Texting & Trucking . . . A Deadly Combo

total crash

Why Didn’t You Stop?

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

Johnson had no answer.

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

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

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

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

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

Texting is an Industry Problem

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

“Everybody does it,” said one trucker.

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

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

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

Driver Safety Rules

Rules of the road

The Rules of the Road

Every organization with motor vehicles not only needs policies and procedures, but some basic safety rules as well.

There is no magic number of how many or how few rules are appropriate. Rules need to be reasonable and reflect the scope of your operations.

Driver Safety Rules

Drivers are responsible for complying with all rules, including:

  • Before driving, check that all occupants (incl. the driver) are wearing a seat belt.
  • Drive the vehicle with the headlights illuminated.
  • Unlicensed/unauthorized persons cannot operate a company motor vehicle. You may not gave them permission to operate any company vehicle.
  • If impaired, affected or influenced by alcohol, illegal drugs, medication, illness, fatigue, or injury, do not operate a company motor vehicle.
  • Distractions are a leading root cause in many crashes. While driving never engage in activities as using a cell phone for talking or texting, eating, using a computer, GPS or MP3 player, applying makeup, reading, looking at maps, or any other activity that takes a person’s eyes or attention away from driving. 
  • Radar detectors are illegal.
  • Obey the posted maximum (or any minimum) speed limits at all times.
  • Hitchhikers or unauthorized passengers are not allowed inside the motor vehicle.
  • A motor vehicle that is mechanically unsafe to operate need to be repaired before it is driven.
  • Secure any cargo or equipment on or in the vehicle, before driving.
  • Move to another traffic lane or slow down when approaching an emergency vehicle along the side of the roadway
  • Observe all state and local laws while operating the motor vehicle
  • Never accept or take payments or gifts for carrying passengers, freight, or materials not authorized by the company
  • Never push or pull another vehicle or tow a trailer without company authorization.
  • Never transport flammable liquids and gases without prior authorization. If authorized, only DOT or UL approved containers are to be used, and only in limited quantities when necessary
  • Use only issued reflective triangles for emergency stops. Ignition or burning flares can be a fire hazard or burn out in a short time.

Each organization should have its own, custom driving safety rules, depending on its operations. For example, if drivers work near traffic, that might include the mandatory use of proper personal protection equipment (PPE) as reflective vests.

Positive Rules are Better Than ‘Negative Rules’

Harvey Penick was the head “pro” at the Austin Country Club for almost 50 years. Penick put down his observations on teaching over the years in his book, Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book.

One of Penick’s techniques while instructing golfers was to always be positive. He would tell anyone he was coaching only what to do to get something right— not what they shouldn’t do.

This is a good practice in writing organizational safety rules. Keep things positive as much as possible. If we expect positive results, we need to be positive at all times.

Another national company I worked with replaced the phase, “You must . . .” with “You need to . . .”  It just sounds better when communicating.

Subtle changes like these can help make the difference in creating a high performance organization.

Thank you for reading this.

 

Drivers . . . Chock Your Wheels

Roll-away_mixerReady Mix Trucks Rolls Away

A 48-year-old ready mix truck driver was fatally injured Wednesday April 13, 2016 while working under his vehicle, which passed over him when it started to move, then rolled about the length of a football field into an unoccupied house.

No one else was injured or hurt in the incident. The name of the driver was not released, but the driver was said to be well known and respected in his community.

Drivers . . . Chock Your Wheels

Did you know that all wheel chocks are not created equal?

The size and type of wheel chock used is really dependent on several factors including the vehicle’s size and weight and the angle of the road surface (slope or grade). There is actually a formula to determine maximum slope angle of a chock.

We’ll skip the math today, but keep in mind that parking on an angle greater than 10 degrees increases the risk of the vehicle rolling over the chock. The surface under the chock needs to be firm, as well, or the chock can be squashed down.

Parking on inclines greater than 30% gradient (16.6 degrees) is not recommended with wheel chocks. (Another sort of anchor may be appropriate for safety purposes.)

Wheel chocks are covered under SAE J348, but the standard itself is not helpful as it is under revision.

What To Know About Wheel Chocks

Wheel chocks are designed to supplement the parking brake. I can recall, for example, a time when trailers were not equipped with parking brakes and wheel chocks were essential to even unhook the trailer. Everybody carried 4x4s in the cab for this purpose. Today that is not the case, but there is still a place for wheel chocks, as large vehicles roll away every day, especially if parked on a grade, even a slight grade.

Trucks and trailers can roll-away, even if the parking brakes are set if:

  • brakes are out of adjustment
  • brakes are worn
  • brakes have been poorly maintained
  • a combination of the above

Brakes can easily get out of adjustment if a driver does not do his/her daily air-brake checks. Brakes that are out of adjustment are frequently cited on roadside inspections.

