Tractor-trailer Pileup!



At 5AM on December 19, one of the first ‘pileups’ of the winter began. This one was on Eastbound I-90, Missoula, Montana, near mile marker 58, involving not one or two trucks—but a total of 5 tractor-trailers, resulting in fatal injuries for two of the drivers, including one who may have jumped over the side of the bridge, falling over 100 feet. In addition to the drivers who were hurt or killed, a first responder was seriously injured as well.

Lessons Learned . . .

  1. Slow down. It’s winter.
  2. Don’t overdrive your headlights. It may take longer to stop.
  3. It is generally safer to stay in the vehicle, if on a bridge.
  4. Expect bridges to be icy. Be ready . . . slow down some more.
  5. Expect rapid changes in conditions as the seasons change
  6. Expect the unexpected. This sounds cliche, even sounds dumb, but the minute you let your guard down you become a passenger, not a driver.

Job number 1 . . . 2 . . . and 3 is to always arrive safely at your destination.

Winter is here. Drive for conditions. ■

Picture of John Taratuta

John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599


Make G.O.A.L. Your Backing Goal

backing error

A Sad . . . But True Story

A driver was backing into a parking space at a truck stop. As he was backing, he came too close to the vehicle parked on his blind side and backed into it. What does he do? He pulls forward and while focusing on his blind side, he backed into the truck parked on the driver’s side of his vehicle . . .

Nobody said it was easy . . .

Not all backing collisions end up costing “only” $5,000 in claims as in the story above. People can be seriously hurt, or even fatally injured in a backing collision.

Year-after-year, backing collisions remain one of the most frequent category of all collisions. But they are also in the category of the most preventable collisions.

What to do?

Remember G.O.A.L

Savvy delivery and trucking companies encourage their drivers to Get Out And Look (G.O.A.L.). Don’t back “by feel.” Slamming forty tons of vehicle against anything—even at a slow speed—can result in thousands of dollars of damage and destruction.

Drivers need to walk their path and look for potential obstacles. Look for overhead obstacles, too. Low tree branches or power lines can really mess up your day.

Get out and look as many times as you need to. You can’t be too safe.

backing errorUse a Spotter While Backing

A spotter can help avoid obstacles. Be sure you can see your spotter and your spotter can see you. You know—that eye contact thing.

Review any hand signals with the spotter.

And maintain eye contact. Stop if you don’t see the spotter.

The driver, however, is ultimately responsible for any movements of the vehicle. The driver in the above crash photos lost eye contact with the spotter . . .

Always Back Slowly

Idle while backing. Never use the fuel pedal or place the vehicle in a higher reverse gear while backing. Slow and sure wins the race—especially in reverse.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Backing does not come naturally for most drivers. Like most things, the more one does it, the easier it is to do.

But not any less dangerous.

Thanks for reading this.

Blown off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge?

Driver blown off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge

Another Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tragedy Unfolds

The drive yesterday noon on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was described as blustery at best. Bridge officials had declared a Level 1 wind advisory, with winds over 40 mph.

The driver, 47, of Greenville, N.C., with about twenty years of experience, was at the 15 mile marker in the southbound lane ear the Eastern Shore side, when it is believed a gust of wind resulted in his tractor-trailer leaving the bridge.

Dangerous Winds

I’ve written on the dangers of wind when pulling vans. There are several things to keep in mind about the wind:

  1. Basic wind speed is an average. As an average, that means at times the actual wind speeds will be higher.
  2. The wind gust factor is about 1.5. So a 40 mile wind, like yesterday on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, with winds gusting over 47 mph, could really result in winds over 53 MPH or greater. This is likely enough, if the conditions are right, to overturn a tractor pulling a lightly loaded van.
  3. Wind is totally unpredictable and variable. As the earth turns the sun heats the surface and creates a force that results in “wind” as warm air rises and cold air sinks.

Who’s in Charge Here?

It’s up to the driver to make the determination he or she can safely negotiate a windy stretch of road, bridge, or ridge. Some highways have windsocks for drivers. Usually weather reports will indicate the day’s forecast for wind gusts. Encourage drivers to check them and take note . . .

