Top Driver Training Tip: The Plunger Shifter

plunger shifter

Taking the plunge: eliminate the guesswork out of shifting.

While many fleets are slowly moving towards automatic transmissions, manual transmissions and the art of manual shifting will be around for many years.

If a new driver has never driven a manual, getting the rhythm down can be perplexing. Previously we noted how one instructor used the windshield as a “whiteboard” to show the shift pattern.windshield

But some things have to be memorized. There is not enough room on the windshield for all the learning cues. Learn it in muscle memory and forget it, I would tell my students.

Understanding how to smoothly shift takes practice— hours of practice, in a variety of traffic environments. I’ve heard it takes about six hours to learn how to hover a helicopter. Learning to shift smoothly from scratch takes at least as long if not longer.

The key is to always know your target gear— and then know how to recover when things don’t go so well.

The plunger is a good learning prop. A student-driver can take the plunger home to practice, memorize speeds, or carry it on-board until they feel confident in their shifting.

Thank you for reading this.

More . . . Perfect Practice Makes Perfect?


Trucking—Insurance Companies’ Bad Bet . . .

betting bad

On Thursday, February 25, Dan Petrillo and Adam Harris of LaPorte & Associates’ Transportation Division, partnered with the Vertical Alliance Group and presented a webinar on how to save money on truck insurance.

The more you understand the process, the more you can exert control.

The talk started out with a review of the basics— Insurance 101. Insurance companies, like most businesses are competitive and make a 2% to 3% profit. But that’s in good times. Insurance company profits come from investment income and from business savvy underwriting. With the overall investment markets not doing so hot, that shifts most of the burden on underwriting — or vetting of risk — an arduous task in itself.

Another trend affecting insurance company profitability is the rising cost of personal injury claims . . . over $1 million on average in 2013.

Take low, “razor-thin” profit margins, rising costs and lower investment ROIs, and what do you get? Break-even or worse. When the insurance company sneezes, high-risk sectors like transportation will catch a cold.

The Transformation of Underwriting

The traditional criteria for underwriters comes from the insurance application, looking at such factors as: drivers’ age and experience, scope of operations (radius and commodities hauled), MVRs, and third-party snapshots as SAFER, CSA and CAB reports.

These criteria are historical and would be considered lagging indicators.

Underwriting, however, is changing. The emphasis is being placed on more forward-looking criteria— or leading indicators.

Leading indicators are measures of future safety performance.

Equally important as a good safety record are the measures a company takes to recruit, train, and monitor its drivers. How do these processes happen? How are drivers rewarded or incentivized?

The focus is on driver behavior.


Keep the conversation going with your insurance broker.

Invest in new technology.

Can you articulate your ‘philosophy of insurance?’ What role do you see your risk partner playing in your business? Should insurance be there for catastrophic protection or for maintenance or warranty protection? How much risk are you willing to assume?

How do you balance Revenue versus Safety? Are you willing to park your truck if you do not have the services of a qualified driver? Do you park your trucks from time to time?

Do you frequently interact with your insurance service team members — the broker, underwriters, risk management consultants and claims adjusters? Do you review claims?

Do you deploy new technology, telematics or GPS? Do you score your drivers?

What kind of training do you do?

The Out-of-Standard Insurance Market

An option for those for walk the safety talk, the “best-in-class” for safety, is to assume more risk (and rewards) by a Captive Insurance arrangement. Insurance premiums in Captives are solely based on your loss experiences and can result in savings.

It’s a Wrap

Dan Petrillo and Adam Harris warped up their talk with an informative Q&A session. Vertical Alliance Group invited attendees to learn more about their training resources.

I found the talk was highly informative on the direction in which truck insurance is heading. Nobody said the words “hard market” but it seems a transformation is taking place in the world of insurance and every carrier needs to establish a good rapport with their risk partners.

All safety metrics, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), Key Risk Indicators (KRIs), leading and lagging safety indicators should be based on your safety goals. These in turn need to be directly linked to the organization’s high level objectives.

As one company owner said, Any mistake you make in trucking is a big mistake.

Then all bets are off . . .

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta


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

Resolving Conflicts at Work

conflictHeaded for a Conflict

If conflict does arise at work, then it probably should. Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing.

Conflict can be positive or negative, constructive or destructive. Conflict is not the same as open hostility (and its attendant verbal attacks and threatening gestures) or anger.

Avoiding conflict, however, will only make matters worse.

How is conflict defined?

Conflict exists when one person has a need of another and that need is not being met.Conflict Resolution

The participants at odds with each other need to engage in constructive conflict which is similar to the negotiation process during problem solving. Ultimately, the parties at odds have (or should have) the final responsibility to resolve the conflict.

Conflicts need to resolved in a step-by-step manner. The first steps are probably the hardest:

1. Express the need.
2. Find out if the need can or cannot be met.
• Yes, means the conflict is resolved. • No, means the conflict needs to be managed (If No, then go to Step 3. Management of Conflict)

The first steps are to always express the need and then determine if the need can be met. These steps are not always done, sometimes out of misplaced respect for the other person, sometimes out of fear of triggering a bad mood or some other reaction in that person.