Automatic slack adjusters are really a misnomer, because if a driver does not fully apply the service brakes, the adjusting ratchet may not properly adjust. Most braking is light pressure (between 8 p.s.i. to 15 p.s.i on the application gauge). Rarely does a driver need to jam on the brakes during normal driving. But unless full-brake applications are made, the slack adjusters will not adjust themselves.

One way to help the automatic slack adjusters to properly adjust is to do daily pre-trip inspection brake checks: (a.) check the air brake gauges, (b.) do the Parking Brake Check or “Stall” Test, and (c.) the Air Loss or Leak-Down Test. They check (d.) the Low-air warning devices and do the (e.) Protection valves POP-OFF test.

Chock Your Wheels

So always use wheel chocks whenever:

  • parked on a grade
  • working around the truck
  • working under the truck
  • parked in high wind conditions
  • at docks (per OSHA or state rules)

Make sure the vehicle is always properly secure with wheel chocks . . . and it will be.

Thank you for reading this.

More  . . . Test Your Air Brakes

Rollaways . . . Runaways . . . Driveoffs . . .

Anthony Dellegrazie kneels over the covered body his dad, in Brooklyn on Monday.

The Case of the Unsecured Vehicle . . .

A truck driver stopped his tractor-trailer to drop off lunch to a fellow worker. Noticing the truck had started to roll away, he attempted to get back in the vehicle and during the attempt, the 26 year old father of two was fatally injured.

While these type of collisions are sometimes referred to as “freak accidents,” they are not that uncommon. An online search for “driver killed trying to stop rolling truck” shows over 27 million results . . .

Countermeasures

A countermeasure is defined as a measure or action taken to counter or offset another one.

Drivers should be in the habit of a following what some call the Cockpit Exit Routine.

(1) Set the brakes or check that the brakes have been set. To set or check the air brakes,pull the yellow knob on the dash. This will also automatically deploy the trailer air brakes.

(2) Ensure the ignition key is in the “off” position. On average, a truck key is left in the “on/ accessory-position” at least once a year, resulting in a drained battery (and about a $225 average service call).

(3) Check that the turn signal or emergency lights are off.

(4) Check a second time that the air brakes have been set  by pulling on the yellow knob again.

(5) Once outside, take a final glance back at the truck, making sure no lights have been left on. Set wheel chocks if the vehicle is parked on an incline.

Drivers should not attempt to chase or stop a rolling truck. I am not aware of any situations where such an attempt made the situation better. More than likely, a panicked attempt to stop a truck already in motion will result in a serious injury or worse.

Stay cool. Stay calm. Follow the Cockpit Exit Routine.

Driveoffs

The NY Post reported a tragedy occurred early this week when someone stole Phil Dellegrazie’s brand-new flatbed truck while he was loading it by his metal shop in Brooklyn. After confronting the man at an intersection, the suspect ran over and killed Mr. Dellegrazie, who was well-liked and respected by the local community.

If your vehicle is being stolen, it’s hard to stop yourself from reacting. But the key thing is to respond, not react.

The best response is to call the police, then your insurance company. They deal with this everyday. One vehicle is stolen every minute, nationally.

Countermeasures

According to NHTSA  up to half of stolen vehicles are a result of oversights or mistakes made by the driver . . .

  • Always lock the vehicle, taking the keys with you
  • Avoid keeping a spare key hidden in or on the vehicle.
  • Always lock the door and roll up the windows.
  • Never leave the vehicle running.

Thank you for reading this.

 

 

Removing Tire Debris with a Gasket Puller

Tire Inspection Quick Tip

Gasket Puller

The gasket or seal puller hand tool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a tire inspection quick tip: Use a gasket (seal & bearing) puller tool to remove debris found in the grooves of the tire.

Every day small stones, bits of rock and sometimes even metal can get stuck between the grooves of truck tires. Although some tires have built-in rubber stone ejectors, they can fail to do the job they were engineered for.

Stones or bits of metal or glass can start working their way into the tire and need to be removed before causing greater damage to the belts or cords or ultimately tire failure.

A gasket puller makes quick and easy work of tire debris removal.

A gasket puller can be found at most automotive part stores for about $10 or less. Get the most of out your tire investment by frequent inspections and a professional level of care.

Removing tire debris with a gasket puller.

Removing tire debris with a gasket puller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use the gasket or seal puller when doing a pre-trip, en-route or post-trip inspection, while waiting at a dock or anytime after driving on areas where road debris is found.

Thank you for reading this.

Situational Awareness: Could This Collision Have Been Avoided?

Situational awareness Who’s Fault Was It?

In piloting commercial vehicles, the most important operational aspect is safety. Safety means risk elimination at best and risk mitigation at worse.

One key component of fleet safety is a preventable collision program in which all collisions are investigated on the question of preventability.

“A preventable accident (collision) is one which occurs because the driver fails to act in a reasonably expected manner to prevent it.”  Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

In the photo above it seems obvious that a car was trying to illegally pass a pickup truck.

situational awarnessThings didn’t go as planned. But note, the truck driver seems to have been taken by surprise; the brake lights are not on.

situational aarenessFinally, the truck driver is aware and braking and is in emergency mode.

