye exam he once preformed. The elderly patient casually remarked he had just driven over 1,400 miles, back from Florida.

“How did you manage that?”

“Oh, my wife tells me when to turn or to slow down.”

The man’s wife had no driver’s license and he was legally blind. Together they formed a driving team and had a system for “driving blind.”

Here are the stories of two commercial drivers who had their full eyesight, but it wasn’t on the road.

Driver A, 71 years old, was turning the corner 3.30 pm on January 29, 2014, when he hit a 52 year old woman. He had been waving to a fellow bus driver who had given way to him. He continued on for about 20m (65 feet) before stopping, trapping the woman under the bus for several hours. She died in the hospital. He was charged with negligent driving causing death and later pleaded guilty. According to the prosecutor, he was not looking right when he was turning right.

Driver B, is suspected by the prosecutor of watching a video while driving on I-405, when he slammed his truck into a disabled car, killing the 19 year old driver.  A post-accident analysis revealed an unexplainable 18 second delay in reacting to the car. The truck driver was not fined or criminally prosecuted for vehicular-homicide. The deceased driver’s family settled for $750,000 in insurance.

What The Research Says

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) has more than 475 employees and conducts research on transportation safety. Their studies have found:

  • The most dangerous tasks while driving are visual-manual in nature (reaching, typing, texting, writing, interacting with passengers, eating, drinking, or smoking).
  • Taking your eyes off the road to dial a cell phone or look up an address and send a text increases the risk of crashing by 600 to 2,300 percent.
  • The greatest, most serious distracting things in the vehicle today are handheld electronic devices.

The key point is that any time a driver takes his or her eyes off of the road to attend to other tasks, risk will increase. And the risk increases not by a small margin, but by a magnitude of hundreds of times.

“Even the researchers were amazed by the magnitude of the increase in risk.”


choking on Dr. Pepper

Hermitage, PA. This driver lost control after choking on a drink, destroying 23 new cars.

Among VTTI recommendations is: The public needs to be informed of the relative risks of the various tasks that are commonly accomplished in a moving vehicle.

Anything that a driver does that takes his or her focus and vision off of the road carries with it a high measure of risk, greater than most drivers seem to realize.

Now help spread the word.

Thank you for reading this.









Putting New Safety Technology to the Test

Freightliner Cascadia

New truck safety technology is a fact. Freightliner of St. Cloud in Central Minnesota is allowing truck purchasers the opportunity to become better acquainted with the Detroit Assurance suite of safety systems with a one-week test drive on a brand new Freightliner Cascadia.

The Detroit Assurance safety system fully integrates with the Detroit engine and transmission, the truck’s braking systems and dashboard to enhance driver safety with the following features:

  1. The Radar System senses when a vehicle is too close and then enables the Active Brake Assist feature to mitigate collisions, and Adaptive Cruise Control to adjust to traffic conditions.
  2. The Lane Departure Warning (LDW) is an optional system that uses a camera to track the truck’s position and provide warnings if the truck veers out of its lane.

The St. Cloud Times covered these systems in a video of a demo drive here.

Safety experts believe these technologies will be mandated in the next five to seven years as they contribute to accident avoidance. Early adopters may be rewarded with lower insurance premiums.


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.


No Driver Cell-Phone Policy? Policy Not Enforced? Not Good.


Just the Facts

3-8-2015 — Zachary Barngrover, 23, was driving a tractor-trailer and allegedly was on his cell phone when he was making a left from 43rd Street onto Ashland when he failed to keep a proper lookout and yield the right-of-way to a mother and her two kids, resulting in a triple-fatality accident.


5-13-2015 — Truck driver Miroslav Kuzmanovic, 22, was allegedly on his his cell phone and failed to reduce speed of his tractor-trailer, causing a chain reaction crash. He was charged with reckless homicide as well as four counts of wanton endangerment. and one offense for communications device violation.


July 08, 2015 — 36-year-old Jorge Espinoza of Yuma AZ was sentenced to six years in prison for second-degree murder for looking at his cellphone before an accident that killed an Arizona Highway Patrol officer, while driving a tractor-trailer.

A Growing Problem

It is believed that the use of cell phones is a factor in 25% of crashes. While many states ban cell phone and texting while driving, the effectiveness of cell phone and texting laws on decreasing distracted driving-related crashes requires further study according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The use of a hand-held mobile telephone according to the FMCSA means:

  • Using at least one hand to hold a mobile phone to make a call;
  • Dialing a mobile phone by pressing more than a single button; or
  • Reaching for a mobile phone in a manner that requires a driver to maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position, restrained by a seat belt.

