When the Gales of November Come Early . . .


Living in Michigan, one is surrounded by the Great Lakes and its ships. In its day, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest ship on the Great Lakes. Today marks the 40th anniversary of the day on November 10, 1975 when the Fitzgerald went down with its crew.

Nobody really knows what happened. It’s still a mystery. The Fitzgerald reported some problems and then it was gone. There were no survivors. The ship and its crew were memorialized in the 1976 hit song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

November is a Time of Transition

We don’t want to think about it, but somewhere in the U.S., depending on the altitude and location, it’s already snowing and blowing. Now is the time to be proactive and start thinking about the cold weather.

This not only means winterizing the fleet, but developing a winter mindset as well. Get ready for the cold starts, frozen brake lines and sticky fifth wheel locking mechanisms.

Here are some often overlooked areas . . .

Make sure all the grease buildup on the fifth wheel is removed in and around the lock jaw, throat and the pivot points. Degrease, clean, and inspect the fifth wheel. Follow the manufactures’ guidance. Be sure to lube it with water-resistant lithium grease — on all of the fifth wheel-to-trailer contact surfaces. This needs to be done.

Be aware of new “solid precipitation” laws that cover snow, ice, hail and sleet on a moving motor vehicle. States without specific snow/ice removal laws may charge drivers for “negligent driving” — or operating in a way that endangers or is likely to endanger another person or property.

Southern drivers . . . if you are delivering in the snow belt, note that your tires will be warm coming off the road. Parking on the snowpack in a truckstop or dock may result in the warm tires melting the snow and forming ice. Don’t spin the drive wheels. Feather the fuel. If the drives start to spin, then stop.  Try the interlock, if the truck is equipped with one. Another winter tactic is to start off in a gear or two higher. This helps to keep the wheels from spinning. Sand should help stop a spin. Backing up and placing a chain under the tire may provide traction. Don’t spin your wheels is always sound advice.

Control of speed in inclement weather is essential. The contact patch of each tire is a little more than the palm of one’s hand. This means that slamming on the brakes on a snow-covered road can easily result in a jack-knife or the truck doing a 180-degree turn. Ice or wet ice is much worse . . .

 jackknifed while avoiding an accident


Raleigh, NC— On Monday, this truck jackknifed while trying to avoid an accident.




When the Gales of November Come Early

When the gales of November come early, we need to change our driving mind-set. Everything just takes longer from the get-go. Slow down on those wet or snow-covered roads and get set to enjoy the ride.

Thank you for reading this.

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.



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.


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.

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.” uslegal.com

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








Safety Matters


Here’s Your Sign!

Almost everywhere there is another sign, poster, message, tweet or blog about safety. Safety is a national obsession. Safety, we are told, is job 1.

Various permutations of safety spawn forth on almost a daily basis in various forms of risk management, loss control, safety engineering, industrial hygiene, and other disciplines. This is due in part to changes in law, technology, and even the economy. Preventing or mitigating accidents just makes sense.

The loss of a breadwinner or a family member is devastating. Any accident has severe consequences for a business or organization. This we know. So the real issue is not why but how?

How do we get people to pay attention or increase awareness? And, how can we encourage them, if they see the warning signs and red flags, not to ignore them? How can we change attitudes? How do we increase not just knowledge, but understanding?

These are difficult questions. Whole departments (safety, risk, loss control) in some organizations are dedicated to answering these questions. Every year the various levels of local, state, and federal government pass thousands of new laws and regulations in the name of safety. When safety morphs into the dreaded word compliance, this alone makes safety challenging, As a risk engineer and safety consultant I find that I, too, must dedicate an increasing amount of time on almost a weekly, if not daily basis in keeping up with the new changes, mandates and constant revisions.

