Avoiding a Winter Driving Jackknife

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

jackknife

If in a Jackknife

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prevent Jackknifes

• Pre-plan your route.

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

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

• Increase following distance for conditions.

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

• Engage the inter-axle differential on slick upgrades.

• Disengage the inter-axle differential on slick downgrades.

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

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

More On the Inter-axle Differential Lock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Use The Inter-axle Differential Lock

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

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

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

Driver-Controlled Differential Lock (DCDL)

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

Read more . . . A Winter Driving Warning

Trucking Bloopers

In lake

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

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

Chi-town_Uey

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

guy_wire1

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

power_pole_16_ft_high_load_logs1

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

power_pole

Works like a charm every time . . .

no_duals

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

GPS_under_bridge

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

curve2

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

curve3

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

steel_penetration

Hauling steel is not for the faint of heart.

no bulkhead

Especially without a trailer bulkhead or headache rack. . .

The only source of knowledge is experience. Albert Einstein

 

Thank you for reading this.

 

Dealing with Ice and Snow, Oh My!

El_Paso

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

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

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

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

(2.) Plan your trips.

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

(3.) Go slow.

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

(4.) Keep a space cushion.

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

(5.) Never spin the tires.

spinning on ice

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

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

Related . . . Driving in Hazardous Conditions

 

 

 

The Dangers of On-Street Truck Parking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

Related: Positioning the Commercial Motor Vehicle When Stopped

 

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

Preventing Crashes at Intersections

inter_Hwy_24_Woodmen

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

40% of Crashes

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

What is one of the main causes of intersection crashes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Intersection Safety Tips

Here are some defensive driving tips for intersections . . .

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

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

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

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

obscured view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

obsecured view

Thank you for reading this and have a safe weekend.

Critical Reasons for Truck Crashes

pinch-off

The Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the Breakdown . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Critical Reason Attributed to Vehicles (2% of Crashes)

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

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

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

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

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

Using the Data

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

 

 

A Holiday Warning Reminder . . . Again

treefire

A Woeful Tale . . .

The home, friends said, looked like a castle. It burned for four days.

The six members of the family inside, including four grandchildren, were not able to escape the fire in January of this year.

What happened?

Most likely an electrical spark set a Christmas tree on fire. The tree had been cut at least two months prior.

As we move into and through the holiday season, a house fire is the last thing on our minds. While only several hundred home fires involving Christmas trees occur each year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says fires involving Christmas trees can be very deadly and cost millions of dollars each year.

The problem?

If a Christmas tree is not watered daily or is allowed to dry out, it can literally explode in flames if exposed to a spark or heat source.

Leading causes of Christmas tree fires (per NFPA)

Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 38% of home Christmas tree fires.
· Eighteen percent of home Christmas tree fires involved decorative lights.
· Wiring or related equipment was involved in 12%.
· Cords or plugs were involved in 5%.

Twenty-two percent of Christmas tree fires were intentional.
· Only 9% of the intentional fires occurred in December.

Nine percent of Christmas tree fires were started by someone, usually a child, playing with fire.
Candles started 8% of home Christmas tree structure fires.
Leading areas of origin
Two of every five (39%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.
Seven percent were chimney fires.

 

What You Can Do

The good news is that these type of fires continue to trend downward. They are almost becoming rare, but still can be a hazard, if precautions are not taken. Here’s what to do to protect your castle:

  • Keep fresh cut trees well watered (not necessary for artificial trees).
  • Check your Christmas electrical cords and lighting. Look for frays and cuts in the insulation and exposed wires. Replace bad wiring and bad extension cords.
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets.
  • Do not connect more than three light strings together.
  • Do not overload extension cords.  If the cord becomes warm when in use, it is overloaded.  Don’t run the extension cords under rugs (especially a Christmas tree skirt) or furniture as they might become a fire hazard.  Secure cords so they don’t become trip hazards.
  • Only use lights with the Underwriters Laboratories Approved or UL Approved designations.  These lights go through thorough testing procedures to ensure they are safe to use in or outside your home.  In that vein, only use outdoor lights out of doors as they need to meet higher levels of certification.
  • Don’t place a tree near a working fire place or fire pit or other heat source as a space heater.
  • Don’t leave a lot of wrapping paper or empty packages near the tree when the presents are unwrapped. This contributed to 30 fires (and 2 deaths) last year.
  • When disposing of the Christmas tree, never attempt to burn it in the fire place.
  • Consider installing a sprinkler system in your home.