Common mistakes in conflict resolution are to either totally avoid resolving the unmet need, or skipping the first steps and jumping directly into the management of the conflict.

More conflict is caused by walking away than standing and fighting and sorting it out.  Jeff Muir, Consultant

The third step is to resolve the unmet need. Start by communicating. Effective one-on-one communication techniques include:

  • Using facts, not opinions (make sure you know the facts).
  • Using “I” statements (“You” statements put people on the defensive).
  • Being direct and to the point (keep it in the here and now).
  • Being consistent (repeat the same message to everyone, every time).

Step 3. Conflict Resolution/Negotiation Checklist

  • Is there communication? Is active listening occurring?
  • Is there mutual respect in the relationship?
  • What are the underlying interests? Are they shared?
  • What are the best alternatives?
  • Have all the options been brainstormed?
  • Are there objective, legitimate criteria that are fair to all?
  • Is there sufficient time to commit? Can it be done?

Putting Conflict Resolution to the Supreme Test

Based on my experience, not everyone is open about their unmet needs. If dealing with members of the public or even business people for the first time, often they may not articulate their needs. This can lead to conflict.

Staff may delay passing on crucial information or try to filter it, if it is negative or will reflect badly on them. No news is good news.

Customers may be disappointed or less than satisfied and yet say nothing about their experiences. Then one day they simply disappear and the phone stops ringing.

The simple fact is, from time to time, everyone’s needs change. Employees seek new challenges, customers seek additional value. Business is never static.

The answer is good communication. The answer is always good communication.

But keep in mind, most communication is covert, not overt. The water is often muddy, signals get crossed, emails don’t arrive, and the message isn’t received. Effective communication takes effort and practice.

The supreme test of conflict resolution is to communicate at a level that conflict resolution is a natural byproduct of communication.

The Rules of the Business Game (in Resolving Conflicts)

Thank you for reading this.

The Driver Training Process

Indy_Celadon_Driving_AcademyMaximum Workforce Engagement

Every job requires learning new skills or brushing up on old skills.  Employees cannot deliver value to an organization without the proper knowledge and skills.

Every company does things a little differently. New employees need to know and to learn company policy and procedures.  Longer-term employees need to refresh their skills.

Most skill development will take some training. Training increases productivity by teaching the skills that increase productivity. Training is not an event. Training is a process.

The term “process” implies an ongoing program.  Without training reinforcement up to 80% of what is learned may be lost in several days.

Most training is too brief, sometimes known as the “hit and run approach.” There is little or no follow-up or refresher training. Hit and run training results in few skills being transferred to where they are needed — on the job.

Structured Training Program

All training should be structured. Structured training is a starting point to employee engagement.

Engaged employees know what to do and want to do it.

Surveys show only half half of employees feel “engaged” with their work.

A structured training program has:

  • Clearly defined training objectives or goals
  • A scheduled time frame
  • Outlines of learning activities
  • Assignment of responsibilities for the learner and training leader
  • Formal processes

Job Instruction Method

Adults do not learn well in lecture-type settings. One popular “hands-on” adult training method is called Job Instruction.

Job Instruction has 4 Steps:

Step 1. Put the learner at ease. Explain what the learning concept is about. Determine what the learner already knows about the concept.

Step 2. Patiently and carefully present the concept, task or operation to the learner. Stress the key points, one at a time. Do not overload.

Step 3. Have the learner try out or do the task. Have the learner explain the key points. Ask questions and give feedback. Don’t stop until you know that they know.

Step 4. Provide feedback through frequent checks. Encourage questions. The learner should look for key points. Slowly taper off the coaching and checkups to occasional feedback. Ask the learner questions.

The 10—2 Teaching Rule

Do no more than 10 minutes of teaching— followed by 2 minutes of “absorption time” to allow the learner time to absorb the material. Use the two minutes to provide context for the material by telling stories or asking questions.

A mistake is to try to teach everything in one session. Large-scale change happens only in steps.


  1. Always break-down the new information into chunks.
  2. Give time for the learners to:
    1. Reflect on and absorb the information
    2. Use it experimentally
    3. Apply the new principles

According to the “somatic marker hypothesis” this is the way we make decisions and learn— through socialization and experiential learning. It’s not only a process, but a slow, drawn-out process.

Emotional memory— memories and habits are formed through experiences associated with strong memories.

The 70—20—10 Rule

  • 70% of learning comes from direct experience
  • 20% of learning comes from the influence of others
  • 10% of learning comes from formal classwork and reading

In Conclusion

Engaged employees directly affect the bottom line. It is the primary task of management to provide the necessary resources, including training and skills development, for staff to meet minimal standards. Only then can staff realistically be held accountable.

Thank you for reading this.

More:   3 Tip-top Truck Driver Training Tips

False Accusations Abound!

bad1The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. — Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome

The more laws and restrictions, there are, the poorer people become. The more rules and regulations, the more thieves and robbers. Lev Kopelev

“You Were Texting and Not Wearing a Seat Belt.”