DOT penalties can be up to $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers who allow or require drivers to use a hand-held communications device while driving.

One does not have to look at CSA Violations Summary listings to see truck drivers talking on a cell phone, texting or surfing the net.

Research by Virginia Tech shows that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) are 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who text while driving, than for those who do not

Cell Phone Use Countermeasures

Craft a crystal clear policy on the use of communication devices while driving.

Train dispatchers or supervisors not to talk to or text drivers while they are going about their business.

Encourage drivers not to communicate, call, text, or use electronic devices while driving.

Have drivers sign your cell phone / electronic device policy.

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

Please don’t call 989-474-9599 while I’m driving.





What is the #1 Safe Driving Behavior?

camera cops

Operation Peek-A-Boo on I-5

What is the one safe driver behavior every driver should do every time they drive?

Doing this one simple safe driving behavior:
• Would have saved 3 out of every 5 people killed in vehicle crashes.
• Reduces the risk of fatal or serious injury by up to 50%.
• Ensures driver control of the vehicle— when it is needed most.
• Protects the driver’s head, spinal cord, organs and limbs.
• In a rollover, a truck driver is 80% less likely to die.

Examples of not doing this safe driving behavior:

  • A Stockton, CA truck driver lost control of semi-truck and was killed.
  • Three Chicago-area movers were killed on a rain slicked road when their semi-truck jackknifed.
  • In fact, 35 percent of the truck drivers who died in 2012 were not doing this.

 But there is more to the story.

Researchers in one study have found that truck drivers who sometimes do this (7.8%) or never do this one behavior (about 6%), likely work for a company with no written safety program and engage in other risky behaviors as:

  • Driving ≥10 mph (16 kph) over the speed limit (5-7 CSA Severity Points),
  • Receiving two or more tickets for moving violations in the preceding 12 months (10 or more CSA Severity Points)

In the epoch of CSA, high insurance cost, and other associated costs of high-risk behaviors, who can afford such drivers?

Yet if one looks at the CSA Violation Summary of any organization or company pulled at random, they will generally find several citations for not doing this life-saving safe driving behavior— sometimes multiple citations for the same risky behavior.

Why don’t drivers do this?

Some reasons cited by drivers are because they:

  • Forgot to to do it. It’s not a habit
  • Are only travelling a short distance.
  • Can’t be bothered.
  •  “Feel safe” in a big rig.
  • No body will catch them.

Safe Driving Countermeasures

Implement a written safety program.

Monitor the CSA Violation Summary

Keep reminding drivers that they are required by federal regulations to do this and it is part of the job they signed on to do.

Provide job coaching and counseling for errant drivers.

As a last resort, use progressive discipline. Don’t settle for substandard behavior.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John E. Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599

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

false log

Roadside Inspectors follow Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) criteria for placing drivers Out-of-Service (OOS) for regulatory violations. During the stop the Roadside Inspector will ask the driver some basic questions about his or her recent activities and ask for today’s logsheet and the previous seven days’ worth, and possibly various supporting documents as trip bills, receipts, tolls, etc.

Some examples of Hours of Service (Part 395) violations resulting in an OOS include:

On Duty Beyond Maximum Periods Permitted
No driver shall drive after being on duty in excess of the maximum periods permitted by this part. Part 395.13 (b)(1).

No Record of Duty Status (RODS)
No record of duty status in possession, when one is required. Part 395.8(a)

No Previous 7 Days Logs
Failing to have in possession a record of duty status for the previous seven (7) consecutive days. Part (395.8(k)(2) — See Exception in Part 395.13(b)(3) – if the duty status is not current on the day of examination and the prior day, but driver has completed records of duty status up to that time (previous 6 days) — the driver will be given the opportunity to make the duty status record current, but may be cited for 395.8(f)(1) – Driver’s record of duty status not current (which is better than an OOS).

False Record of Duty Status
A false record of duty status is one that does not accurately reflect the driver’s actual activities and duty status (including time and location of each duty status change and the time spent in each duty status) in an apparent attempt to conceal a violation of an hours of service limitation within the current 60/70 hour rule period. Part 395.8(e)

Consequences of Being Placed Out-of-Service
• The driver must be placed Out-of-Service for ten (10) consecutive hours. The driver cannot drive any commercial motor vehicle while in OOS status.
• In addition, a driver may get a fine up to $200, per violation, per log-book page.
• The company may receive a $1,000 or greater fine by the FMCSA after a compliance audit or CSA intervention.
• The company will get CSA points.

Drivers can be placed Out-of-Service, if not medically fit, missing their prescription glasses or contacts, ill, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, not having a CDL in their possession, driving on a suspended license, etc.