By the Numbers

For the last 15 years the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety has released its Workplace Safety Index, a ranking of the top 10 leading causes of workplace injuries and their costs in terms of workers compensation. The 2014 Workplace Safety Index (using data from 2012), ranks workplace injuries and comp costs as follows:

1. Overexertion $15.1B 25.3%
2. Falls on same level $9.19B 15.4%
3. Struck by object or equipment $5.3B 8.9%
4. Falls to lower level $5.12B 8.6%
5. Other exertions or bodily reactions $4.27B 7.2%
6. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle $3.18B   5.3%
7. Slip or trip without fall $2.17B 3.6%
8. Caught in/compressed by equipment or objects $2.1B 3.5%
9. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks $1.84B 3.1%
10. Struck against object or equipment $1.76B 2.9%

The Real Costs

The true costs of accidents are much greater and often hidden. For example, this chart does not tell us that fatal injuries to truck drivers increased in 2010, 2011, and 2012 ( U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Other transportation related statistics from the BLS show:

  • For delivery drivers, 13 percent of the injuries and illnesses were due to transportation incidents, which trailed overexertion and bodily reaction (41 percent); falls, slips, and trips (23 percent); and contact with object or equipment (19 percent).
  • For tractor-trailer drivers, the leading causes of nonfatal cases also were overexertion and bodily reaction (35 percent); falls, slips, and trips (30 percent); contact with object or equipment (17 percent); and transportation incidents (14 percent).
  • Among injured tractor-trailer truck drivers with injuries requiring days away from work, 62 percent were age 45 or older.
  • The median number of days away from work for tractor-trailer truck drivers was 19, and the median for delivery truck drivers was 15.

Truck drivers experienced higher than average rates of both fatal injuries and nonfatal injuries and illnesses compared with all private industry occupations in 2012. Over the 2003 to 2012 period, the number of both fatal injuries and nonfatal injuries and illnesses to truck drivers decreased. The majority of fatal injuries were from transportation incidents, although nonfatal cases were more likely caused by overexertion, falls, and contact with objects.— U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The numbers show that driving is a hazard prone profession and we need to continue to put forward our best efforts in creating work environments in which safety matters.

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

Driver Accident Histories


History repeats itself, goes the old saying.

One history every employer with drivers needs to study is their drivers’ driving history, both at the time of hire and during the annual review. This history is contained in a driver’s “abstract” or motor vehicle record (MVR).

TIP: Review the MVR first to find out if their driving history is acceptable.

Not every employer investigates their drivers MVRs. Sometimes the employer believes this step is not necessary because they feel they know the driver or that having proof of a license is proof enough they can drive. But in not doing so, employers are ignoring a good driver management tool.

The Science of Driver Selection

One major study by the California DMV of 160,000 randomly selected drivers has found that history indeed can repeat itself to a certain extent. It found that when looking over the past three years of data, compared to a driver who has had no accidents, a driver with one or more accidents has a higher likelihood of a future accident in the next three years. To wit:

  • A driver with one accident is 2 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with two accidents is 2.3 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with three accidents is 3.2 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with four accidents is 4 times as likely to have a future accident.

Traffic Violation History
Drivers who have had one or more traffic violations in the last three years, when compared to a driver with no traffic violations, are also more likely to have a future accident:

  • A driver with one conviction is 1.7 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with two convictions is 2.2 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with three convictions is 2.6 times as likely to have a future accident.
  • A driver with four convictions is 3.1 times as likely to have a future accident.

Keep in mind, this study is about vast groups of drivers and is not predictive about individual drivers. Other future crash indicators beside an increased prior citation frequency or increased prior accident frequency cited by this study include:

  • Being young
  • Being male
  • Having one or more Physical &Mental (P&M) conditions on record
  • Having one or more driver license restrictions on record
  • A higher median income within a ZIP-Code area, or
  • Having a commercial driver license (which is mostly held by high-mileage professional drivers).

Principles of Evaluating MVRs

There are several principles that organizations employing best practices adhere to in evaluating a MVR:

  1. Frequency of accidents/traffic citations is more significant than their severity.
  2. A recent history of of accidents/traffic citations is more significant than an older history.

In addition to the above future crash indicators an organization could consider these additional risk factors:

Driving experience and the type of equipment
Number of jobs held
Was the driver terminated or did he resign?
Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) roadside violations

Typical hiring disqualifiers in the last three years include:

  • Two Accidents
  • One accident and two traffic violations
  • License suspension or revocation
  • One or more Serious violations, including:
  • Reckless/Careless driving
    Hit and Run
    Leaving the scene of an accident
    Disobeying an emergency vehicle
    Failure to stop for a school bus
    Failure to stop for an officer
    Open alcohol in a vehicle.