A while back a truck driver was pulled over, the reason given was for texting and not wearing a seat belt.

When shown a video tape that these allegations in fact, did not occur, the arresting officer (yes— when you’re given a ticket or citation in lieu of arrest, this is sometimes called a “warrantless arrest” or an arrest without warrant ), decided to issue a clean North American Standard Level III Driver/Credential Inspection (which includes the seat belt), saying he had decided “I am going to let you go.”

The truck driver was perplexed. What if no video was available? What might have happened if the existence of the video was not made known?

And how many more times that day were similar citations issued to undeserving truck drivers? How many would fight them?

Lunch Money

One of the finest truck driving instructors I worked with was an old Teamster who at one time delivered beer to Chicago. Charlie had over forty years of truck driving experience and was a fountain of knowledge and knew all of the facts of life about truck driving.

Back in his day, when Charlie went through Chicago he had to fold a $10 bill (worth about $50 in today’s dollars) called “lunch money” and clip it to his driver’s license with a paper clip. Every time he was stopped by local authorities, he would get his license back and the “lunch money” would be gone.

Lesson’s Learned

The driver in the beginning of the blog learned a valuable lesson: As a truck driver one can be accused at any time of the most outrageous violations. Be prepared.

The driver immediately stopped at the next exit and removed all electronic devices from the dash: GPS, cell phone, electronic logging tablet, etc.

Event Recorders

A big selling point for “Video Event Recorders” that capture real-time video and sometimes other data in the course of an event, incident, or accident, is the video can be used to defend a driver against false claims. Lytx says in 80% of collisions, it’s not the truck driver’s fault. Swift has agreed to install Lytx DriveCam recorders on thousands of power units.

Verizon makes similar defense claims about their Networkfleet’s vehicle tracking diagnostics, as does Telogis.

Accusations Abound

Everyday fleets and their drivers are accused of all sorts of things ranging from stone damage to glass, to vehicle or property damage.

1. Take all reports seriously. In the case of stone damage, unless unsecured rocks were falling off of the back of the vehicle, there is not much relief warranted — especially in the instance of vehicles following too closely. Other the other hand, further investigation may reveal bad judgment and choices on part of the driver. Have a system in place to capture and respond to these types of events.

2. Take advantage of new technology. There are opportunities to deploy new accident avoidance systems to avoid trouble and accident recording devices to help defend against claims. Some insurance companies may reduce premiums for installing these devices.

3. Protect your reputation. Protecting your reputation has been called by some a critical job skill. There is endless business pressure to cut corners, “bend the rules,” and take shortcuts. Nobody is immune from this pressure. Good risk management teaches us to be aware of catastrophic risk — a risk that might have the potential to inflict serious damage. Breaking and bending the rules, and taking shortcuts can result in catastrophic outcomes, no matter how good the intentions.

Thank you for reading this.

Alert: I-35 Truck Crashes on the Rise

I-35 Truck Crash -- About 120 truck crashes happened in 2015

A big-rig crash on I-35 . . .

Austin, Texas is not only the fastest growing city in the U.S., averaging about 2.9% growth, but growing congestion and inattentive drivers are contributing to several truck crashes each week on I-35.

On Thursday (Feb. 18, 2016), an out of control tractor-trailer hit the center guard rail and was rear-ended. The truck driver was hospitalized with serious injuries. When it was over, another rig and five cars were involved in the crash— mostly from damage from debris at the crash scene. Both directions of I-35 were shut down for several hours.

KXAN Investigates

KXAN-NBC investigated why so many truck crashes in Austin on I-35 are happening.

And the main reasons for so many crashes?

  • Unsafe lane changes
  • Drivers not paying attention.

Sen. Kirk Warson, D-Austin would like to see through-truck traffic take SH-130 to bypass much of the city. He would reduce SH-130 tolls for trucks during peak traffic times. A truck and trailer pay about $10 to run SH-130.


KXAN found most I-35 truck crashes happen between 12 PM and 3 PM.

Austin, TX Truck Crashes

Data from American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) shows Austin, TX ranks No. 16 for traffic congestion.

I-35 Peak traffic speeds

Traffic on I-35 slows to a crawl in late afternoons, according to this chart provided by ATRI. Even if trucks took the toll-road at that time, it is doubtful fewer truck crashes would result, in my opinion. Traffic is at a crawl by 6 PM.

Is Aggressive Driving to Blame?

It’s a fact. Most collisions are preventable.

The National Safety Council (NSC), defines a preventable collision as one in which the driver failed to do everything that they reasonably could have done to avoid it.

The next video is 58 seconds long and was viewed over 8 million times. Watch as a car attempts an unsafe lane change.

It may be possible that the vantage point from the camera is much better than from the driver’s seat — especially if the driver is sitting low.

Two vehicles attempted to occupy the same space at the same time. Fortunately for both, no one was injured.

But could this collision have been prevented?

Applying the Preventability Standard

The American Trucking Association (ATA), uses the following standard to determine the preventability in a crash . . .

“Was the vehicle driven in such a way to make due allowance for the conditions of the road, weather, and traffic and to also assure that the mistakes of other drivers did not involve the driver in a collision?”