Drivers should abide by any and all OOS orders. Fines to a company for violation of an OOS order can run in thousands of dollars and/or result in suspension of credentials to operate.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John E. Taratuta is an Independent Risk Engineer. Call (989) 474-9599 to chat him up.





Let’s Eliminate “Unsafe Driving”


Violation Summary

If one looks at their organization’s CSA Violation Summary, the list generally starts off with “Unsafe Driving” violations. Unsafe Driving is one of the six CSA Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).

Unsafe Driving violations vary from “392.16 Failing to use seat belt while operating CMV” (essential to maintain control of a vehicle), to “392.2Y Failure to yield right of way” (the leading cause of fatal crashes), to “392.82A1 Using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a CMV” (a factor in up to 25% of all crashes).

In short, Unsafe Driving violations get to the crux of safety. By definition, the unsafe driver is operating unsafely. The unsafe driver listing varies by company from zero violations to dozens, some reoccurring again and again and again. Congrats, if no such violations are listed on your CSA Violation Summary.

Turning a Blind Eye . . .

There is a leadership quote making the rounds these days. It goes like this:

“The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.”

An organization’s culture is how it gets things done. Safety culture is the reflection of attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to doing things safely or as safely as possible (free of risk).

Culture is the organization's immune system.

Another quote says:

“When the leader blinks, the entire organization turns a blind eye.”

How does this happen? How does one not see what is going on, sometimes, literally, “before their eyes?”

The concept of “willful blindness” originated in criminal law in the nineteenth century. One becomes willfully blind when there is knowledge that they could have had and should have had, but chose not to have, in order to evade responsibility.

I know there are companies that do not actively check their CSA scores. Sometimes they are not aware of CSA. In some situations, they have never been inspected by the DOT and have nothing to see. The most common excuse I hear is that resources are lacking. And it’s true, there is never enough time in the day when you are pulled in ten different directions. If so, then it’s time to prioritize and put safety-related activities back on the top of the to-do list.

Everyone should check their CSA scores to at least make sure that there are no DOT violations which were mistakenly listed. You can bet the insurance company will check the CSA scores when it comes time to set the premium.

Eliminating Unsafe Driving Violations

There is no secret to eliminating Unsafe Driving violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published a helpful brochure on this called, “Safety Management Cycle for the Unsafe Driving BASIC.” You may not agree with all of its suggestions, but this is a good place to start.

We should be able to agree that there is no place for unsafe drivers on U.S. roads. While we are not responsible for other driver’s behavior, we can influence our own drivers, and  eliminating Unsafe Driving violations is a good place to start. Here are some additional safety tools:

  1. Driver coaching is effective in changing unsafe behaviors. According to a study by Teletrac, up to 40% of drivers change their behavior after their first safety warning.
  2. Telematics can provide real time information on safety events as harsh acceleration or braking (when more force than normal is applied to the vehicle’s brake or accelerator), harsh cornering (the coffee-cup test— if the driver is cornering fast enough to spill a coffee cup, then it’s too fast of a turn), and speeding.
  3. Accident Event Recorders capture safety related events, both in front of the vehicle and/or inside the cab, with video technology. Insurers may offer a discount for their use.
  4. Pay attention to reports from the general public. At times, the reports may be unwarranted or unjustified. Look for patterns of unsafe driving behavior.
  5. Perform check rides. Most of us over-rate our own levels of performance. Periodic check rides provide drivers with feedback on their driving and safety skills.  For example, one Texas ready mix company with over 100 trucks has a retired driver doing check rides with every driver at least once a year,
  6. Set your own standard of safety. Ex. One large motor carrier bans all U-turns.

Finally, do not tolerate any Unsafe Driving. Vehicles are much larger, roads are congested and on some days, it’s really crazy out there. Taking unnecessary risks or turning a blind eye to those who do, invariably leads to unintended consequences . . . usually of the negative sort.

Rules don’t protect people; people protect themselves and each other by observing the rules, by following safe and healthy work practices without having to be reminded constantly. (Contractor′s Supplies, Inc., Toolbox Talk)

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599

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.

Deadly Com·pla·cen·cy

detached trailer

Any DOT Roadside Inspector with some experience will tell you one of the most shocking discoveries they make time and time again, are how many tractor-trailers they inspect with the trailer not secure to the tractor. In some cases the “jaw” is not secure to the trailer’s kingpin. In other cases, critical components like the kingpin are totally missing, but the trailer “sits” on the tractor.

Recent news tell of the deadly consequences of a trailer not secured to the power unit.