Other than some bent metal, it appears that no one was seriously hurt in this three vehicle collision.

Could This Collision Have Been Prevented?

As the commercial vehicle was involved in a collision, the question remains, is there anything the truck driver could have or should have done to prevent this collision?

Facts:

  • The pickup and car were riding next to the big truck for several miles.
  • The pickup seems to be intentionally blocking the car.
  • The car driver grew impatient and made a risky passing maneuver, striking the guardrail, then forcing the pickup into the tractor trailer.

According to Hartford Insurance, often there is a relationship between collision preventability and defensive driving.

A Defensive Driver:

  1. Commits NO driving errors.
  2. Makes due allowance for lack of skill or improper driving practices of others.
  3. Adjust driving to compensate for unusual weather, road and traffic conditions.
  4. Not tricked into a collision by unsafe actions of pedestrians or other drivers.
  5. Alert to collision inducing situations.
  6. Recognizes the need for preventative action in advance.
  7. Takes necessary action to prevent a collision.

In this particular situation . . .

2.) Did the truck driver make due allowance for lack of skill or improper driving practices of the other drivers next to him?

Truck drivers really don’t like other other trucks or vehicles next to them. For example, in a similar collision that occurred on Nov, 3, 2015 on I-10, Steven Shawn Clark, 26, of Theodore, Ala. was killed when a pickup truck tried to pass another 18-wheeler by using the right shoulder of the highway, striking that truck before forcing Clark’s truck off the Pearl River bridge into the Pearl River. Cars on either side of a truck, or running in the middle of a “wolf pack” limit the options a driver has to deal with in emergency situations. We can’t control other drivers — but we can drive defensively.

5.) Was the truck driver alert to a collision inducing situation?

While it was perhaps impossible for the truck driver to see or predict the car driver’s actions, was he aware of the pickup about to strike his vehicle? This collision happened near Batavia, New York. Illegal passes made on the shoulder are not that uncommon in the North Eastern parts.

6.) Did the truck driver recognize the need for preventative action in advance?

Could the truck driver slowed down some so the vehicles next to him could have moved on?

7.) Did the truck driver take the necessary action to prevent a collision?

Could the truck driver covered his brake sooner? Was the truck driver aware of the situation? What could the driver have done differently?

Here is the real-time video of how this collision evolved, viewed over 5 million times.

Could this collision have been prevented?

Thank you for reading this.

Solving the Truck Parking Problem

positioning the vehicle

What Do You Want: A Job . . . or a Position?

po·si·tion
pəˈziSH(ə)n/
noun
– a particular way in which someone or something is placed or arranged.

What, you might ask, does a Rolls Royce have to do with truck parking?

Years ago when putting together a curriculum for training truck drivers I did research on some of the top driving schools in the world. What made them the best? What did they do?Everyone knows that Rolls Royce is one of the best cars in the world. Even that People’s Revolutionary Lenin took possession of a Rolls, no doubt in the name of the people. One of the things I came to find out was that professional Rolls Royce drivers never park their vehicle — they always position the car. 

 

While that might be a subtle nuance, professional Rolls drivers are informed (indoctrinated) that how the vehicle is parked (errr— positioned) should make a difference.

 

With new truck prices now often exceeding the price of a Rolls, one would think that the idea should catch on. Parking stress is one of the top concerns of many truck drivers. Parking lots can become quickly congested and there is always the element of danger when large trucks try to maneuver around each other in tight spaces. Collisions, injuries and even fatalities are bound to occur.

But there’s another emerging problem that goes beyond a lack of parking spaces —  there are some drivers who just don’t get it. They simply don’t know how to park.
Here’s an example . . .
over the line
 These two trucks in the middle in the next photo are angled so another truck cannot park next to them. The two middle trucks are taking up at least four parking spaces . . .
 bad positioning

This was recently shot at a packed truck stop by V-blogger Trucker Josh,  who gave his two cents on the matter . . .

What’s up with this?
That is skill to take up five spots with two trucks. Bravo.
Don’t be those guys.
Get out of your truck . . .
Every time I park, I walk around my truck and I walk away from it and I look at the whole thing from a distance. I ask myself a few questions . . .
1. Am I straight?
2. Am I between the lines?
3. If I can’t see the lines, I imagine lines and ask myself again, Am I between my imaginary lines?
4. Can everyone else around me get out, so I won’t get woken up at 4 in the morning when they want to leave? Can they get out? Are they going to hit me when they get out?
These are all questions that I ask myself as I am walking around the truck looking at my parking . . . Then, if I can’t see the lines, I look at the other trucks that are parked there, then imagine lines . . .

 

And that is how one professional driver positions his truck . . .

 

If positioning was done properly, I believe we could potentially solve some of the parking problems drivers are experiencing. Drivers need to know how to properly position their vehicles without being a hazard to the trucks next to them and, most of all, without taking up two or even three desperately needed parking spots. 