This is not a legal standard to determine collision fault. This standard is simply to determine if proper driving precautions were taken to avoid a collision.

In this video one can only speculate if the truck driver is driving defensively or not. Because of that element of doubt, and without any further mitigating facts, I would be inclined to believe the truck driver could have started slowing down a little sooner— not only pulled off his lane onto the left-shoulder, and possibly no collision would have resulted.

The concepts of preventability and defensive driving are essential to the operation of a fleet safety program.
A fleet safety supervisor must diligently work to create awareness of not only the importance of preventability, but also the fleet and defensive driving procedures involved. Providing adequate training as well as holding drivers accountable for preventable accidents will not only reduce the vehicle accident frequency but improve the fleet operations and the company’s bottom line. Hartford Insurance and  National Association of Wholesale Distributors

Thank you for reading this.

More  . . . Beware The Indy Ramps


You Can’t Expect . . . Unless You Inspect

Feel the sidewalls for bulges and defects.

Feeling the sidewalls for bulges and defects.

Management needs to create a safety culture in which the entire organization—every employee, every function, every level—has the capability and the responsibility for hazard identification.

A hazard is sometimes defined as a precondition for an incident or accident. One effective tool for hazard identification is the inspection. Inspections can be conducted at anytime and, with proper training, by employees, supervisors or managers. Pay particular attention to the maintenance area as it is frequently overlooked.

Vehicle inspections need to be conducted daily with the results of the inspection documented. Annual or periodic inspections for Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) should be conducted by properly qualified inspectors.

Vehicle Inspections

Daily vehicle safety inspections of commercial vehicles (as defined in 49 CFR Part 390.5 Definitions) – are required under the regulations. Critical items must be inspected and a Driver’s Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) made and signed by the driver, and if any safety defects are found – signed by the attending mechanic and the original again signed by the driver. These inspection records must be kept for at least ninety days as part of the Vehicle File.

Proper inspection protocol includes a pre-trip, en-route (and/or any conditional inspections) and written post trip inspection and should include information as times the inspection was conducted and beginning and ending mileage.

All material handling equipment should be inspected as well by the operator before use, on a schedule and after routine maintenance. Be sure any worn warning labels or damaged decals are replaced and the inspection is documented.

What are Conditional Inspections?

Conditional Inspections, are “conditional” on the presence of red flags or warning signs, and are perhaps the most important, but least talked about inspection.  For example, a driver who had lost a 40,000 pound steel coil resulting in a triple fatality reported he had braked suddenly, but following the braking incident he had neither stopped nor had he checked the load securement. Another example of a failed opportunity for a conditional inspection was a truck that struck a tree limb, knocking down freight inside the trailer resulting in a fire that flashed and hurt several firemen when they opened the trailer door.

Conditional inspections should be conduced on a vehicle or its load after:

  • sudden braking, swerving or lane changes;
  • striking live wires or power lines; (driver may have to remain in vehicle for safety)
  • striking tree limbs, electric poles or guide wires, etc.

Conditional inspections should be done on an as-needed basis.

Periodic Inspections

Periodic or annual inspections of all Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) – as listed in 49 CFR Part 390.5 Definitions – are required at least once every twelve months under Part 396, documenting the inspection of all the parts and components listed in Appendix G, performed by qualified inspector. Some companies require this inspection be performed:

  • every quarter
  • prior to every international border crossing
  • after involvement in a major collision

Who is a qualified DOT Inspector to administer the periodic or annual vehicle inspection?

While the annual or periodic vehicle inspector is “qualified” by the company, certain forms must certify the inspector has 1) experience and 2) training or is qualified by proper training. Evidence of training would be a Certificate of training.  (49 CFR 396.17 and 396.19).

Proper inspections are the only way to ensure a minimal level of safety. After all, you can’t expect . . . unless you inspect.

Thank you for reading this.

More  . . . CSA Tire Inspection

J Taratuta


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

IFTA ALERT: CT to Truckers: Send More Money . . .

IFTA decals

Hartford, CT— Hundreds of trucking companies should expect to receive a notice in the mail for additional money for their IFTA registrations.

Notices will be sent out by Xerox State & Local Solutions, a contractor for the DMV, to trucking companies in 13 states. Payment is due within 30 days.

The fees are due to an under-billing error made by Xerox, and span the years from 2008 and 2014 according to the Facebook page of the Register Citizen.

Earlier this year another glitch by the Connecticut DMV resulted in a number of citizens having their registrations suspended. The DMV apologized for that error.

Connecticut has earned a reputation as being the toughest state on truckers with the most violations per inspection and the fewest “clean inspections” in North America (only 15% versus 39.5% nationally according to an Overdive investigation).

What is IFTA?

International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) is a way for vehicle operators to pay their base state for all the fuel taxes owed to those jurisdictions where they operate (states or provinces). The base state then distributes the taxes to the others on their behalf.

This means if you are not buying fuel in a state or province, but instead consuming fuel from another state or province, you will owe the difference in fuel taxes. Best practice is to keep fuel purchases and fuel consumption equal in each state or province for each calendar quarter of the year. This is not always easy or possible to do.