Although rescued from the water by a U.S. Navy helicopter, the driver died enroute to a hospital. Water temperature was estimated to be about 47 degrees F. at the time.

About thirty minutes after the crash, Chesapeake Bay Bridge officials hiked restrictions to Level 2, requiring tractor-trailers to be loaded with more than 30,000 pounds of cargo. Since its construction, this was the seventh truck to have gone off of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, with only one survivor to date.

Thank you for reading this.

New Protected Left Signal

Left turn


Avoiding Intersection Crashes

About 40 percent of crashes are at intersections. To avoid the risk of an intersection crash, safe fleets minimize making left turns. It doesn’t matter how much experience a driver has. It doesn’t matter how much training a driver has. Making a left turn, like backing, always has an element of inherent risk. So major fleets (like UPS and others) have a policy against both, if possible.

The risk in making a left turn comes from missing visual cues or in mistiming the turn. Sometimes oncoming vehicles can visually blend in with the background. Sometimes pedestrians, wheelchairs, or bicycles are hard to spot in the crosswalk. Slowing for a pedestrian in a left turn can result in a commercial truck blocking the path of an on-coming vehicle and lead to a greater risk of collision.

Some intersections are big and complicated. Some cities like Memphis, TN or Broken Arrow, OK, are now in the process of adding the next generation of traffic signals.  The new signals allow protected and permissive left turns from dedicated left-turn lanes.

The Flashing Yellow Arrow Left-Turn Signal

The new left turn traffic signal head includes the standard Red, Yellow and Green arrows which have been used for years, along with an additional “flashing yellow arrow”.
protected left turn

If the signal is a…
Red Arrow Stop. Left turn is not permitted.
Green Arrow It is safe to turn left. Oncoming traffic must stop.
Flashing Yellow Arrow Left turn is permitted, but driver must yield to oncoming traffic or pedestrians.
Steady Yellow Arrow Driver must prepare to stop as arrow is about to turn red.

The biggest difference in the new signals is between the yellow arrows. A steady yellow arrow is like an ordinary yellow light, you must stop, if it is safe to do so, as the arrow will soon go red. The flashing yellow arrow permits a left turn, after yielding to traffic or any pedestrians.

Like any intersection, always be ready to yield the right of way, even on a green.

Thank you for reading this.




The Climb

Mt Everest

A Legendary Conquest

It’s the stuff that legends are made of. A young, successful couple go on a quest to prove to the world that vegans can do anything by climbing the Seven Summits — the tallest mountains in the world.

One of their expedition leaders has a similar goal: to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. He finally succeeds on this, his fourth attempt, but on the way down, he had spent all he had and pays the ultimate price. . . The young couple both in their 30s, don’t make it to the top and also pay a price. Youth alone does not provide any immunity against altitude sickness in the death zone. She dies and he is stricken . . .

What’s the connection to transportation, you might ask?

We can see similar results everyday when drivers push themselves beyond their personal limits. Perhaps they are tired or not feeling well. Perhaps their health isn’t what it used to be. Perhaps their schedule was delayed and their sleep cycle was interrupted.

But they push on. They are so focused on the mission they miss their own vital signs. They bop until they literally drop.

In the majority of cases, pushing to the limits results in single vehicle collision. The truck runs off of the road. Sometimes the driver is seriously injured. If the vehicle rolls, it is likely the driver will be seriously injured or even fatally injured, His driving career is tarnished and could be over . . .

If the driver finds himself in the Land of Nod on a heavily traveled road, he may crash into other vehicles. If so, there is the likelihood of multiple injuries or even fatalities.

If the driver survives, he will be in a world of hurt. The odds are that his driving career is over. He may be sued with his company. He may be criminally prosecuted and jailed.

It doesn’t matter how good his driving record. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t intend for a collision to happen. There will people looking for justice or the closest thing they can get to justice.

Who’s to Blame?

Is the driver to blame? Is the carrier to blame? Is no one to blame? Is the “system” to blame?

Will new technology solve this problem?

Time will tell.