  • March 17, 2015 — Four people were killed and two injured after a trailer detached from the tractor on a foggy U.S. 27 in Palm Beach County, in Florida
  • April 7, 2015 — a semi-trailer detached on on South Park Avenue Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County, PA, killing an oncoming truck driver.
  • May 7, 2015 — a woman was killed when a trailer detached from the tractor on the I-5, south of the Kern and Kings counties line, near Bakersfield, CA.

Many trailer detachments occur on smaller roads and go unreported. Trailer detachments unfortunately are fairly common, but almost always preventable.

After a trailer detachment, the truck driver:

  • may be charged with homicide by vehicle or vehicular manslaughter, or Recklessly Endangering Other Persons
  • may have his CDL license suspended
  • may be put on probation or incarcerated
  • face civil court cases/lawsuits

An investigation by Lower Providence Township Police and the Montgomery County Detective Bureau revealed that on the morning of the fatal crash, the defendant (driver) failed to properly secure the trailer component of his tractor-trailer before setting out from a business in Reading, Berks County. (Police Report)

The truck driver is responsible for any trailer detachment. A dropped trailer is usually grounds for termination of employment. If the driver is not sure about the equipment condition, the driver has an obligation to inform management of his inspection and observations, and have the equipment professionally inspected, and if necessary, repaired. This would be evidenced by a mechanic’s signature on the Driver’s Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR), per FMCSA regulations.  All companies and carriers and drivers regulated by U.S. DOT are bound by FMCSA regulations. 

Criminal charges can be brought against drivers pulling a trailer that breaks free or becomes detached.

Training Competence

Never assume a new driver knows how to drop and hook. This aspect of driving is not on the CDL test and therefore is not always practiced. It is possible to have a CDL driver who has never dropped or hooked a trailer in his life.

tractor with no fifth wheel hitch

This “tractor” in a CDL school has no fifth wheel.


Drivers must visually inspect the jaws/kingpin each time before they set out.

Drivers must visually inspect the jaws/kingpin each time they leave the truck and trailer unattended.

Drivers must preform trailer hook-up procedures according to accepted safety practices or manufacturer’s guidelines including: setting proper lineups and heights, doing several pull tests, visual inspections, brake tests, checking to ensure the 5th wheel is free of ice, snow, excessive grease or any other debris, etc.

Management has a duty to be knowledgeable on safety policies and FMCSA regulations.

Management has a duty to enforce safety policies and FMCSA regulations.

Cold weather can affect hook-ups. The locking mechanism may need extra time to work in very cold conditions.

Proper uncoupling procedures are important as well, and uncoupling should be done in mind with making the hook-up as safe and as easy as possible.

Thank you for reading this.

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer and driver trainer. (989) 474-9599

It’s All in the Hands . . .


Ingrained Habits . . .

The above picture shows a truck driving student in simulator training. One could argue that the “hands-on” training will probably include safer steering methods, but if so, why not start out the right way from day one?

Keeping a motor vehicle under control at all times is important. This is the essence of driving, defined as:

  • the control and operation of a motor vehicle
  • to direct the movement of (a car, truck, bus, etc.)
  • to move in a specified manner or direction.

Advanced driving classes teach steering techniques as chopping the wheel to mitigate a front wheel skid or the importance of having an “out” and steering around a hazard rather than locking the brakes and crashing into it. But without two hands on the wheel, a second’s delay can make it too late to respond to an emergency.

Vehicle Control 101 – The Basics

  • Two hands on wheel, unless shifting
  • Drivers should not shift while turning or making turns
  • Drivers should not “palm” the steering wheel or rest their hands or fingers on the spokes of the wheel.*

*In a crash, a rack and pinion steering system can transmit crash forces to the steering wheel, injuring the driver’s hands.

hands on wheel

Top Tip: Keep your hands on the outside of the steering wheel—at all times.

Thanks for reading this.

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599



Back to School . . . Safe Driving Tips for Bus Drivers

school buses

Today for many school districts across the U.S marks the official start of school. Hundreds of thousands of yellow school buses hit the roads carrying millions of students. Now is a good time to review some defensive driving techniques for bus drivers (and the rest of us).

1. It’s All about Attitude

Defensive driving is an attitude toward driving.

Fact: Surveys show that half of the population believes they will never get into an accident. “It can’t happen to me.” Another interesting statistic: most drivers involved in a fatal accident have never been in an accident before. In some cases their first accident will be their last.

Developing a defensive driving attitude among fleet drivers can reduce accidents and incidents by 25% up to 33% percent. Driving attitudes are important and the most important attitude is to drive defensively.