IFTA auditors check that carriers accurately report the miles traveled and fuel purchased in all jurisdictions in order to verify or reconcile the fuel taxes owed for those operations. About 3% of motor carriers with IFTA decals are audited each year. Specific records must be kept for each trip.

If your company trucks do not have IFTA decals on the cab, then these undercharge fees will not apply to your company.

Thank you for reading this.


Accidentally— On Purpose: The Angry Truck Driver


Angry truck driver

This truck driver laid on the horn before getting dangerously close to the vehicle ahead and locking up his brakes — all caught on video camera.

Danny Leonardo Gonzalez, 50, says the reason he ran a dozen vehicles, including two loaded school buses, off of the northbound lanes of I-65, near exit 112 at 6:30 AM Friday morning (February 12, 2016), was because he snapped.

Gonzalez hit one truck, then repeatedly rammed a Cadillac, pushing it out of the way. After leaving I-65 at exit 121, “he allegedly ran over street signs and a stop sign, before his truck became stuck in a field,” according to WDRB. He was ordered out of the truck at gunpoint and placed under arrest.

“He looked like ‘this is my road and I’m taking it,’” said one of the bus drivers who swerved out of his way.

Gonzalez  was “charged with wanton endangerment, criminal mischief and leaving the scene of an accident.” A puppy was found in the truck, resulting in an additional investigation of animal cruelty.

Who is the Angry Truck Driver?

The angry or “high-anger” truck driver is part of American lore. There are angry truck driver jokes, even angry truck driver video games.

Often known as road rage, it’s a problem that seems to be increasing year to year and is responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. Road rage is:

When a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle”. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


One study by psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher, PhD, found high-anger drivers:

  • Engage in hostile, aggressive thinking. High-anger drivers report more judgmental and disbelieving thoughts about other drivers than low-anger drivers do. For example, they’re more likely to insult other drivers or state disbelief about the way others drive. They also have more vengeful and retaliatory thoughts about other drivers, sometimes plotting ways to physically harm them.
  • Take more risks on the road. High-anger drivers in his studies report more risky behavior in the prior three months than low-anger drivers do. They more often speed–usually 10 to 20 miles per hour over the speed limit–rapidly switch lanes, tailgate and enter an intersection when a light turns red.
  • Get angry faster and behave more aggressively. High-anger drivers most commonly reported the following aggressive behaviors: swearing or name-calling, driving while angry, yelling at the driver or honking in anger. They were angry slightly more than two times a day and averaged just over two aggressive behaviors per day, whereas low-anger drivers were angry slightly less than once per day and averaged less than one aggressive behavior per day. This pattern held for low- and high-anger drivers who drove equally as often and an equivalent number of miles.
  • Have more accidents. In driving simulations, high-anger drivers have twice as many car accidents–either from a collision with another vehicle or off-road crash. They also report more near-accidents and receive more speeding tickets. However, the two groups are equal in the number of accidents they have that involve major injuries; Deffenbacher speculated that’s because these types of crashes are a rare occurrence anyway.
  • Experience more trait anger, anxiety and impulsiveness. High-anger drivers are more likely to get in a car angry, which may stem from work or home stress. They generally tend to express anger in more outward and less controlled ways as well as react impulsively.

Real Life Examples Abound

As anyone with a cell-phone can make a video, there are many behavioral examples of angry truck drivers on social media platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo. They are simply out of control and have no control of their own behavior or of how they operate their vehicle.

But even more troubling is the fact that even when they have not reached their flash-point or trigger spot, high-anger drivers drive aggressively, speed excessively, drive impulsively, have more collisions and rack up more tickets. They may confront and even try to punish other drivers by insults or aggressive driving.

How to Help the High-Anger Truck Driver

Use any available vehicle telematics to monitor for sudden braking or erratic driving.

Investigate any collision, no matter how small.

Pay attention to outside reports of aggressive driving, verbal confrontations with other drivers, or a string of tickets or collisions.

Have crystal-clear policies and standards in place covering driver expectations. (This is a big problem area in my opinion).

Do thorough background investigations and ask former employers if they would ever hire the driver again.

*Indoctrinate drivers to:

  • Allow more travel time to get to your destination. It reduces stress dramatically.
  • Come to a full stop at red lights and stop signs.
  • Never run yellow lights.
  • Let other drivers merge with you.
  • Obey posted speed limits.
  • Don’t ever follow other drivers too closely.
  • Resist the temptation to teach someone “a lesson.”
  • Concentrate on driving, not on any electronic devices, the radio, passengers, eating, or other distractions.
  • Remember that you can’t control traffic, but you can control yourself, your driving, and your emotions.

*FHWA Smooth Operator Tipsheet

Thank you for reading this.






Rising Use of Synthetic Cannabinoids by Truckers

OK women's softball team bus

Zombie Trucker

The truck driver seemed seemed shocked and dazed after traveling 950 feet across a medium, striking a bus carrying the North Central Texas College women’s softball team, then traveling hundreds of feet down an embankment and into some trees.

