What are Supporting Documents?


Toll road







What are supporting Documents?

The purpose of supporting documents are to help verify the accuracy of driver’s HOS and records of duty status (RODS).

Any document that the driver puts his or her hands on – may become part of the log book. The DOT may ask to see the toll-receipts, fuel receipts, scale tickets, meal receipts, etc.

Fuel receipts are of interest because they can be directly matched against the log book duty status, and show a location and time. The RODS should show an on-duty status when fueling. What can happen is a driver pulls in to a truck stop, goes off duty to start his ten hours and then fuels the truck. This could be considered a false log, if audited.

When a fleet has more than 10% false logs, things can start to get interesting. The motor carrier can get fined. The motor carrier can be ordered by the DOT to start keeping certain supporting documents. Motor carriers have also been ordered to install electronic logging devices (for a “pattern of violations).

Key Elements of Supporting Documentation

A supporting document should contain the following information:
• Date
• Time
• Driver’s full name
• Trip number and power unit number
• Location – City and State

TRIP ENVELOPE – Should have trip number & tractor number listed.

If a lumper is authorized on the load, there should be a lumper receipt with lumper name, social security number, location service occurred, and the amount paid.

For a dropped load, there should be a copy of all of the bill of ladings. On the bill of ladings and trip envelope it should be noted by the driver that the load was dropped. If possible the bill of ladings should be signed by a guard, receiver or consignee and time stamped to verify when the driver was there.

For relayed loads, the trip envelope should note the location, date and time that the relay took place. (Relay load – a driver only takes a load a portion of the way, usually for the
duration of one shift — eight to 10 hours. The driver then turns the truck over to another driver to continue the trip.)

Motors carriers are required to have a system in place to check logs. One tool is supporting documents.

I recommend checking at least 25% of all drivers logs. If a driver is new, perhaps check 100% of his logs for the first six months.

Motor carriers get in trouble assuming drivers know how to properly log. Years ago, one of my first clients hired a driver with five years experience. The problem was he drove mostly local, intrastate and did not know how to log. He could make his grid lines but kept going over 70 hours. Nobody checked the logs until the company was audited by the DOT. The motor carrier ended up up a $10,000 fine for repeated violations (they appealed and paid about $2,000). Another of their drivers was arrested in Georgia for a false log. He didn’t know how to log either.

So check your drivers logs. Verify their hours of service with supporting documents. Have a system in place to keep supporting documents for at least six months and be able to match them to the logs.

If you don’t, things can get real interesting . . .

Many motor carriers have never been audited by the DOT and could be in for a shock when their logs are checked. In fact, the new ELD Rule mandates 8 supporting documents per each 24 hour period. If your motor carrier is not doing anything with supporting documents (a relatively new rule since 2004), then there is no better time than now to start.

Thank you for reading this.

Stopping Cargo Theft


In Germany cargo thieves unloaded iPhones while the truck was under power at about 55 MPH (90 km/H). This happens dozens times a year in Germany according to Trailermatics. The biggest lure, however, like cargo theft in the U.S., is unattended freight.

Similar thefts once happened to trucks delivering meat to New York City. Drivers were afraid to stop at red lights for fear that someone would bust the lock on the trailer and start unloading the product.

Protecting cargo was the subject of a talk on Wednesday January 27, by Samuel Tucker, CPCU, CRM, CIC. Mr. Tucker is the CEO of Carrier Risk Solutions, Inc., a firm specializing in risk management and insurance solutions.

Carriers have a lot on their plates these days driving down regulation alley. Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine that there are people out there who don’t just want a piece of the action, but want a piece of your action.

In his webinar, Mr. Tucker stated that larger companies often have trained personnel and risk management plans in place to thwart cargo thieves. Smaller carriers often do not.

Remember the Red Zone

About 90% of thefts are untended vehicles. So cargo theft, like most crime, is a crime of opportunity. Criminals will wait for the right moment to strike. Sometimes it will be at a rest stop area. Sometimes it will be when the driver is fueling or even eating.