2. Bad Habits Die Hard

Over time, we all develop bad driving habits. It might be in putting on the turn signal late . . . or not at all, or stopping past the stop line, . . . or making rolling stops, etc. We get away with bad habits because other drivers have to compensate for them. They have to hesitate or second guess our intentions. This can lead to frustration, anger and even road rage.

There is only one cure for bad driving habits: bad driving habits need to be replaced by good driving  habits. Good driving habits are never automatic. Good driving habits take time and a lot of work to develop.

Top Tip: A number of bus accidents occur when the vehicle is empty. Don’t relax your defensive driving when the bus isn’t hauling students anymore.

3. It’s all about Managing Time and Managing Space

Did you know that most (up to 90%) motor vehicle accidents are avoidable? That’s a chilling thought when one looks at the annual statistics. The key is in managing time and managing space. There are many examples and situations where this principle can be applied.

For example, approximately thirty percent of accidents in the U.S. are rear-end collisions, By staying back at least four seconds (depending on the speed and/or weather conditions) when following another vehicle, it’s extremely unlikely a rear-end collision will occur.

Backing accidents can be avoided three ways (1.) don’t back, if possible (2.) back in position immediately upon arrival, so you don’t have to back out blind later, (3.) always have an adult spotter to assist in backing.

There are many examples of a driver giving him/herself more time and/or more space leads to accident and risk avoidance. It has been estimated that up to 90% of accidents could have been avoided if the driver involved had one extra second. Managing time and managing space can give a driver several seconds extra time to respond to a situation and avoid a collision.

4. Manage the Blind Spots

Every vehicle has blind spots, where nearby things appear invisible. Mirrors get bumped, get loose, get knocked out of adjustment. Mirrors need to be checked everyday, and adjusted if necessary.

Another blind spot is found behind the the “A” pillar, on the ends of the windshield.


The A-Pillar blind spot can hide a pedestrian in the crosswalk, motorcycle or even blend in to hide a tractor-trailer. Savvy defensive drivers have learned the Rock & Roll (or Crunch and Lean) technique to “rock and roll” in the seat, to look around the A-Pillar and other blind spots

Tip: Spend at least a full second in each mirror. 


5. Slow Down

Driving slower helps in management of time and space, allows for processing of multiple risks at the same time, or to deal with emergencies. In fact, driving slower may even be the law. For example, drivers should slow down BEFORE a curve or turn. Keep at least 10 miles under the posted curve speed. The posted curve speed is for cars not buses or other commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).


Proper speed (and space) management means:

  • Positioning your vehicle between clusters of vehicles to your front and rear. Don’t ride bunched with other vehicles in a “platoon” or “wolf pack.”
  • Positioning your vehicle for the greatest visibility that allows you to “see and be seen” by other drivers.
  • Positioning your vehicle in a lane position for maneuverability. Leave yourself an “out.”

6. Beware of the Risks While Driving

  • Drivers on their cell phones
  • Highway-rail crossings / train tracks
  • Parking lots
  • Inattentive drivers
  • Distracted drivers

(To name a few.) Look for and identify risks. One definition of safety is to be risk free. But risks need to be seen before they can be dealt with effectively. Make it a habit of actively looking for risks. Be on constant alert for new hazards. Once a risk or hazard has been identified, then take measures to avoid the risk/hazard situation.

reflective vest


One school district has bus drivers wear a reflective vest during their pre-trip inspection.


Defensive driving is an attitude. Every driver can choose to drive a little better by driving defensively. Often we are aware of everyone else’s bad habits. It’s much harder to identify and hopefully change our own bad driving habits. One effective way to drive defensively is by managing time and space to allow a safety factor for other driver’s mistakes. Knowing our blind spots and properly adjusting mirrors and properly using the mirrors helps to avoid collisions. Rock and roll in the seat to see around the A-Pillars. Slow down and manage vehicle position to see better and to be seen. Use the lane position that gives you the best line of sight and path of travel. Look for new risks and hazards while driving and have a plan to deal with them.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599


Operation Airbrake Inspection Procedures

Roadside Inspection

Brake Safety Week is an annual nationwide enforcement program focused on improvement of commercial vehicle brake safety throughout North America.

National Brake Safety Week, starts Sunday September 6th and runs through Sept. 12.

Inspection Items (from CVSA

  • Driver License
  • Registration
  • Low Air Warning Device
  • Pushrod Travel (Adjustment)
  • Brake Linings/Drums
  • Air Loss Rate (If leak detected)
  • Tractor Protection System

Brake inspections conducted during Brake Safety Week include inspection of brake-system components to identify:

  • Loose or missing parts,
  • Air or hydraulic fluid leaks,
  • Worn linings, pads, drums or rotors, and
  • Other faulty brake-system components.