Another safety tip is to never attempt to fight a Christmas tree fire. This is considered a major mistake by firefighting experts. Safety of friends and family should be our number one concern. Get everyone out and then call 911.

With that, here’s hoping you have a happy and healthy holiday season.

Stay safe.

Thank you for reading this.

 

 

 

 

Preventing Sideswipe Collisions

 New Jersey Turnpike

Some Findings

Some findings from a truck safety and operational study . . .  (N.J. Turnpike)

Overall, more crashes occur in the outer lanes than in the inner lanes.

Sideswipe collisions occur more frequently than any other type of crashes in both the inner and outer lanes. Sideswipe collisions occur more frequently in outer lanes than inner lanes.

Rear-end collisions occur more frequently in outer lanes than inner lanes, which may suggest increased speed variations or unstable traffic conditions.

 

About 45 percent of all truck-related crashes are categorized as sideswipe collisions.

Sideswipe Collisions can be Dangerous

One consequence of a truck sideswipe collision is a fuel fire.

This collision between two tractor trailers occurred in August 2015 in the outer northbound lanes at exit nine in East Brunswick Township on the N.J. Turnpike, resulted in minor injuries to the drivers.

8-12-15 outer northbound lanes at exit nine in East Brunswick Township

Due to their prevalence, drivers should be made aware of the risks of sideswipe or “blind spot” collisions. One study of 16,264 car-truck collisions found the truck at fault in over half of sideswipe collisions.

According to the National Safety Council:

A blind spot is never a valid excuse for lane-encroachment collisions. Drivers must make extra allowances to protect themselves in areas of limited sight distances.

Collisions While Being Passed

Sideswipes and cut-offs are preventable when the professional driver fails to yield to the passing vehicle by slowing down.

If the professional fails to move to the right when possible, the collision is also preventable

Management and fleet supervisors need to establish standards for defensive driving in any type of fleet safety program. (Hartford Insurance)

Unsafe Driving Acts

The top 2 ranked Unsafe Driving Acts of car drivers are:

  1. Driving inattentively (e.g., reading, talking on the phone, etc.)
  2. Merging improperly into traffic, causing a truck to maneuver or brake quickly

Truck drivers behaviors leading to crashes also include inattention, distraction, and failure to follow correct procedures. Sideswipe collisions usually occur while merging or passing.

Sideswipe Countermeasures

Accident countermeasures are examples of Defensive Driving strategies designed to reduce preventable accidents. The objective of countermeasures is to reduce motor carrier fleet accident rates by establishing a company standard for safe driving.

A sideswipe collision is considered preventable if the:

  • Driver was not entirely in their proper lane of travel
  • Driver did not pull to right and slow down or stop for vehicle encroaching on their lane of travel when such action could have been taken without additional danger
  • Driver was passing slower traffic near an intersection and had to make sudden stop
  • Driver made a sudden stop to park, load or unload
  • Driver rolled back into vehicle behind them while starting on a grade
  • Vehicle was improperly parked.

Additionally, drivers should . . .

  • Avoid changing lanes unless really necessary.
  • Signal lane change intentions well ahead of time.
  • Take time to look carefully before changing lanes.
  • Slow down and always maintain a generous following distance and space cushion based on traffic conditions and the vehicle’s size, weight, and stopping distance.

While most of this appears to be common sense, the number one safety tool is awareness, at all levels of operations. Once made aware, drivers can change or modify their driving behaviors and choices.

Thank you for reading this.

Related: Driver Behaviors as Predictors of Crashes

Stop and Think of Trucking Safety

safety aducational

How often do you think of trucking safety?

Many times we put great effort in safety programs, plans and initiatives. On an almost daily basis, vendors and manufacturers are coming up with new apps, new technology, new systems, and new programs. It’s difficult not to think of some aspect of safety . . .