Rescuers found 53-year-old Russell Staley about 45 minutes later, still in the cab. He says he only remembered running off of the road. First responders said the truck driver seemed like he was in a zombie-like state.

Photograph by Oklahoma Highway Patrol

Photograph: Oklahoma Highway Patrol

The Evidence Mounts

Police later found a pipe on the floorboard in side the truck, with the burnt residue of 5-fluoro-AMB, a synthetic cannabinoid — known on the street as “spice.”

More troubling, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report on the Sept. 26 2014 crash concluding not only was it highly likely the truck driver was incapacitated, but that he had a history of synthetic cannabinoid use.

Other findings of the NTSB include:

  • Motors Carriers were in compliance
  • §40.85 does not include synthetic cannabinoids
  • Synthetic drugs are widely available
  • Research on synthetic drug use is needed
  • Plans to detect and deter synthetic drug use is needed

What are Synthetic Cannabinoids?

Synthetic cannabinoids are mind-altering chemicals that mimic the effect of THC – one of the ingredients in cannabis. THC is the part of cannabis that results in a ‘high’ for the user. These chemicals are sprayed on a mixture of herbs and sold under brand names such as “Kronic”, “Spice”, and “K2”. Such products were developed to be a legal alternative to cannabis, however many synthetic cannabinoids substances are now banned.

The first synthetic cannabis appeared in 2004, sold under the brand name Spice in Europe. Since 2006 K2 and Spice have been marketed for use as incense in the U.S., but smoked for its effects.

K2 or Spice can be anywhere from 4 times to over 100 times more potent than regular marijuana (THC). While often smoked, it can be mixed with food or drink.  K2 and Spice are sold for about $30 to $40 per a three-gram bag (equal to about 3 sugar packets),

Despite being considered illegal Schedule I substances, synthetic cannabinoids products are widely available. Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States — or any accepted safety for use under medical supervision. New variations of synthetic marijuana are coming out in liquid form. Synthetic drugs are labeled as “not for human consumption” to avoid FDA regulation and mislead authorities.


Legal cannabis, legal pot, legal weed, herbal highs, herbal incense, herbal potpourri, K2, fake weed, synthetic pot, noids, synth, and fweed

Short-term Effects

  • loss of control
  • lack of pain response
  • increased agitation
  • panic attacks
  • pale skin
  • seizures
  • vomiting
  • profuse sweating
  • uncontrolled/spastic body movements
  • elevated blood pressure
  • elevated heart rate and palpitations
  • threatening behavior and aggression
  • terrible headaches
  • inability to speak
  • psychotic episodes

The effects of synthetic drugs may range from a few hours up to more than eight hours. Death from violent behavior or suicide have resulted from Spice abuse.

Users can also become addicted to Spice.

Other Signs of Spice Abuse

K2/Spice has a pungent odor similar to marijuana.

Spice and other synthetic drugs do not show up on drug screens, unless used within two hours prior to the drug test.

There may be changes in the user’s mood, productivity or hygiene.

DOT Considerations

Drivers are prohibited from engaging in a safety-sensitive function when the driver uses “any controlled substance” (except under the supervision of a licensed medical practitioner). 49 CFR 382.213(a)

CMV drivers specifically may not use Schedule I drugs and be qualified to drive CMVs.

Company policy should prohibit possession or use of synthetic cannabinoids or synthetic marijuana.

Thank you for reading this.


Backing Tragedy Unfolds When Truck Driver Stops to Help

backing accident

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

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

The Problem

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

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

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

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

Fact: Backing collisions are 100 percent preventable.

Preventing Backing Collisions

Research in backing collisions tells us two things:

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

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

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

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

A Personal Tragedy

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

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


Trucks vrs Bikes: No Winners . . .

Amelie Le Moullac's bicycle










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

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

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

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

Bike lanes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Lessons

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

Related blogs: Preventing Roll-overs of Pedestrians

How can Pedestrian Collisions be Prevented?

That Well-Intentioned “All-Clear” Wave

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

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

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

Who’s at fault?

The answer may surprise you.

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

Trucks Can Hide Traffic

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

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

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

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

What the Law Says

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

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


Drivers Need to Know . . .

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

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

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

Thank you for stopping by.

Advanced Driving Techniques of Professional Drivers


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

Driving is a Practice

Practice is defined as:

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

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

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

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

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

The Extraordinary Driver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.



Behind The Wheel Cardiac Arrest


On Monday, Aug. 10, 2015 a 64-year-old truck driver in Queens died after he went into cardiac arrest and hit several cars.

On September 8, 2015, a 55-year-old truck driver died after a sudden cardiac arrest when he veered his tractor trailer into parked cars in Queens. (above)

In December 2015 Joseph Wiggins of Plant City, Florida, was awarded a certificate, patch, lapel pin, and truck decal by TCA for his life saving actions on May 11, 2015, when he began CPR on a truck driver who underwent a cardiac arrest. He was able to perform CPR until help arrived.

Everyday about 1,000 people — a number of them truck drivers — undergo a sudden cardiac arrest when the heart suddenly stops beating. The most common cause of a sudden cardiac arrest is an arrhythmia or an abnormal heart rhythm.