Antilock braking systems (ABS) malfunction indicator lamps also are checked. Inspectors will inspect brake components and measure the pushrod stroke when appropriate. Defective or out-of-adjustment brakes will result in the vehicle being placed out of service.

Results for 2014

Of the vehicles inspected, the Out-of-Service (OOS) rate for all brake-related violations conducted in North America was 16.2 percent, compared with 13.5 percent for the 2013 event. The OOS rate for brake adjustment rose to 10.4 percent from 9.0 percent in 2013. The OOS rate for brake components was 9.3 percent, up from 7.1 percent in 2013.

Note: All brakes and equipment need to be 100% (zero defects, zero mechanical faults) every time a commercial motor vehicle leaves the yard. That is the standard under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Most, do, meet that standard.


Semi-truck driver wasn’t paying attention . . .

I-94_PawPaw 9-3-15

Date: 09/03/2015  Time: 14:15 hours ET.

Location: East bound I-94, near exit 60.

Vehicles Involved: Two tractor-trailers and five cars.

Sequence of events: Traffic was stopped or slowed for construction (crews were putting out a grass fire that may have been distracting), when a tractor-trailer fully loaded with apple pulp ran into the back of an SUV. That vehicle was pushed into a Pontiac car. The tractor-trailer ended up off of the road, on its side.


  • Four vehicle occupants were transported to area hospitals; two were critically hurt.
  • Seven people were treated at the scene
  • One fatality, male, age 72, from  Illinois man,  former Illinois state representative and college professor. The victim’s wife is hospitalized in serious condition.
  • Several vehicles were totaled.
  • Traffic was rerouted for at least three hours.

Probable cause of collision: ‘Inattentive’ semi-truck driver.

“Police said the semi-truck driver wasn’t paying attention and didn’t slow down for construction in the area.”

Michigan State Police, Lt. Dale Hinz of the Paw Paw Post said the tractor-trailer driver is considered “at-fault” The driver was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

“Hinz said police are investigating why the truck driver was not paying attention to the road at the time of the crash.”

What is Inattentive Driving?

Inattentive driving is the failure to pay proper attention to the road while driving.

“Operating a motor vehicle in a manner which shows a lack of that degree of attentiveness required to safely operate the vehicle under the prevailing conditions, including but not limited to: the nature and condition of the roadway, presence of other traffic, presence of pedestrians and weather conditions.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) holds that driver inattention is a major factor in most serious traffic crashes. In one study, NHTSA defined driver inattention as:

  1. Driver engagement in secondary tasks (those tasks not necessary to the primary task of driving)
  2. Driver drowsiness
  3. Driving-related inattention to the forward roadway
  4. Non-specific eye glance away from the forward roadway

dumptruck in wires

Inattention comes in many forms.

Studies Show . . .

According to attentional theory, our minds cannot simultaneously make sense of constant inputs from many sources. Intensely focusing on one particular thing can lead to a form of invisibility known as inattentional blindness, leading researchers to conclude that “the most effective cloaking device is the human mind.”


Gorilla spotting

In a now famous experiment, half of viewers did not recall seeing the gorilla in the video when asked to count how many times white-shirted players passed the ball.

Said one researcher, “Most of us are unaware of the limits of our attention—and therein lies the real danger.”

In commercial vehicle driving, inattention can be sometimes caused by white-line fever or highway hypnosis, hypnotic state induced by the monotony of driving a motor vehicle, usually on long, straight roads.

Driver inattention may be due to distractions as personal problems, emotional trauma, and a number of other factors. There is on-going research to determine the causes of driver inattention and driver distractions leading to collisions and other safety incidents and events.

Fact: Driver inattention is a growing problem.

Countermeasures to Inattentive Driving

  • Encourage “mindful driving.”
  • Commercial drivers need to cultivate a proper attentive mindset.
  • Drivers should not take any phone calls when driving.
  • Train drivers in proper mapping and route planning techniques.
  • Drivers should know how to manage breaks and take them when needed.
  • Motors carriers need strict, enforced policies on driver use of new technologies while driving.
  • Motors carriers need to investigate and deploy new technologies where appropriate for their particular operational needs.
  • Motor carriers need Fatigue Management Programs, according to the NTSB.

Finally, there is a key upside: “Our ability to ignore distractions around us allows us to retain our focus.”