It’s enough to make your head spin.

With all that is going on in a normal operation, we have to run to keep up with yesterday, let alone the needs of today or tomorrow.

Where does one even dare to start?

Stop and Think

 

The Safety Imperative

When the late Stephen R. Covey published his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, his intention was to help people solve personal and professional problems. Early on in his book, Covey introduced the concept of paradigm shift — how two people can see the same thing, yet both differ on what they see.

Covey then introduced his Seven Habits, which he labeled imperatives, or powerful principles used by many of the world’s top executives and most influential leaders. Imperatives are principles that compel a person to act, such as Covey’s First Habit “Be proactive,” or take responsibility for your behavior — a key element of any safety initiative as well.

Covey’s Second Habit, “Begin With the End in Mind,” says we need to imagine or envision in our minds what we cannot at present see with our eyes. Envisioning the End in Mind, I believe not only relates to safety, but is an essential and often overlooked component of safety. Without having an idea where we want to go, a singular goal in mind, we’ll never get there. In that case, any road will do, because any road will take us there. And that is a mistake, a big mistake.

So as we approach the new year and plan for 2016 and beyond, let’s stop thinking about safety projects and start thinking about outcomes — What do we really want to achieve?

On a Mission . . .

Are your outcomes part of your organization’s Mission Statement? A mission statement focuses on what you want your organization to be and do.

Setting the mission is top management’s responsibility. A mission cannot be delegated to anyone except the people ultimately held accountable for it. — Jack Welch, Winning

Do you have a personal Mission Statement? Covey recommends:

 

  1. Write down your roles as you now see them. Are you satisfied with the mirror image of your life?
  2. Start a collection of notes, quotes, and ideas you may want to use as resource material in writing your personal mission statement.
  3. Identify a project you will be facing in the near future and apply the principle of mental creation. Write down the results you desire and what steps will lead you to those results.

Here is how Air New Zealand tied in a Men in Black theme with their end objectives in passenger safety . . .

 

Thank you for reading this.

 

 

 

 

 

A Winter Driving Warning . . .

Montana Highway Patrol

This is from actual footage (video below) of a winter crash scene during a blizzard. The majority of drivers maintained a safe and prudent speed for conditions.

Unfortunately, several drivers of commercial motor vehicles did not. They continued to drive too fast for conditions and lost control of their vehicles.

Fact— On average, 6,250 people are killed and over 480,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year.

 

Weather-related crashes are defined as those crashes that occur in adverse weather (i.e., rain, sleet, snow, fog, severe crosswinds, or blowing snow/sand/debris) or on slick pavement (i.e., wet pavement, snowy/slushy pavement, or icy pavement).

 

Twenty-three percent (23%) of crashes—nearly 1,312,000 each year—are weather-related. (FHWA)

 

 

More than 700 officers lost their lives from 2000 to 2009 because of an automobile or motorcycle crash or from being struck and killed while outside of their patrol vehicles.  (Police Chief Magazine)

The Montana Highway Patrol hopes that this video will encourage drivers to use caution around emergency vehicles.

What We Should Do

Drivers should slow down and move into another lane when emergency vehicles are parked on the side of the road. This is the law in all 50 states (the only exception being Washington, D.C.) and all provinces of Canada. But not everyone follows this law.

Reduce your speed. Reduce speed by at least one-half when the road is slippery. In adverse conditions, it will take longer to stop and it will be harder to turn without skidding. Slow down gradually. (CDL Manual)

If the road does not offer multiple lanes, the driver must slow down at least 20 MPH under the speed limit in Texas. (On Texas roadways with posted speed limits of 25 miles per hour or less, drivers must reduce their speed to 5 miles per hour.)

If you’re approaching the scene of an accident, be courteous and put on your hazard warning lights so traffic behind you knows there’s an emergency ahead and they need to slow down.

If traffic is still going past the scene, pull over as far as you can in the passing lane and proceed slowly and cautiously.

Don’t become a gawker.

Do not attempt to take photos or video.

Warning lights, reflective vests, and reflectors are what to look for and pay attention to in an accident scene.

