Situational Awareness: Could This Collision Have Been Avoided?

Situational awareness Who’s Fault Was It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could This Collision Have Been Prevented?

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


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

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

A Defensive Driver:

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

In this particular situation . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could this collision have been prevented?

Thank you for reading this.

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


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?

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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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.




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.

Thank you for reading this.

Read more . . . A Winter Driving Warning

Dealing with Ice and Snow, Oh My!


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

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

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

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

(2.) Plan your trips.

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

(3.) Go slow.

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

(4.) Keep a space cushion.

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

(5.) Never spin the tires.

spinning on ice

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

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

Related . . . Driving in Hazardous Conditions




The Accident Severity Model


The Accident Severity Model 

One of the most profound implications of the federal rule requiring the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) is the real-time capture of driver performance data.

What if this data could be used to prevent serious collisions? Sounds futuristic?

Omnitracs (formally a division of Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM), but now owned by Vista Equity Partners, a U.S.-based private equity firm) recently announced their Accident Severity Model can do that (that — meaning the prevention up to 85% of the most serious accidents by the riskiest drivers) . . . and more.

What the Data Says . . .

Did you know that about 50% of the fleet’s drivers will have 90% of the major collisions? Another way to look at this statistic is to say the other half of drivers will have only 10% of the serious collisions.

A serious or major collision is considered by Omnitracs  to be one of the “Big Six:”

  • Roll-Over
  • Run-off Road
  • Head-on
  • Jack-knife
  • Side-swipe
  • Rear-end

The severity of these collisions was further compounded by the fact that the drivers were completely disconnected from the driving task. Drivers . . .

  • Took zero evasive action
  • Could have seen the point of impact 6-7 seconds prior to impact (if awake), and
  • Made no attempt to minimize damage at the point of impact (brake or steer).

Drivers were sleep impaired or driving drowsy and the data indicate that 75% of these loss of control collisions occurred between the hours of 11 PM and 6AM.

10% of the riskiest drivers have 31% of the collisions.


Preventing Collisions

The Accident Severity Model is focused on helping the 10% riskiest drivers to prevent “loss of control” collisions as well as preventing the frequent, low-value claims. The model does this through the use of predictive modeling, by detecting subtle changes in driver physiology.

Part of Omnitracs’ program includes training of front-line management (as driver managers or dispatchers and driver supervisors) on techniques to speak with drivers when the data shows elevated driving risk. Drivers (preferably spouses, as well) are provided with a two-hour long sleep-science education class to better understand their behavior.

Once an at-risk driver is identified by the model, appropriate interventions (called remediations by Omnitracs) are then discussed with the driver as taking a rest break, bumping the appointment time, or the timing of future breaks.

“The biggest challenge with trying to manage severe accidents is they are typically infrequent and appear to be random. However, contrary to popular belief, many are not random at all, but a natural culmination of a series of subtle indicators that can be detected and addressed well in advance of an accident.” Omnitracs

Technological changes make new collision prevention and accident-prevention tools available to fleets of any size. This in turn will result in carriers of all sizes competing on safety as their primary competitive edge.

Thank you for reading this.

Related: “I Thought I Could Make It . . .”





Preventing Crashes at Intersections


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

40% of Crashes

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

What is one of the main causes of intersection crashes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Intersection Safety Tips

Here are some defensive driving tips for intersections . . .

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

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

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

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

obscured view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

obsecured view

Thank you for reading this and have a safe weekend.

Critical Reasons for Truck Crashes


The Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the Breakdown . . .

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

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

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

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

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

Critical Reason Attributed to Vehicles (2% of Crashes)

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

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

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

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

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

Using the Data

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

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

Thank you for reading this.



Preventing Sideswipe Collisions

 New Jersey Turnpike

Some Findings

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

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

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

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


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

Sideswipe Collisions can be Dangerous

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

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

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

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

According to the National Safety Council:

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

Collisions While Being Passed

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

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

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

Unsafe Driving Acts

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

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

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

Sideswipe Countermeasures

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

A sideswipe collision is considered preventable if the:

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

Additionally, drivers should . . .

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

Related: Driver Behaviors as Predictors of Crashes

A Collision is a Collision is a Collision

right turn

What is a Collision?

Anyone who is a safety manger or owns or drives a truck may become involved in a collision.

If your truck hits or comes into contact with something or someone or any property, then it’s a collision. A collision may or may not be a DOT reportable accident. But a collision is a collision is a collision.

If a vehicle you strike does not appear damaged, it is still a collision. Sometimes the extent of the damage may be hidden or not easy to see to the untrained eye, or people involved later feel injured and go to the emergency room for treatment.

Should I report it to the police?

While some jurisdictions have a certain dollar damage threshold for what is a reportable accident, it’s a good practice to report a collision for two reasons:
(1.) The final damage bill may be higher that originally estimated,
(2.) Failure to report the collision may be illegal and could result in a citation.