Safe driving is possible. Good safety and loss control practices and polices can turn your transportation operations into the profit center you intended it to be.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe weekend.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599








Preventing Roll-overs of Pedestrians


Pedestrian fatalities average about 8% to 10% of all motor vehicle fatalities each year. Tragically, some involve trucks, as recent headlines show:

• A 46-year-old woman was killed when a private sanitation truck struck her as she crossed a street.
• An 82-Year-Old Brooklyn Woman Killed by Dump Truck as she crossed a street.
• A 46 year driver was run over by two sets of the trailer’s dual wheels. He is permanently disabled after suffering 30 surgeries costing over $2 million dollars.
• A 28-year-old TN man was run over by semi-trailer in a parking lot

As each situation accident or incident are different, there are no easy and fast rules that will cover every circumstance. Drivers and safety leaders, however, should be able to construct good safety practices from a solid understanding of safety principles; understanding that knowing safety principles should be more important than memorizing “best practices.”

Drivers need to be aware that:

(1.) Many crosswalks will not allow enough time for a pedestrian to cross by the time the light turns green.

(2.) Pedestrians have right of way. Vehicles must always yield to pedestrians, and/or be ready to yield.

(3.) Children have no traffic sense. Children will dart in the street, often unexpectedly. Slow down near schools, playgrounds, and areas marked “children playing.” (Slow means about 25 MPH or less).


In addition, truck drivers should:

(4) Always check under an *unattended trailer and around the wheels, especially in times of low lighting and visibility as at night or early morning, or evenings (especially where alcohol is served). Carry a good flashlight (with extra batteries) for this purpose.


(5.) Stop well behind the crosswalk at intersections. Be able to see the crosswalk when stopped. There is a huge blind spot in front of the hood of many trucks and buses. Watch out for people in walkers or in wheelchairs, and the very young and old..

(6.) Be prepared to stop and yield in making any turn at any intersection

(7.) Always maintain visibility of any helpers, spotters, lumpers or other crewmembers, especially when backing or making turns. Maintain eye contact.

(8.) Always set the brakes when parking the vehicle, even for a short time. (Yes, this needs to be repeated.)

(9.) Idle forward slowly when starting to move forward. “Green” always means proceed cautiously, not “go.”

(10.) NEVER APPLY FUEL WHEN BACKING. Idle backwards.

(11.) Warn others of your intentions when backing with two taps of the horn: One tap to get attention, the second tap is the warning. Use the emergency lights when backing.

(12.) Maintain what is called situational awareness — know what is going on around you.

Thank you for reading this. Please pass this on to your safety department and/or drivers.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is a independent Risk Engineer and former Truck Driving School operator. (989) 474-9599 


* Q. What is an “unattended” trailer?

A. The phrase unattended truck or trailer has been defined by a well-known insurance company as:

“A truck which has been left without a responsible person whose duty is to drive, guard, or attend the truck being either on, in, or within ten yards of the truck.”



Why do Trucks Crash?

Jan. 9, 2015 I-94 Pileup near Galesburg, MI

Over a period of 33 months, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS). Of 141,000 large truck crashes, a sample of 963 crashes involving 1,123 large trucks and 959 motor vehicles that were not large trucks, were studied and field data gathered.

Crash reconstruction experts rarely conclude that crashes are the result of a single factor. . . . In the LTCCS, ‘causation’ is defined in terms of the factors that are most likely to increase the risk that large trucks will be involved in serious crashes. 

Driver critical reasons leading to the Critical Event (the crash) were coded in four categories:

  • Non-Performance: The driver fell asleep, was disabled by a heart attack or seizure, or was physically impaired for another reason. (12%)
  • Recognition: The driver was inattentive, was distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle, or failed to observe the situation adequately for some other reason. (28%)
  • Decision: For example, the driver was driving too fast for conditions, misjudged the speed of other vehicles, or followed other vehicles too closely. (38%)
  • Performance: For example, the driver panicked, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control. (9%)

Top 10 “Causative” Factors – Trucks 

  • Overweight (vehicle factor)
  • Making an illegal maneuver
  • Inadequate surveillance
  • Traveling too fast for conditions
  • Inattention
  • Following too close
  • Misjudgment of gap or other’s speed
  • Stop required before crash (roadway factor)
  • External distraction
  • Brake problems (vehicle factor)

(Factors in a study are also called independent variables, not changeable by other factors or variables.)

Seven of the Top 10 were driver factors, involving inadequate recognition or poor decisions. Two were vehicle factors: trucks being overweight, and trucks with brake problems. One factor was a roadway factor: a stop was required by a red light, congestion, work zone signal, etc.