Warning lights on an emergency vehicle are used when the emergency vehicle is maneuvering or is stopped in a location where it creates a traffic hazard. In either case, slow down and approach cautiously and move over, if it is safe to pass.

Please be careful when driving in adverse weather this winter. Thank you for reading this.

Related . . .

Positioning the Commercial Motor Vehicle When Stopped

“I Thought I Could Make It . . .”

dozing driver

Unbelievable Tales From the Road

Like the truck driver who drove twice around the 53 mile Indy loop known as “The Circle,” before his wife noticed he had already passed the same landmarks. Or the lore, oft-told, of drivers finding themselves in another city or state, sometimes hundreds of miles away, having no idea how they got there, in a sleep-deprived stupor . . .

No one really knows how many crashes are due to driving while drowsy. In the photo above, taken earlier this year, the driver admitted he knew he was tired when he was heading south on I-95, but he pressed on anyway.

“I thought I could make it down to the truck stops in Kenly, and I didn’t quite make it. I kind of drowsed off, and next thing I knew, I had taken out the guardrail.”

Drowsy Drivers are Dangerous Drivers.

Drowsiness is the state before sleep. Sleepiness decreases our judgment and increases risk taking, key elements of safe driving

Drowsy driving accidents usually involve only one vehicle and the injuries tend to be serious or fatal. There are no skid marks or evidence of other evasive maneuvers at the drowsy driving crash scene. Vehicles driven by a drowsy driver may hit another vehicle or a fixed object at full speed.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) says more than half of drivers have driven while drowsy and 20 percent to 30 percent have fallen asleep at the wheel. Young adults are particularly at risk: the peak age for drowsy driving crashes is 20 years old.

Signs of Drowsiness

By the time a driver realizes he or she may be drowsy, they may have already have nodded off with a two-to-three second long ‘micro-sleep’ at the wheel. These are some of the signs of driving drowsy:

  • Slow blinking
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Constant yawning
  • Missing street signs
  • Drifting between lanes
  • Eyes going out of focus
  • Feeling restless and irritable
  • Struggling to hold your head up
  • Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
  • Not being able to remember the last few minutes of travel

A drowsy driver needs to immediately get off of the road.

Being drowsy or sleepy may be a symptom of fatigue, but it is not really the same thing. Fatigue is sometimes caused by common lifestyle causes, such as lack of rest, poor eating habits or stress. Fatigue can also be caused by medical issues and conditions ranging from mild to serious, or even disorders as anxiety and depression. Feeling fatigued might be similar to feeling tired, exhausted or low in energy, but often does not result in sleep or sleepiness.

Drowsy drivers are in the stage right before sleep and are at risk of falling asleep.

“Most people don’t realize that part of the brain can be asleep while another part of the brain is awake.” Dr. Charles Czeisler

 

You Can’t Fight Sleep

You’ve heard all the tricks: caffeinated or energy drinks, caffeine pills, vitamin drinks, turning the heat down, rolling down the windows, turning the music up, etc. While caffeine may help a little in the short term, most of the quick tricks to fight sleep simply do not work.

The National Sleep Foundation says the best way to make sure your mind and body are in optimal driving shape is to plan ahead and get 7-8 hours of sleep before driving. Proper pre-trip rest is essential.

  • The pre-drive nap: taking a short nap before a road trip can help make up for a short night’s sleep.
  • The mid-drive nap: if you find yourself drowsy while driving, pull over to take a short nap of 20 minutes. Make sure you are in a safe location and remember you’ll be groggy for 15 minutes or so after waking up.
  • The Buddy system: It’s safest to drive with a partner on long trips. Pull over and switch drivers, while the other takes a nap, if possible.
  • Don’t rush. Better to arrive at your destination safe than on time.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Even very small amounts of alcohol will enhance drowsiness.
  • Don’t drive between midnight and 6 AM. Because of your body’s biological rhythm, this is a time when sleepiness is most intense.
  • Drink some caffeine: caffeine improves alertness, although be aware that the effects of caffeine will wear off after several hours. (National Sleep Foundation)

In Summary

Drivers need to get rest before driving and need to know the signs of drowsy driving.