Other Parking Horrors . . .

Here are two more bad parking examples . . .
Bobtail backed over curb.

Bobtail backed over curb.

 A tractor trailer is parked tightly against the curb . . .
Buffing the curb.

Tires scrubbing hard against the curb. Not a good thing . . .

There are a number of other tricks of the trade when it comes to positioning a truck or tractor trailer.
  • Pulling forward tight against a curb can lock the shifter of a truck with an automatic transmission.
  • There are some places a truck should never park . . . like on ramps and expressways. It’s automatic termination, for example, for Landstar drivers who violate that company policy.
  • Know emergency stopping procedures. One recent lawsuit was settled for over $2.5 million when a driver did not put on his four-ways and set-up his triangles . . . We all pay for this kind of foolishness in higher insurance premiums.

Positioning the vehicle correctly every time does make a big difference.

Thank you for reading this.

The Walkaround Inspection

inspect

 

A daily safety inspection is required by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

Inspection/Inspect – this refers to personnel performing a visual examination usually performed using a checklist, a flashlight, and personal protective equipment (PPE) as gloves, goggles, bump cap, and an air gauge.

Tip: When walking up, approach vehicle from a different direction each time.

Look for:

Faults 

Fault – a defect in need of correction ranging from minor to serious or major.

Damage: new damage or “mystery” damage to vehicle,
Check body exterior for accident damage, scratches, dents, rust, etc.

• Note if the Vehicle is leaning or tilted to one side indicating:
– a flat (80% or less of rated inflation) or underinflated tire
– a broken spring or suspension,
– a shifted load.
Things and people around and under vehicle:
– other vehicles (yard trucks or smaller vehicles)
– low power lines, tree branches, overhead or low building overhangs,
– people around or under vehicle*
• Fluid puddles under engine area: oil, transmission fluid, etc. ,
• Loose or hanging items under the vehicle.

* A teen was found sleeping under a trailer at a terminal. Intoxicated persons have been found sleeping under trailers, or a mechanic may be working under the vehicle.

Body Exterior

a.) Check that no body damage has sharp edges or protrusions that could present a snagging or hazard to people around the exterior of the vehicle.

b.) Body panels, rivets, or other components are damaged or corroded to the point where joint strength or body structural integrity is compromised.

c.) Body has rusted through areas on body panels or water leaks

NO-GO: Until repaired: b. above; record all other defects.

NOTE: A sufficient repair for item b. would be a complete body panel replacement

walkaroundThere is no “right way” to inspect a truck as every truck is different.

Top Tip: Always do the safety inspection the same way every time.

Use and follow any Safety Inspection checklists your company provides.  Inspecting the vehicle is a legal matter, a safety matter and a Commercial Driver License (CDL) obligation.

Check the king-pin release, if you have been away from the truck.

Check the king-pin release, if you have been away from the truck.

Keep in mind that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) are the MINIMUM safety standards.

§393.1: SCOPE OF THE RULES IN THIS PART.

(a) The rules in this part establish minimum standards for commercial motor vehicles as defined in § 390.5 of this title.

Critical Inspection Areas – components or systems that need to be at a high level of safety, generally containing no faults.

Thank you for reading this.

 

Backing Tragedy Unfolds When Truck Driver Stops to Help

backing accident

Palm Coast, FL— A dump truck driver stopped to help free a man’s pickup stuck in the dirt off the side of the Forest Grove Drive and killed both the 29-year-old driver and a 22 year-old pregnant woman.

The double fatality happened late Thursday night (Feb. 11, 2016) at about 10:30 PM. When several tries to free the pickup failed, the dump truck backed up and may have unknowingly killed the two young people. The dump truck driver left the scene and was flagged down about a mile up the road. The dump driver was taken to a local hospital for chest pains. Charges against the dump truck driver are pending, according to WESH-NBC.

The Problem

Fatalities and injuries in backing crashes are tracked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT).

“A backover occurs when a driver reverses into and injures or kills a nonoccupant such as a pedestrian or a bicyclist.” NHTSA

Backovers that occur on a public roadway are called traffic backovers. Backovers not on a public roadway, for example, in a driveway or in a parking lot are called nontraffic backovers and these type of backovers are 37 percent of all off-highway fatalities (or about one person every workday — about 250 per year).

The true number of people injured and killed in nontraffic backover events is most likely higher, as some public safety departments are not allowed to respond to incidents occurring on private property.

Fact: Backing collisions are 100 percent preventable.

Preventing Backing Collisions

Research in backing collisions tells us two things:

  1. The main cause of all backing accidents is human error. 
  2. Organizations with motor vehicles need to develop special programs to help prevent backing collisions

While we will never be able to prevent all human error, driver errors can be mitigated by safety training and indoctrination and a strong safety culture.

In talking with small fleet owners, I have never had the topic of backing training brought up by the fleet owner. I’ve seen good on-site backing practices, but it’s hard to attribute one or two observations to a good safety culture or to the safe practices of one or two drivers.