A conviction for “Leaving the scene of an accident” is a serious matter for a CDL driver under 383.51: Disqualification of drivers, that can result in a 1 to 3 year license suspension for a first a offense or a lifetime ban for a subsequent conviction.

Another situation that occasionally occurs is when someone else hits your truck and leaves. There may be no or little damage to your vehicle. It is possible the fleeing driver is unlicensed or under the influence and fears arrest. Once again, it is a good idea to be proactive and make a report to the police as to what happened.

Can I leave a note for/with the other driver?

A note is not a police report. A note can blow away or get lost. Someone else can cause greater damage and not leave a note. It is best to always contact the proper authorities.

I don’t want to get insurance involved and I would rather pay for the damage out of pocket.

If you don’t tell your insurance company about a collision because you’ve decided to handle it privately, if the person you hit later claims an injury, the insurance company might not protect you.

If you are uncertain about the correct course of action, consider checking with your insurance agent and asking them if you should file a claim or not.

In any case, always get as much information as possible at the scene from the other driver, and take photos of the scene and any damage. It’s always a good idea to keep an accident kit in each vehicle. Ask your insurance agent for help in putting together an accident kit.

Not every collision is serious, but when things go unreported, facts can become fuzzy and things can quickly tailspin out of control.


If your truck hits a person or property or another vehicle, it is a collision.

Have a policy requiring any collisions are reported to the proper authorities and channels.

Know your insurance company’s reporting requirements for collisions. Contact your agent if you need advice or more understanding of what you need to do.

Thank you for reading this.

You Want Me to do Whaaat? Preventing Truck Backing Collisions

Pranked: Boulders Left on The Road


Caution: Debris on Roadway

Drivers running through the “Land of Enchantment” on I-40 near Grants, New Mexico (about 80 miles west of Albuquerque) need to be cautious at night of rocks, boulders or other objects left on the highway as a prank.

Driver Steve Stukey ran into a box of rocks and other objects left on the road at night just before the Thanksgiving holiday and sustained about $10,000 in damages to his rig, including damage to the bumper, radiator and fuel tank, according to KOAT 7 News.

Four other vehicles had to be towed away from this one incident.

State Police said this type of prank had occurred for the last three nights before Stukey’s rig became the next victim.

“This is not a joke. This is serious,” said Stukey.

Please be extra cautious on I-40 until the situation is resolved.

Night Driving Tips

  • Drive slower.
  • Increase following distance.
  • Do not drive faster than you can see.
  • Guard your night vision from glare by keeping your windows clean, inside and out.
  • Focus on the road, not the lights of oncoming vehicles.


Driving in Hazardous Conditions


“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” – George Carlin

The I-94 Pileup

On January 9, 2015, a crash near mile-marker 90 on I-94 west of Battle Creek caused a pileup of 193 vehicles, including 76 tractor-trailers. One truck driver was killed and 22 people were hospitalized. Many vehicles and freight were destroyed. The road was closed for two days during the cleanup.

A month later, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) commissioned a Road Safety Audit on that stretch of road. The results of that study were issued on Monday.

One of the report’s key findings was:

Approximately 65 percent of the winter season crashes involved a vehicle driving “too fast for conditions”, compared to only 38 percent of all-season crashes. This suggests that speed plays a greater role in winter-season crashes compared to other seasons.

This also supports the Michigan State Police (MSP)  findings from the January 9, 2015 crash, in which a total of 58 drivers were cited for driving too fast for conditions, including 30 commercial drivers.

“With 77 percent of drivers driving too fast in the snow, causing the crashes, we certainly need to have education also,” Capt. Michael Brown, MSP, said. State Police intend to increase patrols during adverse weather. Other countermeasures will include an additional lane, better signage and use of smart technology.

What the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Say

§ 392.14 Hazardous conditions; extreme caution.

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.

This regulation is what is known as a standard of care, or the duty of care which all people have toward others. This regulation defines how a reasonably careful person should have and would have acted in a situation of hazardous driving conditions.

This video captures, from inside a truck, what went down during the January 9th crash.

There is precipitation on the windshield and the road is snow covered. While the driver was able to stop, another truck locks it’s brakes and crashes into the pile. Minutes later, flames start to spread over the wrecked vehicles.

Then the calls started to come in to 911 . . .

I-94 post-crash fire.

I-94 post-crash fire.

Lessons Learned

The biggest lesson here is that drivers were not following the standard of care required of them. Drivers were simply traveling too fast for conditions. The pileup started when a van slowed down because of the condition of the road and was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer. Soon dozens of tractor-trailers piled up, including one hauling hazardous materials and one hauling fireworks, that later exploded in the fire that followed. Almost half of the truck drivers in this pileup were cited for speeding.

Tips to Avoid Winter Crashes

• Distribute the weight of the load as evenly as possible. Scale every load in winter: invest in safety.

• Slow down gradually. Avoid panic stops. Avoid use of the brakes. One winter driving tip is to de-clutch the power train by feathering the clutch pedal and simply idling to a slower speed or stop. This technique works on black ice as well, when hitting the brakes can cause a spin or jack-knife.