It is well recognized that human error is the dominant contributing factor to motor vehicle crashes, although vehicle features and driving conditions may also affect crash risks in a road transport system composed of human, vehicle and driving environments. Lei Li – Monash University, Karl Kim-University of Hawaii at Manoa, J. R. Statist. Soc. A (2000)


Michigan State Police FACT Study

From 1996 to 2001, the Michigan State Police Motor Carrier Enforcement Division (MCD) sponsored the Fatal Accident Complaint Team (FACT) program to collect data on fatal commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crashes in Michigan.


In the majority of fatal truck crashes, the FACT data show 58.8 percent of the critical events resulted from the action of another vehicle, 6.0 percent from the action of a pedestrian or pedalcyclist, 20.9 percent from the action of a truck driver, and 6.0 percent from loss of control of a large truck.

Accident Prevention and Countermeasures

  • Reduce accident rates by establishing a company standard for safe driving.
  • Keep a current, updated safety manual for your drivers and instruct drivers on the company standard.
  • Have a formal fleet safety program and review its effectiveness.
  • Monitor driver qualifications and any driver safety infractions. Recognize and reward safe driving.
  • Accident countermeasures are examples of Defensive Driving strategies designed to reduce preventable accidents. A preventable accident is one which occurs because the driver fails to act in a reasonably expected manner to prevent it.


All the studies and data I have come across point to the preventability of most motor vehicle accidents. It’s a well known fact that changes can result in unintended consequences. Rapid growth can result in a lowering of recruiting standards. An economic downturn or loss of a large account can result in lower vehicle or maintenance standards or cutting of driver training and safety programs. The consequences show up months or years later. By then, the new standards are set and change is very difficult.

Thank you for stopping by.

Stay alert. Stay alive.

J Taratuta John Taratuta (989) 474-9599 @part380

Beware: Murphy’s Law in Passing Under Bridges . . .

East End Bridge

Murphy’s law says: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

There are some safety events and incidents that can almost be predicted. Chicago has many rail lines running in it, through it and around it including the L-line and six of the seven biggest railroads in the U.S., channeling more than 1,300 trains a day. Storrow and Memorial Drive in Boston is famous for its low-clearance overpasses and bridge strikes.

Another town, 12 miles southwest of Boston, is becoming famous as a graveyard for trucks. The East Street Bridge in Westwood, MA, with a clearance of 10 feet 6 inches, has claimed 15 trucks in 2014 and it looks like 2015 may break that record.

Most of the crashes were box trucks, but the toll included:

  • a cement truck
  • several fuel delivery trucks
  • a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus (the bridge is owned by MBTA)

Violent end

Police records show the East Street Bridge has been hit many times over the years. Police have installed a camera at the location. A low clearance sign on the bridge was recently knocked off, but there are several other signs leading up to the bridge, including the small sign in the lower right hand of the picture. A number of construction warning signs, shown in the photo, might have been distracting . . .

 Bridge strikeNobody has a solution for the East Street Bridge.

Here are a few tips to avoid Murphy’s Law when driving under a low-clearance bridge:

  • Be aware that advance warning signs are not provided at all low bridges. Signs are stolen, fade away, or are sometimes missing.
  • Some posted sign heights are not always correct. Sometimes the road has been repaved and several inches of clearance has disappeared.


  • bridgingSometimes the front of the vehicle will clear the bridge but the road may rise and this will force the middle of the truck into the bridge. This is called “bridging.”
  • GPS may route a commercial vehicle under a low-clearance bridge. 
  • Following approved routes may not guarantee the absence of a low-clearance bridge or overpass.
  • Ask drivers during their road test or check rides the bridge height, after they have passed under the bridge.
  • Ask drivers the height of the vehicle they are driving. In the UK the height must be posted on the dash by law.

 Having delivered in Chicago and Boston, my approach to clearing a low-clearance bridge or a bridge of unknown clearance is to:

  • Put the 4-ways or warning lights on.
  • Pull up the bridge and check the clearance.
  • Proceed slowly. Stop and check again, if necessary.

In one situation, I had the bottom of bolts from under the bridge start to rub the roof of the truck. I needed to back the truck out. Another driver told me he had to stop when a train went overhead because the bridge deflected under the weight of the train and the bolts were touching his trailer.

Beware of Murphy’s Law

Currently there is a program in Chicago called Create (an acronym for Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program), that will replace 25 rail intersections with overpasses and underpasses. But that is a drop in the bucket to the thousands of low bridges and low-clearance overpasses in the U.S. and the many more ill-prepared drivers.

The most important safety device in a truck is the windshield, with an alert driver sitting behind it.

Stay alert. Stay alive.

Thank you for reading this.

 J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599