Whether one operates on-road or off-road, the procedures for backing are always the same: insure the path is clear, use a spotter, stop and re-check things if there is any doubt.

A Personal Tragedy

I take safe backing personally. A tragic backing accident happened many years ago (before I was born) at my father’s trucking company. I learned to spot semi-trucks before I knew my ABC’s. Safety is my primary concern in writing these blogs. I know I oft repeat myself, but the reason is so the next generation of drivers and fleet owners don’t have to repeat the same tragic mistakes, year, after year, after year.

Unfortunately, as the above backing double-fatality illustrates, not everyone is getting the message and there is room for improvement. Every year hundreds are killed and thousands injured in backing incidents and collisions. (Several news media outlets called it a “freak accident.” Really?)

Not enough attention is paid to backing safely. Part of the problem may be in training (endless repetition on the backing course where the driver may check his path once, if at all), and lack of refresher backing training. Watch drivers back at truck stops. It’s scary.

Proper and safe backing is something that needs to be talked about with drivers at least once a year, if not  more, in my opinion.

Thank you for reading this.

More . . . You Want Me to do Whaaat? Preventing Truck Backing Collisions

 

Trucks vrs Bikes: No Winners . . .

Amelie Le Moullac's bicycle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bicyclists was following the rules of the road when she approached the intersection. The 26,000 GVWR truck came up from behind, overtook the 24 year old female rider and hit the bicycle as the truck made a right turn, resulting in a fatal collision.

The truck driver made an unsafe lane change, without signalling, according to a witness— and later retrieved video of the collision. After the collision, the driver called his company— before calling 911.

Merging into the bike lane and making a right turn is the number one question test-takers get wrong on the California Department of Motor Vehicles driver’s license test.

Merging into the bike lane, however, should be logical to any driver, who knows what a solid line (don’t cross except to park) and a dashed line (merge over when safe) mean.

Bike lanes

The above turn on the left is known as a “hook” and should be avoided.

A motor vehicle — regardless of size — when making a right turn, should always turn right from the curb. This avoids “conflict” (collisions) with bicycles and for larger vehicles like tractor-trailers blocks cars from getting between the truck and the curb (right turn squeeze-play).

Bicyclists have the right-of-way in a bike lane. Right-turning drivers need to to safely merge into the bike lane where the solid line becomes dashed, and then yield to bicyclists.

But many people are confused on this point. (2 minute KRON video on YouTube)

This confusion on Bike-Lane rules of the road may have one reason prosecutors declined to charge the truck driver with vehicular homicide or any criminal charges in the death of the bicyclist.

In January 2015 a jury awarded her family a $4 million dollar judgement against the truck driver and his company. The attorney for the family noted the 47 year-old truck driver was not required to have a CDL license, but suggested this be changed and everyone driving larger vehicles have training in their safe operation.

Key Lessons

Everyone has the right to use or cross the roadway if they are following the rules of the road. In fact, in cities like San Francisco, it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk if you are over the age of 13. (SF Transportation Code Sec. 7.2.12)

Bicycles can leave the bike lane if they feel it is safer for them. If the bicyclist feels safer outside the bike lane, they can ride in other vehicle travel lanes. Motor vehicles should not crowd the bicycle. Some states have a three-foot rule.

As of December 2015, 26 states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Utah, West Virginia,  Wisconsin and Wyoming—and the District of Columbia have enacted 3-feet passing laws.

Two states have laws that go beyond a 3-feet passing law. Pennsylvania has a 4-feet passing law. South Dakota enacted a two-tiered passing law in 2015; with a three foot passing requirement on roads with posted speeds of thirty-five miles per hour or less and a minimum of six feet separation for roads with speed limits greater than thirty five miles per hour.  In 9 other states there are general laws that provide that motorists must pass at a “safe distance.” These laws typically state that vehicles must pass bicyclists at a safe distance and speed; Montana’s law, for example, requires a motorist to “overtake and pass a person riding a bicycle only when the operator of the motor vehicle can do so safely without endangering the person riding the bicycle.  National Conference of State Legislatures

Drivers need to become knowledgeable on the rules of the road regarding sharing the road with bicycles.

Thank you for reading this.

Related blogs: Preventing Roll-overs of Pedestrians

How can Pedestrian Collisions be Prevented?

That Well-Intentioned “All-Clear” Wave

X-ray of cyclist hit by truck given the "all clear" wave.

X-ray of a cyclist who was hit by truck given the “all clear” wave.

It happens time and time again. You know the situation. Two drivers stop at an intersection, and one waves the other on. The second driver see the “all clear” wave and takes right of way, and then bang! — collides with a person, cyclist or another vehicle.

Who’s at fault?

The answer may surprise you.