The Red Zone refers to about a 250 mile radius from the origin of the trip that the cargo is most likely to become stolen. If a high-dollar load is being followed, many times the gang following the truck will break off after 200 to 250 miles.

What this means is that high-dollar loads should minimize or eliminate any stops in the Red Zone. Make sure the truck is fueled up, drivers have enough hours of service, and drivers don’t have to make any unnecessary stops in the first 250 miles.

In a recent study analyzing cargo theft in the pharmaceutical market, it was uncovered that “other” costs actually contributed up to five times the value of the actual stolen shipment. FreightWatch International

Because smaller companies often lack safety resources and cargo theft is becoming more sophisticated with cargo thieves, for example, using GPS jammers and  3D printers to create fake trailer seals, Mr. Tucker has formed a service to fight cargo theft called My Safety Manager.

Included in the My Safety Manager service is Cargo Alert! that alerts drivers when to be on the lookout for “hot” loads or missing tractor trailers.

“The first 24 hours are most critical to get the word out,” Tucker said.

Other advice included:

  • Have a good cargo theft prevention plan for operational and physical exposures.
  • Do full 50 state background checks and pre-hire background screens. Spot-check employees who may have hidden events from their past.
  • Teach employees to be alert and aware. Stay up on what’s happening.
  •  Air cuffs locks and other new technology help prevent cargo thefts.
  • Fictitious pickups are a fact of life. Learn how to properly vet new or unknown drivers picking up trailer-loads at your facilities.

Overall I found the seminar to be highly informative. Mr Tucker can be reached directly at (770) 756-7205 if you have any questions on stopping cargo theft.

Did you know most cargo insurance polices are not the same? Every cargo policy is different — not uniform.

Thank you for reading this.

Equipment Mug Shots from Recent Roadside Inspections

loose or missing

All the lug nuts are loose. Except for the one that’s not there at all . . .

Clues: Shiny metal. Steams of corrosion.

But it only gets worse . . .


This photo was also recently taken at a roadside inspection. There was only one lug nut on this set of wheels.

What was this driver thinking?

During a pre-trip inspection, drivers need to look for:
– Stud or bolt holes out of round.
– Cracks between the hand holes (or air vents).
– Cracks between hand hold and bolt holes.
– Cracks from handhold to rim.
– Cracks from bolt hole to bolt hole.
– Check valve stem for damage and valve cap is in place.
– Check valve hole for damage or severe corrosion.
– Look for illegal welds or repairs.

Grab each lug nut and give it a hard twist to check for any looseness.
– Check for looseness indicated by rust streaks or shiny metal.
– Look for oxidation on aluminum rims.
– There should be no missing lugs or missing studs.

I like to highlight training points with newspaper stories.

Seriously injured by a loose wheel.

Now, Let’s Check the Brakes . . .

loose chamber

The old “piece of rope and bungee cord trick” to hold up your brake chamber . . .  A good way to someday meet in the judge’s chambers.


Been putting on some miles lately? Slick road meet slick tire.

Lastly, here is a recent, short video (less than 1 minute) that shows what happens when the suspension system is not inspected . . .

Incredible Tales of Woe

The stories coming from Roadside Inspectors are unbelievable. When you hear of the trucks with tires and wheels about to fly off (wheel offs), steering with massive free play, trailers with no kingpins, etc., it can send a chill down your spine.

When you actually see it, it’s hard to fathom how any driver would allow things to go that far or get that bad. Somebody is not doing their job. Part of the job is doing a good pre-trip inspection.

A Good Pre-trip Inspection

A good pre-trip means drivers should “Inspect to fail.”