It is illegal for a truck driver to drive while tired (impaired by fatigue) or ill. (49 CFR §392.3: Ill or fatigued operator — 10 CSA Violation Severity Points)

Organizations and motor carriers need a clear, explicit policy on driving while drowsy, ill, or fatigued.

Organizations should conduct periodic driver training on preventing driving while drowsy.

Thank you for reading this. Many more thanks for helping to spread the word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beware the Zipper Merge

construction zone collision

Authorities said a semi-truck slammed into the rear of another semi that was stopped for the construction backup.

“He tried to stop, but just didn’t have time,” sheriff’s office Sgt. William Hoskins said. The second semi was pushed forward into a third semi.

Merging Lanes Ahead

For some drivers, nothing is more frustrating than merging to a single lane. Traffic becomes much slower and it always seems someone is trying to position themselves to the head of the pack.

The problem? According to traffic experts, most of us merge too early, causing a single lane that may stretch for miles, and slowing things down even more. Most drivers say they are early mergers.

The solution? The late merge, better known as the ‘zipper merge.’  A University of Nebraska study by the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility found that the zipper merge method allows 15 percent more traffic to move forward than early merging. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), an early zipper merge adopter, claims in the case of congestion this method reduces backups by 40 percent on average, since “both lanes approach the merge with equal stakes in maintaining speed.”

zipper merge

The theory of the zipper merge is that a consistent traffic flow should be maintained for as long as possible and traffic should only merge where needed. Highway road signs will indicate the following:

Location Warning
Two miles Merge Two Miles Ahead. Use Both Lanes
One Mile Merge One Mile Ahead. Use both Lanes
At point of merge Merge Here and Take Turns

Do the zipper merge sign

 

 

 

 

 

MnDOT created this video on the zipper merge . . .

More states are adopting the zipper merge.

As in any construction zone merge, drivers need to remain vigilant, drive defensively, maintain a safe following distance and a space cushion around their vehicle, slow down and always be ready to stop, if necessary. On a daily basis, there are far too many rear-end, construction zone collisions occurring, or secondary collisions after a primary collision, resulting in mass destruction.

What Not to Do When Merging

Drivers should not act as a traffic cop. Trucks sometimes line up side-by-side to impede the flow of traffic.

A.) Intentionally blocking or impeding traffic is totally illegal.

B.) While illegally blocking traffic, there is the risk of getting rear-ended or side-swiped by someone who is not paying attention. Insurance companies may have the right to reject a claim in these circumstances.

• Don’t expect everyone to do it right. There tends to be a lot of confusion when merging. There is no forewarning as to which lane to be in when doing the zipper merge. When traffic is slow, for safety reasons, motorcycles may “lane split” or drive on the shoulder. Be courteous and drive friendly.

• DO NOT TAKE RIGHT OF WAY. If you lose your turn, someone else will let you in. Right of way can only be granted — never taken.

What to Do When Zipper Merging

• Remain in your lane. Maintain a good following distance and space cushion. Follow the directions of any warning signs.

• When merging, signal intentions, check the mirrors and ease into the lane indicated.

• Treat traffic like a team sport. Play the assist role. Yield to other vehicles when it’s their turn to merge.

Thank you for reading this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Know How to Use Tire Chains

chainingAre you Ready to Shift into Winter?

While chain control laws have been in effect since October in many jurisdictions, a number of drivers have not had to use them. It is the driver’s responsibility to know the road conditions and equip their vehicle for those conditions.

“As a professional driver, it is your responsibility to determine whether or not it is safe to drive when you encounter adverse weather and road conditions. If you determine that you can safely proceed, you must comply with any chain laws that are in effect and with state highway regulations. Do not enter any closed highway! “

 

Chain Rule No 1. Make sure the chains will fit your tires.

Tire sizes are different and so are chain sizes. Do a “dry run” and make sure the chains are properly fitted for the tires.

Bungee cords can add some tension and take up some of the slack. Bungee cords cannot make an improperly sized tire chain work.

Chain Rule No. 2 Take up as much “slack” in the chain as you can.

Tighten the chains as much as possible on the wheel. Make the chain as tight as possible on the wheel. Then use bungee chords to keep the chain from slinging out.