Fault really depends in which state the collision occurs . . . and may even be determined on a case-by-case basis. In the collision with the cyclist (photo above), the driver who gave the “all clear” wave was found by an Oregon jury to be 35 percent responsible for the crash. After the collision, the bicyclist went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing, and would have died had a doctor not been nearby. The bicyclist got twelve screws and a plate, four broken ribs, a broken scapula, punctured lung and a concussion, and sued both the driver in the truck-bike collision and his company, and the driver who gave the “wave” (and his company), for $670,000 in damages. 

Trucks Can Hide Traffic

Because commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are large, they can obscure an on-coming vehicle at intersections.  If a CMV-driver waves a car on, the car may do something the truck driver didn’t expect, like pulling into traffic, cyclists or pedestrians who have the legal right-of-way. This shouldn’t happen, but it frequently does.

Another potential “conflict” occurs when a tractor-trailer swings into the oncoming lane to make a right turn. If not timed correctly, traffic can back up quickly. If the tractor-trailer driver waves a car around his truck, there is no telling how the car driver might respond.

Giving an “all clear” wave can result in serious injury to others on the road.

Giving an “all clear” wave can subject well-intentioned drivers to liability.

What the Law Says

Gary Wickert, Esq., and attorney with with Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, and expert on insurance subrogation, wrote an article called Punishing Common Courtesy in Claims Journal.

A good argument can be made that “do-gooders” who bring traffic to a complete stop to wave somebody into the roadway create a dangerous blind spot for the merging vehicle and a very hazardous situation for all vehicles in the vicinity. This is especially true when the vehicle that comes to a stop is a large SUV or truck. Nobody wants to put their life in the hands of some well-intentioned motorist, and it is hard to precisely interpret a “wave.” Does the wave mean that it is clear to pull across both lanes of traffic or simply to pull in front of the stopped vehicle and proceed in the same direction? The “wave” usually consists of a signal which can be interpreted as “it’s clear to cross the street.” This debate makes for interesting bar chat, but when tragedy results from good intentions, lawyers enter the conversation. And, if the person attempting to cross the street is a pedestrian or if you extend the liability to a driver’s signaling that it is clear for a vehicle behind him to pass, when it isn’t, the liability for having a big heart can be significant.

 

Drivers Need to Know . . .

A driver signaling “all clear” can create a traffic hazard — resulting in personal injury or death.

A driver has no obligation to engage in signalling other drivers or “directing traffic.” That’s why we have the “rules of the road.”

A driver “directing traffic” assumes the same level of liability as a police officer does when directing traffic.

Thank you for stopping by.

Advanced Driving Techniques of Professional Drivers

WAVE

There are drivers. And then there are drivers. For some it comes naturally. Others— often brilliant people — are clueless behind the wheel of a vehicle, their minds seem to wander off and be someplace else.

Driving is a Practice

Practice is defined as:

  • : to do something again and again in order to become better at it, customarily, or habitually

  • : to do (something) regularly or constantly as an ordinary part of your life, to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient

  • : to live according to the customs and teachings of (a religion)

Driving is all of these things to the professional driver who works at getting better, on a daily basis, according to ‘customs and teachings.’

Not everyone is cut out to be a good driver. Pundits lament the high levels of driver turnover (usually 100%), but turnover is one way the industry screens its not-so-good from its run-of-the-mill drivers.

The Extraordinary Driver

But what distinguishes the ordinary driver from the extraordinary driver? How does a driver reach the apex of driving?

Personally, in my opinion as a driver trainer, safety advocate and, more recently, my work in loss control, I believe there are a number ways to becoming an expert driver (no matter the size of vehicle), but, paradoxically, no one way. For example, I am a firm believer in training — but I believe that training can be useless if a driver is placed in a rogue safety culture that permits or encourages senseless risk-taking.

Look at a photo of any major crash . . . the names on the side of the vehicles are almost always the same . . . some of the top fleets in the U.S., with some of the most carefully screened and trained drivers in the history of surface transportation.

Professional drivers go beyond training, and even beyond experience. Professional drivers employ advanced driving techniques. The word advanced here does not mean complex or complicated. Advanced can mean “ahead in development or progress,” and another one of its nuances is “not yet generally accepted.” The word technique means “a way of carrying out a particular task.”

Here are some Advanced Driving Techniques I see used by professional drivers (in no particular order, and not a comprehensive list) . . .

  • Hypervigilance
  • Early mistake recovery
  • Extreme space cushion management
  • In a hurry, but not a rush
  • Maximal conflict avoidance
  • Mentors/models/leader
  • Relaxed concentration
  • Stay within the limits and bounds
  • 24/7/365 mindset
  • Self-learner/life-long learner
  • They keep score
  • Zero accidents/incidents/cargo loss

Some of the above may be considered more of a trait or the now more popular word “factor,” than perhaps a technique, but these are some of the things I see that contribute to a professional driver’s way of driving.

Researchers say truly autonomous, self-driving vehicles may be decades away. There will be a need for truly professional drivers for years to come. We should not accept anything less than professional drivers.

Thank you for reading this.