• Accelerate slowly. Spinning the tires means there is no traction and no action.

• The worse it becomes, the slower you need to drive. Put on the emergency lights, if necessary, to “be seen” and to warn other drivers of your presence. Keep a six-second following distance and keep a “space cushion” around the vehicle. Don’t stay in a “pack” of vehicles.

• Do not use cruise control in adverse weather. Stay in control.

• If conditions are dangerous, do not continue to drive, per §392.14. Hills, slopes, blind curves or grades may be particularly hazardous. The key thing to keep in mind is the possibility of loss of control. If the wheels start to spin or the front tires start to slip or slide, the vehicle cannot be controlled. The vehicle must be kept under control at all times. That is what we mean by following a standard of care.

• Do not pay attention to what other drivers are doing. Their equipment and loads may be different. Always drive at a safe and prudent speed that works for you.

In adverse weather, slower is faster. The key is smooth driving.

Winter is a time we all need to re-learn how to drive again.

Thank you for reading this.

Previous: A Winter Driving Warning



A Winter Driving Warning . . .

Montana Highway Patrol

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

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

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


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


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



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

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

What We Should Do

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t become a gawker.

Do not attempt to take photos or video.

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

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

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

Related . . .

Positioning the Commercial Motor Vehicle When Stopped

“I Thought I Could Make It . . .”

dozing driver

Unbelievable Tales From the Road

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

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

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

Drowsy Drivers are Dangerous Drivers.

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

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

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

Signs of Drowsiness

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

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

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

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

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

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


You Can’t Fight Sleep

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

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

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

In Summary

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

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

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

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

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










Beware the Zipper Merge

construction zone collision

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

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

Merging Lanes Ahead

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

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

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

zipper merge

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

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

Do the zipper merge sign






MnDOT created this video on the zipper merge . . .

More states are adopting the zipper merge.

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

What Not to Do When Merging

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

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

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

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

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

What to Do When Zipper Merging

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.








Driver Behaviors as Predictors of Crashes


Driver Behavior Can Predict Some Crashes

Driver behavior is responsible for most crashes. Bad driver behaviors. Behaviors as errors and violations affect safe driving.  Errors are slips, lapses, and mistakes. Errors may be dangerous errors or relatively harmless lapses. While violations decline with age, errors generally do not.

. . . driving errors underlie crash involvement for older adults. Such errors include seeing another vehicle but misjudging the time available to proceed, failing to yield the right of way, making improper turns or improper stops, failing to see another vehicle, and speeding.

Violations are not errors, but rather the style in which the driver chooses to drive that becomes an ingrained habit after years of driving.

Certain driving errors and violations have been found to be predictive of crashes. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) studied the driving behaviors of over a half-million truck drivers.

ATRI found the number one bad behavior, increasing the driver’s likelihood of a future crash by 96 percent, was a conviction for a “failure to use/improper signal.”

Driver Behaviors as Predictors of Crashes
Driver Behavior Crash Probability Increase
Failure to use or improper signal conviction 96%
Past crash 88%
Improper passing violation 88%
Improper turn conviction 84%
Improper or erratic lane change conviction 80%
Failure to maintain proper lane/location
Failure to obey traffic sign 68%
Speeding conviction (15 mph over speed limit) 67%
Any conviction 65%
Reckless/careless/inattentive/negligent driving

In vetting a new hire or preforming an annual review, a driver’s record can carry a lot of weight, especially if the driver has some bad driving habits as above, or other habits that can be just as bad — as not wearing a safety belt while driving, or driving distracted (texting or using a hand-held cell phone), etc.

ATRI recommends motor carriers (1.) become aware of the problem behaviors, and (2.) address these behavioral issues “prior to them leading to serious consequences.”

Thank you for reading this.

Beware The Indy Ramps

Indy ramp crash

Beware of the ‘Circle City’ Loop

Interstate 465 (I-465), also known as the USS Indianapolis Memorial Highway, named for the WWII ship that sank on the night of July 30, 1945, stretches 53 miles around the capital of Indiana.

RTV6 of Indianapolis ran a story on risky I-465 ramps, some with older design features like I-465 eastbound onto I-69 northbound (Exit 37), some with blind spots, that can result in cars waiting too long to exit and making risky moves resulting in a conflict or crash.

The chart of interchanges around Indianapolis shows which ones have high crash rates (for all types of vehicles).

Risky ramps for all types of vehicles.


Note that except for I65 and I70, all major highways are routed around the city, with I-465. A one-mile section between exits 46 and 47 carries eight routes — I-465, US 31, US 36, US 40, US 52, US 421, SR 37 and SR 67.

The speed limit is 55 MPH, but traffic speeds may be around 65 MPH.

I-465 speeding violations

So if you have to travel around Indianapolis over the holidays or on your normal work day, please be extra cautious going around the I-465 loop.

Thank you for reading this.

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