Chain Rule No. 3  Drive slowly with chains.

Top speeds with chains will be 15 MPH to 20 MPH. Driving much faster will cause the chain to sling out and possibly come loose or come apart.

Chain Rule No. 4. De-chain as soon as possible.

Once the vehicle has passed through the hazardous area, stop and remove the chains.

Chain Rule No. 5. If road conditions are dangerous and risky, do not drive.

Check weather reports, if adverse weather is anticipated. Know your company policy for driving in adverse weather. Do not drive if it is dangerous. Even if your vehicle is under control, other drivers or unanticipated road conditions may be a danger.

“Adverse driving conditions means snow, sleet, fog, other adverse weather conditions, a highway covered with snow or ice, or unusual road and traffic conditions, none of which were apparent on the basis of information known to the person dispatching the run at the time it was begun.”

49 CFR Part 395.2 Definitions.

Local authorities may prohibit vehicles from further travel if they believe the roadway is unsafe or the vehicle should not proceed.  Vehicles with cable type chains may be restricted due to local conditions.

Other Considerations

• Have proper outerwear as coveralls, rain-wear or waterproof pants. Have a good flashlight, extra batteries and emergency backups in reserve,

• If the tire chains have a locking cam with a cam key, keep a spare chain cam key and put another in your emergency kit.

• Have extra bungee cords. Bungee cords often break or slip off.

Always wear proper eye protection (approved safety glasses— ANSI Z87.1-2010 Certified) when using bungee cords.

• The legal tread depth for mud and snow tires is 6/32” minimum in California.

• Know the chain laws for the areas you are driving in. For example, California does not have any specific dates when vehicles are required to carry chains.

Chain Training

Training and practice in the use of chains is always advisable.

Some companies have drivers practice mounting chains on a set of free duals, used for that purpose.

semi truck snow tire chains

 

 

 

 

 

 

how to mount tire chains

Thank you for reading this. Have a great Thanksgiving holiday.

Another post that may be of interest . . .

What is a DOT Safety Audit?

A Thanksgiving Day Warning . . . Worth Repeating

house fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re into safety, here’s an interesting statistic: more house fires (as well as dozens of injuries, some very serious) occur on Thanksgiving Day than on any other day of the year.  There are, on average, about 1,300 house fires on Thanksgiving Day, resulting in millions of dollars in claims.

The main culprit? The cooking stove fire.

pan fire and waterDanger point— someone throws water on a burning pan or fryer — resulting in a fiery explosion.

A Ounce of Prevention

The good news is that most Thanksgiving Day fires can be prevented. Here are a few tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). They recommend that every family has a fire plan and escape routes for their homes. Make sure the smoke detectors are working, too. Thousands die in home fires throughout the year.

Stand by your pan.  Always stay in the kitchen when cooking. It can take less than a minute for a fire to start.

Keep a charged fire extinguisher nearby, and use it, if necessary.

Never use water or flour to put out a fire.

.• In the event of a fire:

  • Cover the pan with a lid to smother the flames.
  • Turn off the stove.
  • Call 911.

Never use a turkey fryer in a garage or on a porch.

  • Always use the fryer outside—and away from your home.
  • Don’t overfill the fryer with oil.
  • Don’t put a frozen turkey in hot oil. The bird must be thawed.
  • Hot oil splatter can cause serious burns to an adult or life threatening injuries to a child.

Safety is No Accident

Make your Thanksgiving a day to remember . . . not a day you’ll never forget.

Please help spread the word to your drivers and staff.

Thank you for reading this.

P.S. The following is no joke . . .

Cooking the turkey in the dishwasher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the ultimate in safe cooking (from Columbia University) . . . cook the bird in your dishwasher.

Have a safe day . . .

 

 

Top Winter Pro-Driving Tip . . . Meet Trucker Josh

Route Planning 101

Winter officially begins on December 21, at 11:48 PM EST. But nobody told the weatherman. The snow and ice season is upon us.

Here’s a route selection tip from a Canadian based owner-op and YouTube star (49,206 subscribers, on a worldwide basis) named Trucker Josh. For several years on a daily basis, Josh, a second-generation driver, has chronicled his life on the road.