In the meantime, drivers need to know their limits. Drivers need to learn how to read their own vital signs. They need to know about fatigue management and the signs of sleep.

The one thing we know about sleep for sure is that you can not fight it. When your brain shuts down, there is little a person can do other than get some needed rest.

Don’t try to make the climb if you can’t do it. Stay out of the zone of death. Know when to say no . . .


Thank you for reading this.

The Important Stuff . . .

roadside inspection

The key is to know what is important and what is unimportant and what is exciting. You can’t learn everything. — Richard Feynman

What is the Important Stuff?

What is the ‘important stuff’ when driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV)?

The answers might vary — depending on who you would ask. Dispatch is concerned about timely arrivals, maintenance wants to service the vehicle at an opportune time, billing is looking for the BoLs in proper order to do their job, safety has another alert about this or that, the customer has their own set of problems  (no dock, no forklift truck, nobody in shipping and receiving, no restrooms, no loading/unloading after 6AM, etc.).

The driver is not supposed to have any problems with the vehicle, road conditions, weather, traffic, roadside inspections, miscommunications or personal problems. After all, everybody else’s problems are the driver’s problem and should take priority, right?

Can You Hear Me Now?

In experiments about decision making, researchers have found out the main reason mistakes are made is not due to any internal mental process or mental miscalculation, but rather by faulty information (called “noise” or flawed inputs). Most interesting, errors are made almost exclusively due to bad sensory inputs, not how the information is processed.

In driving we know from crash data that distractions and fatigue, leading to driver error, are factors in most collisions. For example, after an initial crash, a secondary crash may occur because drivers are distracted by the first crash.

In some of the most serious crashes, Omnitracs (formally of Qualcomm) found drivers took zero evasive action when sleep impaired or driving drowsy.

Distractions lead to missed cues. A common error is the “looked but didn’t see” collision (also known as improper lookout), when a driver glances in a certain direction but fails to pick out an approaching motorcycle or vehicle. These collisions commonly occur in urban environments or at intersections where potential distractions may be greater in number than in rural environments or on less busy side roads.

What Organizations Can Do

Many times commercial drivers are exposed to training concepts about distracted driving or driving drowsy. But training rarely exposes drivers to how increased levels of distraction (the noise) can filter out critical cues leading to driving errors. Drivers cannot simultaneously safely multi-task and drive.

Secondly, the organizational safety culture needs to adopt the mindset when a driver is driving, they are driving. Drivers should not be alerted to non-essential information and/or tasks. Even hands-free electronic devices can have a certain level of distraction.

The key to safe driving is to pay attention to the important stuff while driving — and that’s driving.

Dangers of Flash Flooding and Driving

Houston floodingOne tractor-trailer driver was among the seven vehicle drivers killed in recent flash flooding around Houston, Texas. All were trapped in their vehicles.


Flash Flooding is the Number 1 weather-related killer in the United States.

Flash floods can occur during or right after a severe thunderstorm or other weather-related event.

Flash floods can occur within a few minutes or hours of heavy rainfall or other conditions.

Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities involve vehicles.

2015 flooding

Heavy blue show flooded roads in 2015 Houston flooding.

What to Do

If the National Weather Service issues a Flash Flood Warning, or if you observe water rising quickly, take action immediately.

• DO NOT DRIVE through flooded areas. If you see a flooded roadway ahead, turn around and find another route to your destination.

• Get far away from areas subject to flooding (dips, low spots, canyons, dry creek beds, or along a stream). Seek higher, safer ground.

• Avoid areas near rivers or streams and areas that are already flooded. Roads that are underwater may no longer be intact. NEVER drive through flooded roadways.

• If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and sweep it away.

• Be very careful at night when it is harder to see flood dangers.

• Do not park your vehicle along streams, dry streambeds, or arroyos* during threatening conditions. (Idaho DMV)

*An arroyo is a water-carved gully or normally dry creek bed. Arroyos can fill with fast-moving water very quickly.

You will not always have a warning flash floods are coming. Most flood deaths are due to flash flooding. Turn around, don’t drown.