Inspect to fail means to give as thorough an inspection as possible looking for all of a vehicle’s present safety defects or faults. Inspect to fail means, if a part, component or system on a vehicle (or the driver) does not meet, or fails to meet the standards in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, (FMCSRs) 49 CFR Part 393 Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation, then the vehicle is not roadworthy and should not be driven.

Keep in mind that the FMCSRs are the MINIMUM safety standards.

  • 392.7 Equipment, inspection and use.

No commercial motor vehicle shall be driven unless the driver is satisfied that the following parts and accessories are in good working order, . . .

  • Service brakes, including trailer brake connections
  • Parking (hand) brake
  • Steering mechanism
  • Lighting devices and reflectors
  • Tires
  • Horn
  • Windshield wiper or wipers
  • Rear-vision mirror or mirrors
  • Coupling devices.
  • 393.1 Scope of rules in this part.

“Every employer and employee shall comply and be conversant with the requirements and specifications of this part. No employer shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, or cause or permit it to be operated, unless it is equipped in accordance with the requirements and specifications of this part.”

Drivers need to know these regulations like the back of their hands to be “conversant.”

Thank you for reading this.

Anatomy of a Fatal Truck Crash

Bokelman crash

Chicago, IL — On Friday, January 22, 2016 Andrew Bokelman, 25 plead guilty in a Cook County court to to three charges — all felonies — of operating a commercial vehicle while impaired or fatigued, filing a false log to conceal hours worked, and working longer than a 14-hour period allowed by law.


Shortly after 11:00 PM, on Thursday, March 28, 2013 Bokelman was traveling on on I-294, south of Willow Road near Northbrook, IL, when his tractor-trailer drifted to the left and then the left shoulder of the south-bound lanes.

Illinois State Trooper James Sauter was parked on the left shoulder and was rear-ended by Bokelman’s rig, and pushed over 500 feet, resulting in a fire. Although Bokelman attempted to help trooper Sauter, he was not able to because of the flames. A witness reported Bokelman had never touched his brakes prior to impact.

Bokelman received his commercial driver’s license (CDL) about six months before the crash.

Bokelman was driving from Waukesha, Wis., to Louisville, Ky and had driven about two hours prior to the crash. Alcohol and drugs were not a factor in this crash.

Officer Sauter was known as a “road dog,” who enjoyed highway patrol work and helping people. Although an Illinois State Police pilot, he requested to get back on the road.

Bokelman was not charged with reckless homicide charges, because in Illinois there is no precedent for doing so in cases when a driver falls asleep at the wheel. Bokelman started his work shift at 6 AM that morning and had worked 18 hours straight. His intentions were to not drive much further before the crash. A reckless homicide conviction in Illinois carries a sentence of between two to five years in prison.

On January 27, 2014 another Illinois trooper — Douglas Balder — was seriously injured and a toll worker killed when they were struck by Renato Velasquez’s tractor-trailer when Velasquez reportedly fell asleep. Velasquez had been driving over 28 hours on 3 1/2 hours of sleep.

Bokelman was sentenced to two years in prison but will be released in about a year due to time already served. The insurance company for Bokelman’s employer paid a $10 Million settlement to trooper Sauter’s wife.

There were some people not satisfied with Bokelman’s two-year sentence. They say it sends the wrong message, that it cheapens the lives of law enforcement.

Lessons Learned — Indoctrinate your drivers.

Running until you are dog-tired and nodding off at the wheel is simply knuckle-headed stuff. Stuff — that should never happen. But it keeps happening — again and again and again.

Start with the cold truth: Log violations and falsification are felonious. You can’t do worse than that.

Train drivers to protect themselves. The best protection is found in following the rules. The only driver protection is in following the rules. As I like to tell drivers — the insurance is on the truck.

Sure — bad things can happen to good people. Even good people following the rules. But by following the rules, a driver has what is known as a defense. The rules are there to protect everyone including the driver.

Somehow that message is not getting out there.