 

 

A Bad U-Turn

Spun out in the medium.

There are some things a tractor-trailer was never designed to do . . . like ditch riding.

A driver waiting in a backup on I-70 captured an impatient driver attempting a U-turn . . . across the medium.

Going through standing water in the ditch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first clue this was not a good choice to make was the standing water splashing up in the ditch. Although there is no snow on the ground the soil is moist. Even if there was no ditch and the medium was flat, crossing would be near impossible.

The I-70 traffic was backed up for over an hour or so. Odds are this escapade took much longer than waiting would have to resolve, It involved at least one heavy tow truck, and resulted in a ticket and a possible court date.

Other Bad Consequences

The video was posted on January 31, 2016 and got over 20,000 views. This is not the best way to get your company name known on social media. In risk-management parlance, this is known as reputation damage.

The driver made an error in judgement. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, which could have been the case if he had pulled it off and climbed back on the roadway.  Yet it still looks bad and this error could ultimately result in the driver losing his job.

And yet safety experts would not pin all the blame on the driver Nor would legal experts, if someone had gotten hurt.

Management has a duty an obligation to constantly train drivers. In this instance, there was a medium and ditch separating high-speed lanes of traffic. An expressway, by definition, is a controlled-access highway. A U-turn is clearly illegal because it would be highly dangerous and risky to the freeway traffic.

And yet if the driver had gotten away with it, odds are other impatient drivers would have followed his example.

No other drivers attempted to make an illegal U-turn and they were promptly on their way when the road was cleared.

Other Recent Bad U-Turns

In September 2015 Cameron David Corbitt, age 20, of Homerville, GA was killed when he ran into a tractor-trailer driver made a U-Turn in the fog . . .

In January 2016, Phillip C. Matthews, 40, of Old Flat Creek Road, TN was killed when he struck a tractor-trailer making a U-Turn on U.S. 231 near the Shelbyville airport. The investigation continues.

A Solution

Training can quickly go stale. Safety must become part of an organization’s culture. Culture has been defined as what people do when they think no one is looking.

The only solution, in my opinion, is continuous driver safety indoctrination. For example, UPS supervisors spend a minute on safety at the beginning of the shift,

Drivers, driver supervisors and dispatchers all have to be reading from the same script. All have to work together for a good safety culture to emerge.

Thank you for reading this.

 

 

Private Roads: Deadly Consequences

private_rd_norrx_sign

On Monday, February 1, 2016 a tractor trailer was traveling on on this private road in Virginia with a driver and a passenger inside when it was struck by a train made up of three engines and 14 cars. The resulting crash left one dead and one seriously injured and the truck in flames. Being a private road, the highway-grade crossing was unmarked.

rrx_pvt_rd_crash

Judging from the curve in the tracks, it is possible that the driver did not even see the train coming before he was hit, even if he just did a quick glance.

While trains are required to sound warnings at all public crossings, it is possible on this private road no warning was sounded — until it was too late.

All truck drivers should be aware of “quiet zones” at certain public railroad crossings.

A quiet zone is a section of a rail line at least one‐half mile in length that contains one or more consecutive public highway‐rail grade crossings at which locomotive horns are not routinely sounded when trains are approaching the crossings.

In a quiet zone Locomotive horns may still be used in the case of an emergency and/or to comply with Federal reg or certain railroad rules.

At a minimum, each public highway–rail crossing within a quiet zone must be equipped with active warning devices: flashing lights, gates, constant warning time devices (except in rare circumstances) and power out indicators.

On private roads this is not the case. There may not be any indicators to alert the driver to the presence of a train.

The best piece of advice I can recall comes from an engineer at an Operation Lifesaver presentation: Anytime is train time.

Always expect a train may be coming down the tracks. In Michigan and other states, if the line is not being used, the rail company has to tear out the tracks. So anytime you see a set of tracks, there is the possibility of a train, because that rail line will still be active.

Very few private crossings have active traffic control devices and many do not have signs.  FHWA

Most private grade crossings are under the jurisdiction of railroad companies. As such, the private crossings may not be given top priority to be marked.

The safe thing to do when approaching any rail crossing, public or private, is to always be ready to yield right of way to the train. Be ready to safely stop between 50 feet and 15 feet away from the tracks.

 

Rolling Roadblocks by Trucks: Illegal or Not?

rolling roadblock

What Are Rolling Roadblocks?

Rolling roadblocks are a name for a tactic that has been used by police to control and slow down traffic.  An officer may weave across the lanes from side to side, or, the preferred method is to have the patrol cars drive abreast, one in each respective lane.

A rolling roadblock by police typically slows traffic while roadwork is being done, or a hazard is present on the roadway, ranging from a tire casing across a lane to a major collision scene.

Are trucks legally allowed to block traffic with a rolling roadblock?

Traffic laws in the U.S. are enforced by their respective states. One of the basic rules of driving is that slower traffic should stay to the right, unless passing. Some states ban trucks in the left lane.