I’ve noticed there are a number of YouTube videos showing trucks driving through deep waters and flooded roads. This is not a good idea for a number of reasons. Drivers cannot see what they are driving on, or if the road hasn’t washed out. Water and vehicle electrical systems do not mix well. Grit becomes packed in the wheels and brakes. This list goes on. This is simply poor judgement on part of the drivers.

Don’t be this guy . . .

Thank you for reading this.

If You See Orange Barrels . . . It’s a Work Zone

construction zone

Winter . . . and Construction

In Michigan, the local saying goes, there are only two distinct seasons . . . winter and construction.

Most drivers know when it’s winter, but some drivers seem to be confused as to when they are entering a construction zone . . .

Many drivers tell Law Enforcement Officers, “I didn’t know it was a construction zone,” tweeted Sgt. John Perrine.  So here’s a heads-up:

TIP— If you see orange barrels it’s a work zone. Sgt. John Perrine

Many states double fines and “points” for traffic infractions in a construction work zone. Avoiding a ticket, however, should be the least of our considerations; we want to be safe and make sure everyone else is safe, too.

Because there can be distractions and a lot happening at the same time, construction zones can be dangerous and deadly. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) reminds us in the last 5 years:

  • 4,400 persons died (85 percent of which was the driver or passenger) in work zones
  • 200,000 persons were injured
  • A fatal work-zone collision involving a truck occurs every 3 days

Statistics from work-zone crashes show:

  • 47% of fatal rural work-zone collision involve trucks
  • 49% of fatal truck-involved work-zone collisions involve a truck running into something or someone, and
  • 30% of fatal truck-involved work-zone collisions involve driver distraction.

The most common type of work zone crash is the rear-end collision. Drivers are following too closely or not paying attention.


• Keep a good following distance and be ready to suddenly stop.

• Look for other vehicles trying to merge late into the lane.

• Some states enforce the zipper merge.

• Stay under the posted speed limit.

• Expect the unexpected. People will make mistakes.

• Turn the radio off and CB down.

• Limit conversations.

• In bad weather, slow down and leave extra following distance.

• Be mindful of flaggers and signage.

• Out east, cars will (illegally) pass your truck by driving on the shoulder.

• Allow extra drive time in your schedule.

• Don’t make ANY unnecessary lane changes.

• Keep your headlights on.

• Drive defensively.

My personal strategy is to avoid construction zones, if possible. If I can’t avoid them, I will try to run through the zone during off peak-traffic times. Sometimes they can’t be avoided.

Yeah . . . I’m that guy following the work-zone speed limit . . . And I hope you do, too . . .

Remember today’s tip: If you see the orange barrels, it’s a work zone.

Thank you for reading this. With thanks to Sgt. John Perrine.


Keeping Drivers Safe on the Road

Golden rules of driving

Fatal Truck Driver Collisions On the Rise

SInce 2009 there has been an increase in work-related fatalities of large-truck occupants, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why is that? What is driving this? What can be done?

Not Wearing Seat Belts / Safety Belts

The most effective way to prevent crash injuries/deaths in large trucks is simple: drivers (and occupants) need to wear a safety belt (or bunk restraints) while driving.

Studies show about 1 in 6 truck drivers doesn’t use a seat belt. Other studies show seat belts/safety belts could have prevented up to 40% of these crash-deaths.

Three other significant facts arise from safety-belt studies and driver behavior. Unbelted drivers usually:

  • Work for an employer without a written safety program
  • Have had at least one moving violation in the past year 
  • Often drive 10 mph or more over the speed limit.

In other words, the unbelted driver is a risky driver or high risk driver.

What Employers Can Do?

Enforce a mandatory safety belt/ safety belt use policy. Drivers need to be aware of the policy and the consequences of violation.

Of course, one of the best way to keep truck drivers safe on the road is to prevent crashes. Invest in safety. Invest in new technology.

But new technology can only go so far. How you recruit, train, and monitor drivers is where new technology can help the most.

Beside using a seat belt/ safety belt employers can encourage and monitor drivers:

  • Not to use their cell phone
  • Not to drive over the speed limit
  • Never use alcohol or drugs on the job
  • Plan the trip: encourage driving during daylight hours rather than after dark, whenever possible.