Something is wrong— very wrong when drivers are running 18 to 28 hour shifts at a stretch. It’s not productive. It’s not healthy. In fact, very quickly, it can and does turn counter-productive.

Back in the day, it was common practice to park and take a short nap if a driver felt it was needed. This was an unwritten rule in driving— when you reached your limit, stop, rest, and recharge before continuing.

It Gets Worse

The Illinois officer killed on the road before trooper Sauter, trooper Kyle Deatherage, was killed by a tractor-trailer driver who suffered from a medical condition that caused a loss of consciousness. The driver was allegedly in a state of unconsciousness when he struck and killed trooper Deatherage who was conducting a routine traffic stop on the roadside.

Another truck driver who should not have been on the road. Another unnecessary fatal collision. Trooper Kyle Deatherage won’t be there for his wife and kids . . .

Action Summary

Train and indoctrinate your drivers to protect themselves by knowing the rules, following the rules and documenting what they do.

Thank you for reading this.


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.

Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), What Carriers and Drivers Should Know

 e-logsPresenting Annette M. Sandberg, Esq.

Yesterday, FleetOwner magazine with the sponsorship of Telogis, a logistics software provider, provided a webinar on Electronic Logging Devices, What Carriers and Drivers Should Know, by Annette M. Sandberg, Esq., former head of the FMCSA and principal at TransSafe Consulting, LLC. Before running the FMCSA she was with the  Washington State Patrol for 17 years.

The final ELD rule was published December 16, 2015 and gives motor carriers two years to comply with it — for an effective date of December 18, 2017.

Who needs to comply with the ELD Rule?

Remember the letter “L” in ELD. L means Log.

If a driver needs to run a Log Book, then they will have to upgrade to an ELD by the above date, with few, few exceptions.

Who does NOT need to comply with the ELD Rule?

Again, as the rule is now written, there are only a few exceptions.

  1. Drivers who do not run logbooks.

Logical, right? If a driver does not run a log book, then they would not need an ELD. Generally this means drivers who use “time cards,” “exemption” sheets, or short haul drivers:

CDL drivers who always return to their same starting location, never work or drive a total of 12 hours in a day and stay within 100 air-miles of their starting location (or non-CDL drivers who do the same but stay within 150 air-miles of their starting location).

But there is a crucial exception to this exception: in a rolling 30 day period these drivers will need an ELD if they have to use paper logs more than 8 days of any rolling 30 day period (if the driver must attach a logsheet to the time card).

So if a driver goes over their maximum 12 hour work shift, stays overnight somewhere other than their normal start location, or goes over the 100/150 air-miles, more than 8 days in a 30 day period, then they will need to install an ELD device.

2. Driveaway-towaway Operations

“Driveaway-towaway operation” means any operation in which any motor vehicle, trailer or semitrailer, singly or in combination, new or used, constitutes the commodity being transported when one set or more wheels of any such vehicle are on the roadway during the course of transportation, whether or not any such vehicle furnishes the motive power.

Driveaway-towaway operations get a free pass. No ELDs for you.

3. Pre-2000 model year trucks.

Older trucks cannot be wired for ELDs, in a cost-effective manner. Older trucks are, in a sense, “grandfathered in” into the new millennium. They, too, get a free pass.

That’s it. Everyone else who needs to use a logbook, needs to use an ELD device.

  • Fleetsize does not matter.
  • Truck size does not matter. (Truck age does matter).
  • Commodities hauled do not matter (other than Driveaway-towaway operations).
  • Nothing else matters, if you have to run a paper log, then you need to run an electronic log on an ELD device.

What is an ELD device?

Size, shape and type of device is not defined. It could be a smart phone, tablet, or any electronic device, as long as is mountable and secure when the truck is in motion, and available for law enforcement outside the cab, and displays the required trip data:

  • Driver name and ELD username, if one applies.
  • The motor carrier’s name and address
  • Engine hours and mileage for each driving period.
  • Any fault status if the ELD malfunctions.
  • A grid graph, hours and locations.