PA § 3301.  Driving on right side of roadway.

(a)  General rule.–Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway

Pennsylvania, for example, like many states, recognizes a vehicle would be in the left lane if:

  • Overtaking and passing another vehicle
  • An obstruction exists in the right lane
  • An official traffic-control devices block the right lane
  • Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic
  • Making a left turn or following a left-leading

Driving in the left lane (without returning to the right lane when it is safe to do so) is considered a civil infraction (a driver will be fined and pay court costs) under (MCL 257.634 in Michigan.

Another issue to take into consideration is the fact that what is not enforced in one state, may be enforced in another state or even in a different part of the same state.

Trucks engaging in a rolling roadblock could be ticketed for:

  • impeding traffic (OH)
  • obstructing traffic (PA)
  • improper passing
  • improper lane use (MI)

Key Driver Indoctrination Points

Truck drivers should not participate in creating rolling roadblocks.

Law enforcement may consider a rolling roadblock, even with good intention, the same as drivers taking traffic control into their own hands — an illegal act.

Motorcycles have been encouraged by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to use the shoulder for safety during expressway slowdowns. Lane splitting (the practice of riding a motorcycle between clearly marked lanes) by motorcycles in slow expressway traffic is considered an “option” for motorcycles in California. Trucks should not move over in their lanes or to other lanes to impede motorcycles.

More states are encouraging merging traffic to blend together in what is known as the zipper merge.

Treat all merging traffic with common courtesy and expect other drivers to make mistakes.

Do not take right-of-way. Right of way can only be granted — never taken.

Action Summary

Train and indoctrinate your drivers about the legal consequences of engaging in rolling roadblocks.

Set clear expectations in driver handbooks and company policy (in writing) about rolling roadblocks, interacting with motorcycles and merging.

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

 

John Taratuta is a trucking safety advocate and Risk Engineer.

Texting at 70 MPH: Dangerous Truckers

texting truckers

It’s no secret. Truckers are texting and talking on the cell phone while driving.

So are car drivers. The effect is mind-boggling: each year thousands of crashes are occurring, costing Billions of dollars in damages. It’s more than the budgets of a number of countries.

We all suffer greatly from this unnecessary indulgence. Costs are rising for insurance, comp, taxes to pay for the uninsured, emergency services (towing, ambulances, emergency room services, hospitalization, physical therapy and rehabilitation) police response, and legal and court fees to compensate victims for this wholesale negligence. .

Fatal Texting Crash

Somebody has to pay for this party.

Company owners like to question me why insurance rates are so high. Put the cell phone down and have your drivers do the same and reap the benefits of lower insurance premiums.

ABC News even captured one driver talking on two cell phones. Autonomous trucks are already here — you just didn’t know it.

There are studies showing how dangerous it is to not look at the road while driving, or dialing numbers, entering data or even merely conversing.

Drivers don’t believe the information, don’t believe it can happen to them, or sadly, in at least one case of an injured bicyclist, said they just don’t care.

Here is one driver who does not use his phone on the job . . .

“I see truck drivers doing it every day.”

 

A truck driver who gets in a serious crash while texting or talking on a cell phone:

  • would likely lose their commercial driver’s license
  • could be sentenced to prison
  • could be given thousands of dollars in fines
  • could face civil lawsuits.

During any period of probation, a convicted driver would have to surrender his CDL. The fines don’t go down for multiple-offenses. The company fines (up to $11,000) and higher insurance rates, if there is a crash, could be enough to put a smaller motor carrier out of business.

“If regulations governing pilots, captains and drivers aren’t enforced, they really are just words on paper.”  Superior Court Judge Craig E. Robison

Thanks for stopping over.

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

4 Bad or Dangerous Moves

Dangerous Moves

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

Here are four bad or dangerous moves . . .

R-Turn Squeeze Play

1. Right Turn Squeeze Play

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

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

Overhead clearance

2. Overhead Clearance

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

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

Bridging

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3. Bridging

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

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

Swerved for deer.

4. Swerving for a Deer or Other Animal

Animals in the road.

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

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

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

Action Summary

  • Mind your turns.

Turn by the book.

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

Thank you for reading this.

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Odds and Ends

King of the Road

Transportation Research Board

Item 1. TRB Week

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

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

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

Item No. 2. Unrestrained Passenger in Bunk Seriously Hurt

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

A Dangerous Distraction

Exploding e-cigarette causes semi driver to crash.

The Facts . . .

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

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

The culprit?

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

An informal Survey of Smoking Policies

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

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

Other company policies say . . .

Smoking shall be permitted in designated areas only.

Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action Summary

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

To learn more . . . Driving Healthy

Driving Blind

 

 

Winter Driving Woes . . .

frozen

Winter Woes

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

The Case of the Missing Driver

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

Here’s the rest of the story . . .

Flooding

Flooding is another problem that occurs almost every winter.

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

Please don’t try this at home, folks!

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

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

Strong Winds

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

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

Action Summary

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.