These, plus the use of a safety belt are called the golden rules of safe driving.

“Poor safety is nothing more than a lack of leadership.”

Be a Safety Leader

Other safety initiatives include incorporating a Fatigue Management System for drivers. Fatigue is a major hazard because it affects most aspects of a driver’s ability to do their job. As such, it has implications for safety. One such option is Omnitracs Analytics’ Driver Fatigue Model.

Behavior based Driver Training should be de rigueur for every driver employer starting with Defensive Driving Training (Instructor-led training or E-learning modules) and continuing with advanced training or even remedial training for the drivers who need it.

Take and make safety initiatives that are unique to your set of operations. Sometimes this means taking at look at your safety awards or safety incentives program. Some regulatory bodies like OSHA do not like incentive or bonus programs because they believe poor safety can be hidden. One option is to pool the names of safe drivers and randomly pick a winner for recognition. Another bonus option is to find out if there are any particular privileges a driver may want as extra-long weekends or the like. Find out what works best for your particular drivers,

Improve a Little at a Time

It took a long time to get wherever you are at. Changes will take some time as well. The idea is to keep looking for unique solutions that can make a big difference in the long haul.

Thank you for reading this.

Truck crash scams: One More Reason for an “Event Recording Device?”

preventing fraudCrunch Time!

Insurance fraud is any act committed with the intent to obtain a fraudulent outcome from an insurance process.

The incidences of cars pulling in front of trucks to intentionally collide are increasing. Many motor carriers are not aware of this growing problem. These scams are not only dangerous, but raise everyone’s insurance premiums.

Fact:  Since 2008 car-semitrailer insurance fraud has grown 24 percent nationwide.

Called a “staged wreck,” it involves a car slowing down or suddenly stopping in front of a truck or tractor-trailer so it is rear-ended. Shortly after an insurance claim is filed against the motor carrier.

Staged accidents are schemes in which an accident is predetermined to occur on a vehicle. The schemes are organized by rings and the culprits move from one area to another. They often use the same vehicle over and over, which is sometimes what causes their scheme to be uncovered. Insurance Fraud Handbook


Insurance Fraud Countermeasures

How can a driver or motor carrier protect themselves against insurance fraud?

The number one tool to fight insurance fraud is awareness of the problem, to avoid being victimized by the scammers.

• Report suspected fraud to your insurance company. More than 4 of 5 insurers have trained insurance fraud investigators.

• Drivers should never tailgate and learn to watch out for a setup.

Swoop and squat: A suspect vehicle suddenly swoops in front of you and jams on the brakes, causing a rear-end collision.

Drive down: You’re trying to merge into traffic, and a dishonest driver slows down and waves you forward. He then crashes into your vehicle, but denies waving you into traffic and blames the accident on you. Crooked drivers may also wave you out of a parking space with the same come-on.

Sideswipe: Be careful if you’re driving in the inner lane of a dual left-turn lane at a busy intersection. Crooks will deliberately ram you if you drift into the outer lane while turning. Coalition Against Insurance Fraud

All drivers need to be well versed on defensive driving practices and techniques. If a crash does happen, be observant.

• Never tailgate : allow plenty of space between your car and the car ahead of you. This will give you ample time to stop if the lead car suddenly jams on its brakes.

• Look beyond the car in front of you while driving. Apply your brakes if you see traffic slowing.

• Count how many passengers were in the other vehicle if you’re in a collision. Get their names, phone numbers and driver’s license : more people may file claims than were in the car. Also get the car’s license number. Note: Keep a pen and paper in your glove compartment so you’re always ready.

• How do the passengers behave? Did they stand around and joke, but suddenly act “injured” when the police arrived?

• Take cell-phone pictures of the other car, the damage it received — and the passengers.

• Call the police to the scene. Get a police report with the officer’s name, even for minor damage. If the police report notes just a small dent or scratch, it’ll be harder for crooks to later claim serious injuries or car damage.