Key ELD Points

  • Original entries are permanent.
  • Any annotations and edits must be initialed
  • Data will be encrypted
  • All drivers must have accounts, including shop mechanics who test drive a truck
  • All mileage must be assigned or accounted for
  • Owner/operators cannot have an administrator account.

Automatic Duty Status Changes (Two)

  • If the wheels move (5 MPH), the device will default to on-duty, driving.
  • If the vehicle stops over 5 minutes the device will warn the driver, then default to on-duty (not driving).
  • No other automatic duty status changes are allowed (as the rule is now written).

But Wait . . . There’s More! Supporting Documents, the Crazy 8s

The logging may be electronic, but the paperwork never ends.

Supporting documents requirements take effect on the ELD rule Compliance Date December 18, 2017.

  • Up to 8 supporting documents (SDs) in a 24-hour period MUST be kept. As a rule of thumb, if you have them, then you must use them (but no more than 8).
  • NEW: SDs must be submitted to the carrier within 8 days.
  • Drivers need to produce SDs in their possession at Roadside Inspections.
  • Carriers must be able to match the SDs with the electronic logs.

There are five categories of supporting documents:

  • Bills of lading, itineraries, schedules, or equivalent documents that show the starting and ending location for each trip;
  • Dispatch records, trip records, or equivalent documents;
  • Expense receipts (meals, lodging, fuel, etc.);
  • Fleet management system communication records;
  • Payroll records, settlement sheets, or equivalent documents showing payment to a driver.

New: Drivers using paper RODS must also keep toll receipts – which don’t count toward the eight-document cap.

Required SUPPORTING dOCUMENT Information

Each supporting document must contain the following information:

  • Driver name (or a carrier-assigned identification number) on the document or on another document that allows the carrier to link the first document to the driver.  The vehicle unit number can be used, if that number can be linked to the driver.
  • Date.
  • Location (including the name of the nearest city, town, or village).
  • Time.

If a driver has fewer than eight documents with all four information elements, a document that does not include time can also serve as a supporting document.

Annette M. Sandberg answered many questions in a short amount of time.

Her final recommendations?

  1. Do your homework. Implementation will take longer than you expect. Line up your ducks in a row before the deadline. She gave tips on device selection.
  2. Things will change and the DOT promised to provide more information at their ELD page.

FleetOwner said they will post her webinar next week on their website. Check it out.

DOT’s Drivers ELD webpage and Carrier’s ELD webpage.

Previous . . . New DOT Reg Requires Electronic Logging for CMVs

Thank you for reading this. Our email is admin(at)part380(dot)com for your questions or comments.

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

DOT Driver Qualification and Background Checks

Mike Coffey, SPHR

It’s Coffey Time

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

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

Why Background Checks are Important

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

Know the Regulations

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

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

Driver Applications: The Three Imperatives

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

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

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

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

Part 391.23(a.) Investigation and inquiries.

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

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

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

Top Tip: Ask previous employers questions like:

  • Is the drive eligible for rehire?

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

  • Has the driver ever acted in an unsafe manner?

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

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


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

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

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

Here is previous webinar from 2015:

Thank you for reading this.



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

The $250 CDL Special

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

We're going for a ride.

“We’re going for a ride.”

The $250 CDL Special

Their Youtube videos have gotten millions of hits.

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


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

“You will pass.

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

Says one former client . . .

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

CDL Realities

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

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

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

Issues in Truck Driver Training


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

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

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

Training Issues

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

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

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

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

California style: tractor with no fifth wheel hitch.

Issue # 2. Funding for Workforce Training is Political.

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

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

Issue # 3. Demographics and Social Engineering

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

Issue # 4. Training Follows a Circular Pattern

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

Issue # 5. There are few Training Standards

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

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

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

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

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

Action expresses priorities. Gandhi


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

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

Thank you for reading this.