It’s Not a Heart Attack!

Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack, which is caused by obstructions in blood vessels leading to the heart.


Sudden cardiac arrest symptoms are immediate and drastic and include:

  • Sudden collapse
  • No pulse
  • No breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

If the sudden cardiac arrest occurs outside of a hospital, there is a 90% chance of sudden cardiac death (SCD) within 8 to 10 minutes.

Men are two to three times more likely to experience sudden cardiac arrest.

Medical experts have found that in the four weeks leading up to a sudden cardiac arrest, about 51% of people show some early warning signs:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Heart palpitations

If a driver experiences these symptoms, that go away quickly, they should call a doctor.

If these warning signs last for several minutes, even if for the first time, then call immediately 911.

According to the Mayo Clinic other risk factors include:

  • A family history of coronary artery disease
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Drinking too much alcohol (more than two drinks a day)
  • Age — the incidence of sudden cardiac arrest increases with age
  • Nutritional imbalance, such as low potassium or magnesium levels

Please pass this life-saving information along to your dispatchers, driver supervisors and drivers.

Smoking cessation:

Thank you for reading this.





Why Invest In Safety?

Bob Riley of Dixfield climbs out of the ice shack he made from a 1996 Freightliner tractor-trailer cab. Named Haulin' Bass, he hauled it onto Roxbury Pond in Roxbury on Jan. 1 and has been fishing out of it every weekend since.

On the ice: Bob Riley of Dixfield, ME climbs out of the ice shack he made from a 1996 Freightliner tractor-trailer cab.

The Cautious Approach

The cautious approach, proclaims the Wall Street Journal, has taken hold of executives of some of the largest U.S. companies.

Acknowledging a tough business environment based on recent trends, CEO’s are delaying capital investment and, in some cases, even laying off staff. And it is not only happening in the oil and gas sector where an oversupply and low prices have upset the oil boom. Even manufacturing and transportation have been affected.

The Safety Investment

One area we cannot afford to cut is workplace safety. (While the word safety is defined many ways, one definition is a work environment that is free of hazards).

Investment in Safety or SH&E (Safety, Health and Environment) is a core business strategy at top companies. Some would argue, sure, that’s because these companies have more resources.

But if a company has fewer worker’s comp claims, doesn’t that result in having more resources? Fewer or no lawsuits? Better insurance premiums?

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).released a white paper in 2002 on the Return on Investment (ROI) for Safety, Health, and Environment (SH&E) Management Programs. (A white paper is a type of report that is particular in terms of its intended purpose, audience, and organization.)

ASSE found that in the majority of cases — yes, there is a R.O.I. from safety as a core strategy.

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) knows from data and anecdotal information that investment in a SH&E program is a sound business strategy, for any organization regardless of size, and will lead to having a positive impact on the financial bottom line

As every business or business operation is different, like any investment, results may vary. While there is no rule of thumb saying a dollar invested in safety will get you three in six months, research shows top companies invest heavily in people, processes and technology, including risk management. And coincidentally, these same top companies have higher rates of profit. (Profit is the result of the efficient use of limited resources.)

I prefer the The $1-$10-$100 Rule:

A $1 not spent in Prevention will increase to $10 later spent in Correction or $100 in the cost of Failure.

Unnecessary Risk

From my interactions working with smaller fleets, I find they generally have a lot of experience, they know their  business inside-out, and are doing things the safe way— to a point.

The point where unnecessary risk begins is in a lack of formal safety systems.

Everyone has safety procedures and processes in place  — but they do not write them down.

Everyone tells me they have frequent safety meetings: quarterly, monthly, weekly and even daily — but the safety meetings are never documented.

Everyone has a policy on use of safety belts, electronic devices, passengers, personal use of the company vehicle, etc., — but the policies are never reduced to writing and/or a written acknowledgement is never made.

Ditto for maintenance records, driver files, drug and alcohol testing, handbooks, etc.

Your Risk Partner Has Dark Thoughts

One statement I frequently hear, and have heard for years is, Well, we’ve never had an accident.

That’s an interesting fact, in of itself. Your risk partner (a.k.a. “the insurance company”), however, makes a number of assumptions. If yours is an average company, then one assumption is that your company has an average chance of an insurance claim — based on totally random events. (It may not even be your fault . . .)

If your company lacks formalized safety systems and processes, any claim against it will be harder to defend. By your own actions or inaction, you have given up on your right to the most forceful legal defense.

What’s my point? The little things make a big difference. Remember the $1-$10-$100 Rule. A small investment in safety and safety systems can make a big difference later.

Do you want to invest $1 now or $100 tomorrow?

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is a Risk Engineer, and Safety Advocate. (989) 474-9599

A Bad U-Turn

Spun out in the medium.

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

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

Going through standing water in the ditch.













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

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

Other Bad Consequences

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Recent Bad U-Turns

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

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

A Solution

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.



Top Trucker Loss Control Recommendations


Somebody is Calling and Wants to Know My Business?