• Get involved if you’re a witness. Watch for the warning signs of a scam, and help the honest victim with details. Coalition Against Insurance Fraud

Motor carriers are also installing Event Recording Devices to capture crash details on video. One large motor carrier will install over 6,000 devices in its fleet.

Will your company be the next victim?

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.






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


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.

Rolling Roadblocks by Trucks: Illegal or Not?

rolling roadblock

What Are Rolling Roadblocks?

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

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

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

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

PA § 3301.  Driving on right side of roadway.

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

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

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

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

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

Trucks engaging in a rolling roadblock could be ticketed for:

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

Key Driver Indoctrination Points

Truck drivers should not participate in creating rolling roadblocks.

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

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

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

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

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

Action Summary

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta


John Taratuta is a trucking safety advocate and Risk Engineer.

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

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

“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.








Who are the Safest Drivers in the USA? . . . Safety Indoctrination Works


Who are the safest drivers in the USA?

All drivers are not created equal. Some drivers just seem to have a knack for driving. Other, seemingly bright, intelligent people are all thumbs behind the wheel of a car.

In my career, I’ve been fortunate to have evaluated thousands of drivers from almost every part of the world and of various ages, occupations, and social backgrounds.

When it comes to safe driving, I have found the children of truck drivers or police officers fair not much better than average when it comes to driving. Perhaps many truck drivers are gone and let mama do the driver’s ed stuff. Due to the nature of their work, police are notorious for having some of the highest collision rates, even though being specially trained in high-risk driving.

When it comes to safe driving, there is one segment that always stands out. Here’s a hint . . . These are the children of the folks who, on a daily basis, have to deal with the direct consequences of bad driving. The folks who see the broken bones, severe burns, missing limbs, life-altering injuries, wicked whiplash, TBI, paralysis, and other horrors of bad driving that polite folks don’t talk or even think much about. These are the folks, all the livelong day, who have to take the mush and pieces that are left from a bad collision and try to make what resembles a human being from the anatomical jigsaw puzzle.

On occasion, they share their work with their trusted inner circle, the members of their family. “Yeah, that Smith kid —the only one in the car who didn’t wear his safety belt— he’s going to live. It took six surgeries over 32 hours and 42 pints of blood — but he’s going to live. He’s going to live . . .”

Yes — the children of emergency room doctors are some of the safest drivers I have had the privilege to observe. They do their traffic checks, make full stops, yield to pedestrians, check the railroad tracks, check their blind spots and the hundreds of other safe driving behaviors that many drivers “forget” to do. And they do it naturally, as if they had been driving for decades.

Two Lessons Learned

The moral of this story is twofold.

Firstly, safety indoctrination works.

1. the act of indoctrinating, or teaching or inculcating a doctrine, principle,or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view


The word indoctrination is formed from indoctrinate, a word whose Latin roots mean “to teach.” It also means to inculcate or imbue with learning.

Whether it is politically correct or not, from my observations, safety indoctrination works. If you teach it, really make an effort to teach it, they will learn.

The second point, related to the emergency care scene, is that we’ve become better as a society at patching up people after crashes. Crashes are more survivable due to vehicle safety improvements. The tools and resources and training of the first responders are better. The emergency room technology is improved.

In general, the number of fatal car crashes have been falling. The declining number of fatal car crashes might be a false metric. Are we really any safer?

But there is another statistic that should concern us all. Take a look at the handicapped parking spots at any retail store. Usually they are in use by somebody. By some estimates, there are up to fifty-six million disabled people in the U.S., sometimes called “the hidden society.” Every year thousands of people are injured or disabled, and many of these in car and truck crashes.

That tells me there is still much work that needs to be done in driver safety training and education (indoctrination) at all levels of driving. Most of us did not have emergency room doctors as parents.

Dollarize the Safety Value Proposition

The majority of companies are small and lack either a vision or budget for training and education. With everything else going in in the business, it’s sometimes hard to see the oftentimes hidden value of safety. Here’s how one safety training company dollarized the value of their safety training . . .

savings from training

Thank you for reading this.

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

Another Post . . .

What are the qualifications or standards to administer company D.O.T. driving tests?