In a recent broadcast, Josh picked up a load in eastern Canada and is heading west, back home. Josh says in driving on snow covered roads in the Great White North, to avoid problems, he chooses the route that is flatter, even if this means going a little out of the way.

That’s advice you won’t find in a CDL manual. . .

jack

This makes sense because, even if the road is dry, there can be patches of black ice on bridges or under overpasses or on the road from runoff or drifting snow. Add a grade to the mix and life can quickly become complicated.

Stay tuned for more winter driving tips and reminders.

Thank you for reading this.

 

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.

windy3

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.

windy5

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

sideofroad

“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.

lawsuit

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:

Expressways

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

 

 

 

When the Gales of November Come Early . . .

wreck-of-the-edmund-fitzgerald

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.

Lessons Learned: Some Real-Life Safety Stories

smoking brakes

Reconnecting

It’s always good to reconnect with a previous truck driving student, especially after a year or so of experience.

Drivers have the same problems as anyone else starting out in a new career. Sometimes the employer doesn’t pay them right away and they have to move on. It happens. Sometimes they don’t get any respect on the receiver end (like pulling into a GM dock during break time. Breaks are sacrosanct to the UAW; please pardon their french while they explain).

New drivers make mistakes — like topping the truck or parking in the wrong spot — usually from not paying attention or being distracted.

Starting out is always hard. There’s a lot to learn and a short time in which to learn it.

Mustafa: Going with the Flow

Mustafa (not his real name) was from Detroit and he drove for Swift. He said his moment of truth happened while tooling down a mountain in California. Trucks were passing him downhill so he decided to “go with the flow.” His trainer apparently had nodded off. When he looked up, he gave Mustafa an earful.

“Why are you going down this hill so fast?”

“I’m keeping up with traffic.”

“Do you notice anything about those flatbeds next to us? They’re not loaded — like we are.”

Mustafa did not. It took a while for the brakes to cool at the bottom of the mountain.

Other stories don’t always have happy endings. They generally involve speeding, or pushing things to the limit, or taking shortcuts. Take the case of Ray, who I hadn’t seen in a few years.

Ray: Break-neck Speed

Ray (not his real name) came in wearing a neck brace and needed a certified tractor-trailer road test for a Dr’s clearance. Ray filled me in on the details. He was driving in southern Michigan in winter. Ray was doing the speed limit when he came across some fresh snow — then a patch of black ice underneath. To make a long story short, he was in a hurry (get-home-itis), didn’t slow down, ended up off the roadway, upside down, and had broken his neck . . . He lost a year from work, a long, painful year.

“Yeah, I should’ve known better . . .”

Frank . . . Short for Frankenstein

Frank was not a student, but also needed a tractor-trailer road test for a medical clearance. One side of Frank’s face had deep scars. Frank was putting air in a new truck tire, when it exploded, shredding one side of his face, ripping his thumb off and severely injuring him.

“Why didn’t you cage the tire?”

“No time for that,” said Frank.

Oddly, he it seemed he had enough time for several surgeries, a long stretch of rehab, and even enough time to drive about eighty miles to see me . . .

Bob: Flying at Zero Altitude

Bob (name changed to protect the guilty) took a job with a small local company. Within a month he was back, looking for work.

“What happened?”

His was an incredulous story. Everywhere he had driven, Bob claimed, was beyond the speed limit, pushed on by the trainer. He didn’t feel comfortable driving that way. He quit his job, he said, after his trainer ran a 4-way stop.

“Are all the trainers like that?” he asked.

Within a six months of seeing Bob, the company folded after it lost its operating authority for multiple safety violations and unpaid fines.

Stand Your Ground

If I had any advice to give any driver, it would be to stick with what you know. Don’t watch what other drivers are doing: their loads and equipment are different. Take everything you are told with the proverbial grain of salt, especially if the person is not responsible for your consequences. Recall the old teamster saying — the emptiest wagon makes the most noise. Don’t let others redefine the game.

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.

wipers

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.

tires

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.

sidewall

 

 

 

 

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.