Running a business isn’t easy. Fewer people are doing it and the ones who are face new challenges everyday.

One challenge is all the weird business calls you get, especially if you own a company with trucks. People want to sell you stuff. People are looking for work. People want to do Loss Control Surveys . . . now that’s really weird (in the sense of unusual).

Loss Control is an insurance industry term. Loss Control is sometimes defined as a plan of action to reduce or even eliminate the things in your business that can go wrong (and ultimately result in a “loss” to the business and your risk partner — the insurance company).

Generally the Loss Control representative (called many things: Risk Control Representative, Loss Control Engineer, Risk Engineer, Risk Manager, etc.) will contact a business owner whenever an insurance policy starts or renews, or shortly thereafter (“shortly” in insurance time could be up to a year or so later).

The Loss Control representative may visit you in person or simply ask you questions on the phone.

If you have a truck in your business, the questions will center on how you operate and the scope of your operations. Sometime after the talk, visit, or consultation, you will be sent a letter with a list of recommendations or “rec’s.”

Top Trucker Loss Control Recommendations

  1. Policy
  2. Procedures
  3. Processes
  4. Practices

Let’s look at a few examples . . .

A safety policy may be mandatory (a rule) or voluntary (a guideline).

Do you have a seatbelt (safety-belt) policy? Most companies do, however, is the policy in writing, with a signed acknowledgement from the driver? How about a cellphone policy? Passenger policy? Personal use of vehicle policy?

A procedure is a series of steps to accomplish a specific task, job, or project.

Do you have a driver’s handbook or manual? How will the driver ever know your specific way of doing things?

A process is a number of procedures, each working together to achieve a result.

Do you have written hiring guidelines that you follow? Many owners tell me they default to their insurance carrier’s rules. Hiring can be complicated when you add in all of the regulatory requirements you must meet.

Safety practices may be thought of as the methods, techniques or precautions we take while performing a task to make sure we or other folks don’t get hurt.

Do you have specific load securement that you need to follow? Does the driver know how to secure a load with the restraining devices given? There are van drivers who have never used a cheetah bar in their lives, and flatbed drivers who have never used a load-lock. Will your new driver know the basics of proper load securement?

Key Loss Control Tips

  1. Document, document, document. Put things in writing. All policies should be written and critical policies should be acknowledged in writing by the driver. Many times they are not.
  2. Have your drivers write stuff down, too. Logbooks or timecards, DVIRs, and everything in between. If it’s not documented, it’s not done.
  3. Keep good records. The new ELD rule will require up to eight driver records per 24 hour shift. Fair or not, will you have a process in place to capture the required records?
  4. Do you know your specific industry or state’s requirements? Some sectors are heavily regulated, some are not.
  5. Do you take advantage of your insurance companies loss control department?  Every company is different, but your loss control representative can provide you with mock DOT audits, training advice and materials, safety consultations and many other services — for free!

Always keep in mind, better loss control always results in lower insurance premiums. Better safety will improve productivity and this directly affects the bottom line.

Thank you for reading this.

Private Roads: Deadly Consequences


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Alert: Storm Kayla Ramps Up


Crazy Winds and Snowfall

Storm Kayla is the 11th named snowstorm of this winter. Sustained winds will ramp up on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 with heavy snowfall in Kayla’s path. Visibility is expected to be zero at times, even without the additional snowfall.

Heavy snow is expected from New Mexico, across Colorado and southern Wyoming, into parts of Nebraska, western Kansas and New Mexico.


Drivers should think twice about venturing out. Wind is unpredictable and wind gusts are an X-factor, especially if pulling an empty trailer. If roads are slick, a trailer can slide off. Even if traction is good, a sudden gust of wind can tip a tractor-trailer over.

Rollovers are one of the leading causes of fatal truck driving crashes.


Plan your routes carefully if operating in one of the storm’s danger areas. It can takes weeks of work to make-up for even a $1,000 deductible. A lost life can never be repaired.

This storm will affect about 18 million people and millions of drivers. Don’t become a statistic.

Travel across the region will become very difficult, if not impossible, by Tuesday evening. Plan ahead now. Postpone unnecessarily travel.  National Weather Service


Tips for Storm Kayla

• Don’t wait until the road is shut down. You could become trapped and become a hazard to other drivers and vehicles.

• If you have to have chains to drive, then you probably shouldn’t be out on the road at all.

• Drifting snow can pack and form ice on the road. Ice on the road is not good.

• If visibility in Storm Kayla is as bad as it is expected to be, it is possible to lose sight of the edge of the road and end up in the ditch. Worse yet, you may follow the vehicle ahead of you into the ditch.

• Nobody who ever was in a crash expected to be in one. About 25% of crashes are due to bad weather conditions. If you crash, you may given a ticket. If others are hurt, you will be legally liable.

• Stand down when you still have the chance. Nobody will be coming out to save you.

• 49 CFR § 392.14 says:

Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated. Whenever compliance with the foregoing provisions of this rule increases hazard to passengers, the commercial motor vehicle may be operated to the nearest point at which the safety of passengers is assured.


Thank you for reading this.