Objective organizational guidelines, policies and procedures should be put in place for both hiring and retention. If your organization has only one driver, you should have these  guidelines, policies and procedures in place. In the current economic climate insurance companies are putting a greater emphasis on underwriting (quality control) and loss control (accident and risk avoidance). Often, in my experience, employers are stumped when they are asked how many accidents or traffic convictions a driver may have and be hired or kept as a driver. Not giving the matter much consideration could result in higher insurance premiums.

In addition to hiring considerations, an MVR can indicate if a driver is in need of counseling or coaching, additional training, or does not meet your standards.

Click here for more information on the Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP).




Valleys of Death: A Memoir of the Korean War

Valleys of Death


From time to time I read books and some I find noteworthy. This is one of the books.

The Korean War is sometimes called the “Forgotten War.” The numbers are staggering: 36,940 American dead, 92,134 wounded, 3,737 MIAs and 4,439 POWs. Behind every one of the numbers is a story. Valleys of Death is Bill Richardson’s personal story of the Korean War.

Bill Richardson was too young for the Second World War, but by 1950 already had had four years in the Army and was due to be discharged. The only thing was that he didn’t want out of the Army and he had to fight to re-enlist. This is were he begins his saga.

As corporal he was given leadership responsibilities as a weapons platoon NCO or non-commissioned officer. Getting ready for war, Richardson soon comes to the conclusion that readiness on the part of the Army for this war was lacking.

From training onward, Richardson takes charge. Soon, perhaps too soon, he and his men are in Korea. The war has been in progress for several months and the North had the initial advantage. This would soon change as Richardson and his men fight hill to hill, hills with names like Hill 570, Hill 314, 401, 307 and many others. Here both enemy and friends fell under the North’s relentless, fanatical “human assault” attacks. By October 1950, his battalion suffered 465 casualties since its arrival in August.

By Fall, Richardson finds himself north of the 38th parallel in Pyongyang. Luck changes quickly for Richardson when the Chinese Army adds 200,000 of their regulars to the mix.

Richardson’s position is overrun by the Chinese. He regroups, fights back numerous assaults and attempts a breakout. Capture is followed by a death march and then a death camp. Richardson is now officially listed as Missing in Action. Richardson stays alive by sheer willpower as 30 to 40 prisoners die everyday because of the horrid conditions. “Starvation, lice, beatings.” After several years things start to improve and then the war ends.


One life lesson Richardson discovered was that “suffering is part of the human experience and can be overcome. A good lesson and one that I’d learned through experience.”

Key to Richardson’s survival was inculcating a personal will to survive. Richardson saw strong men give up and heroes emerge from unexpected quarters.

Keep taking calculated risks and prepare for opportunity. Richardson escaped when he could and made other plans to escape should the opportunity present itself.

Never give up.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover (December 7, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0425236730
Available as a Kindle download.

The Korean War should be remain etched in our memory and Richardson’s story helps us to remember.

Govt. Affairs: Nutting reports “Obama spending binge never happened”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”  Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961 Military-Industrial Complex Speech

An article by Rex Nutting, appearing in Marketwatch, says you just don’t understand how to read a budget: if you did, then you would realize Presidents Obama and Clinton were the most fiscally conservative Presidents of all time and Presidents Reagan and Bush II were the biggest spenders of all time.


Whether or not you agree with Nutting’s observation :

(1) Public outlays are an increasingly larger proportion of the US economy each year.* This has the effect of limiting available capital for economic expansion, innovation and long term economic growth.

(2) “Deficit spending” (when spending exceeds income) is an increasingly larger proportion of the federal budget each year, leading to inflation or the danger, as President Eisenhower warned, of becoming “the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” 

(3) The federal government has been running without a budget for over three years: there is a complete lack of accountability for federal spending.


*The Heritage Foundation points out that, “public spending by all levels of government now exceeds one-third of total domestic output. . . . Spending at the national level rose to over 25 percent of GDP in 2010, and gross public debt surpassed 100 percent of GDP in 2011.”

The last time the US government outlays have been at this level of spending as compared to the GDP was during a time of national crisis that only few can remember, World War II.

Government is simply spending too much, borrowing too much, and growing too big. It’s time to heed President Eisenhower’s warning about the loss of our heritage of freedom.

To avoid DOT fines and actions, please visit http://www.part380.com/