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

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

Alert: Nipigon River Bridge Failure Impacts Major Canadian Truck Artery

Artery severed

Every day approximately 1,300 trucks cross the Nipigon River Bridge carrying an estimated $100 million worth of goods, according to the Ontario Trucking Association. On Sunday bolts holding the bridge deck sheared resulting in the bridge heaving upwards. The bridge was shut down.

Engineers brought in concrete ballast to balance the bridge and the bridge has been partially reopened in one lane. There is an approximate 20 minute wait for a commercial vehicle to wait their turn to cross and certain restrictions may apply.

An alternative route through the U.S. will add on at least three hours drive time to a trip.

There is talk of possibly using an alternative logging route.

If your trucks are running on the Trans-Canada Highway, expect possible delays.

Thank you for reading this.
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4 Bad or Dangerous Moves

Dangerous Moves

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

Here are four bad or dangerous moves . . .

R-Turn Squeeze Play

1. Right Turn Squeeze Play

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

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

Overhead clearance

2. Overhead Clearance

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

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








3. Bridging

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

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

Swerved for deer.

4. Swerving for a Deer or Other Animal

Animals in the road.

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

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

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

Action Summary

  • Mind your turns.

Turn by the book.

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

Thank you for reading this.

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Safely Using Removable Tow Hooks

Truckstop after snowstorm.

Stuck, Trapped, Broke-down or Otherwise Immobile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

recovery job

This is a recovery.


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

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

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

Removable Tow Hooks

Many vehicles come with removable tow hooks.

Recovery Hitch Sockets

Tow hooks may come in sets.

two-hook set

Set of tow hooks.


Tow hooks mounted on frame under the hood.














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

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

Inserting the tow hook.

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

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

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

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

What about using recovery straps?

recovery strap

Recovery Strap — Note, loops, no hooks.







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

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

Recovery strap chart

Action Summary

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

Thank you for reading this.


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

I-80 Wyoming pileup 4-16-2015

Remembering the Wyoming Pileups of April 16 2015

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

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

What went wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

Accidents Don’t Happen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Driving Blues

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

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

 New Drivers Listen Up

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

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

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

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

Action Summary

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

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.




Odds and Ends

King of the Road

Transportation Research Board

Item 1. TRB Week

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

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

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

Item No. 2. Unrestrained Passenger in Bunk Seriously Hurt

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

Updates From Some Recordkeeping Webinars



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

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

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

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

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

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

Some “Recordkeeping” Notes:

Recordkeeping is a means of verifying compliance. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

This Webinar was one of JJ Keller’s best.

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

Thank you for reading this.



Out of Service

“Out of Service.”

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

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

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

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

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

Some Lessons Learned

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

Key Points

• Always respond to DOT requests in a timely matter.

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

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


A Dangerous Distraction

Exploding e-cigarette causes semi driver to crash.

The Facts . . .

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

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

The culprit?

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

An informal Survey of Smoking Policies

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

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

Other company policies say . . .

Smoking shall be permitted in designated areas only.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action Summary

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

To learn more . . . Driving Healthy

Driving Blind



Winter Driving Woes . . .


Winter Woes

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

The Case of the Missing Driver

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

Here’s the rest of the story . . .


Flooding is another problem that occurs almost every winter.

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

Please don’t try this at home, folks!

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

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

Strong Winds

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

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

Action Summary

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

Avoiding a Winter Driving Jackknife

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


If in a Jackknife

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prevent Jackknifes

• Pre-plan your route.

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

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

• Increase following distance for conditions.

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

• Engage the inter-axle differential on slick upgrades.

• Disengage the inter-axle differential on slick downgrades.

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

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

More On the Inter-axle Differential Lock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Use The Inter-axle Differential Lock

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

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

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

Driver-Controlled Differential Lock (DCDL)

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

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

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

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

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Read more . . . A Winter Driving Warning