Stopping Cargo Theft


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

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

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

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

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

Remember the Red Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other advice included:

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

Winter Driving Woes . . .


Winter Woes

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

The Case of the Missing Driver

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

Here’s the rest of the story . . .


Flooding is another problem that occurs almost every winter.

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

Please don’t try this at home, folks!

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

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

Strong Winds

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

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

Action Summary

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

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

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

Thank you for reading this.

Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Dennis Todd memorial procession

Be so good they can’t ignore you. Steve Martin

That saying brings to mind the name of Mr. Dennis Todd, who passed away on March 16, 2015, from natural causes.

Here is what others have said of Mr. Todd . . .

Dennis was a beloved member of the community.

He was well-known for his quick wit, practical jokes, his devious smile and his overalls.

Todd was so dependable that even heavy snowstorms couldn’t keep him away when he was needed at collision sites.

Dennis had a big heart; he would help anyone in need, and he was a very loyal and devoted friend who will be greatly missed by all those who had the honor of knowing him.

For about 25 years Mr. Todd owned Todd’s Towing in North Bend WA. Dozens of his towing friends put together a memorial procession in his honor. Attendees at Mr Todd’s funeral were requested to wear their best pair of overalls in his memory.

Mr. Todd was interviewed prior to passing by the film crew of the “Highway thru Hell” documentary, airing on the Discovery Channel.

Trucking is the lifeblood of America and literally puts food on the table for millions of people. But trucking can’t do it without the assistance and help of the many ancillary support segments as towing and recovery, first responders, insurance and risk management, repair, special equipment, vehicle accessories, fuel suppliers, restaurants, banking and finance, law enforcement, and other sectors, too many to mention. When the chips are down, in every sector there are people like Mr. Todd, who put on their overalls in the middle of the night, in the worst of conditions, to risk life and limb, to help restore a semblance of order out of chaos.

As we move into another year, may we remember and uphold the high standards in business and safety as exemplified by Mr. Dennis Eric Todd.

Thank you for reading this. Please have a Happy New Year and a prosperous 2016.



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 . . .”





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.



Know How to Use Tire Chains

chainingAre you Ready to Shift into Winter?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Chain Rule No. 3  Drive slowly with chains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

49 CFR Part 395.2 Definitions.

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

Other Considerations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chain Training

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

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

semi truck snow tire chains







how to mount tire chains

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

Another post that may be of interest . . .

What is a DOT Safety Audit?

Types of Workforce Accidents


A number of transportation companies in the past few years in the Midwest have seen explosive growth. One consequence of bringing new people on-board is an increase in the number of incidents and accidents.

Some say there is no such thing as an “accident.” Things don’t just happen on their own. Many times there are indicators leading up to the actual event, a series of close-calls and near-misses. The warning signs are ignored.

Then something happens. Really quick.

One defintion of an accident is an unplanned event resulting in injury or illness, or damage to property or the environment. Some safety investigators prefer to call all accidents an incident until an investigation is completed and a cause assigned.

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires an accident register for DOT recordable accidents.  The DOT defines an accident as an occurrence involving a commercial motor vehicle which results in: (a.) a fatality (b.) Bodily injury to a person who, as a result of the injury, immediately receives medical treatment away from the scene of the accident, or (c.) One or more of the vehicles incurs disabling damage, requiring it to be towed from the scene.

The term “DOT accident,” however, does not include:
1. An occurrence involving only boarding and alighting from a stationary motor vehicle;
2. An occurrence involving only the loading or unloading of cargo.

OSHA Wants to Know, Too

Other events, where someone is injured, are covered by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). While loading and unloading trucks, OSHA regulations govern, including “at the dock, at the rig, at the construction site, at the airport terminal and in all places truckers go to deliver and pick up loads.” The trucking industry is addressed in specific OSHA standards for recordkeeping and the general industry. An OSHA recordable accident is a work-related injury or illness that must be reported to OSHA.

New OSHA reporting rules became effective in 2015. Starting in 2015, employers need to immediately report the following to OSHA:

  • All work-related fatalities (report within 8 hours)
  • All work-related inpatient hospitalizations of one or more employees (report within 24 hours)
  • All work-related amputations (report within 24 hours)
  • All work-related losses of an eye (report within 24 hours)

Who is covered under the new rule?

All employers under OSHA jurisdiction must report all work-related fatalities, hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye to OSHA, even employers who are exempt from routinely keeping OSHA injury and illness records due to company size or industry

Employers do not have to report an event or incident to OSHA resulting from a motor vehicle accident on a public street or highway. However employers must report the event if it happened in a construction work zone.  Any injuries and illnesses that occur during an employee’s normal commute to and from work are not considered work-related, and therefore not recordable for OSHA’s purposes.

Contract Workers and Temps

OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation at Section 1904.31(a) requires employers to record the recordable injuries and illnesses of contract employees they supervise on a day-to-day basis, even if these workers are not carried on the employer’s payroll. Section 1904.31(b)(2) further clarifies that the host employer must record the injuries and illnesses of temporary workers it supervises on a day-to-day basis. Section 1904.31(b)(3) states that if the contractor’s employee is under the day-to-day supervision of the contractor, the contractor is responsible for recording the injury or illness.

Here are some of the different Types of Workforce Accidents:

Struck-by: A person is forcefully struck by an object.
The force of contact is provided by the object.

Struck-against: A person forcefully strikes an object.
The person provides the force or energy.

Contact-by: Contact by a substance or material that, by
its very nature, is harmful and causes injury.

Contact-with: A person comes in contact with a harmful substance or material. The person initiates the contact.

Caught-on: A person or part of his/her clothing or equipment is caught on an object that is either moving or stationary. This may cause the person to lose his/her balance and fall, be pulled into a machine, or suffer some other harm.

Caught-in: A person or part of him/her is trapped, or otherwise caught in an opening or enclosure.

Caught-between: A person is crushed, pinched or otherwise caught between a moving and a stationary object, or between two moving objects.

Fall-to-surface: A person slips or trips and falls to the surface he/she is standing or walking on.

Fall-to-below: A person slips or trips and falls to a level below the one he/she was walking or standing on.

Over-exertion: A person over-extends or strains himself/herself while performing work.

Bodily reaction: Caused solely from stress imposed by free movement of the body or assumption of a strained or unnatural body position. A leading source of injury.

Over-exposure: Over a period of time, a person is exposed to harmful energy (noise, heat), lack of energy (cold), or substances (toxic chemicals/atmospheres).

Safety Initiatives without any Actions are only Intentions

  • Slips and falls continue to be the biggest problem area for injuries and fatalities. Enforce the three-points-of-contact rule for climbing in and out of the truck and cranking the dollies. Proper non-slip footwear is essential not only in winter, but year-around.
  • Most hand injuries arise from not wearing gloves.
  • Drivers of flatbeds and dumps need to be made aware of the danger zone around the truck when loading or unloading. Drivers of vans and reefers should not be inside the van when powered lift trucks are loading and unloading.

Thank you for reading this. Save a safe day and a great weekend.

When the Gales of November Come Early . . .


Living in Michigan, one is surrounded by the Great Lakes and its ships. In its day, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest ship on the Great Lakes. Today marks the 40th anniversary of the day on November 10, 1975 when the Fitzgerald went down with its crew.

Nobody really knows what happened. It’s still a mystery. The Fitzgerald reported some problems and then it was gone. There were no survivors. The ship and its crew were memorialized in the 1976 hit song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

November is a Time of Transition

We don’t want to think about it, but somewhere in the U.S., depending on the altitude and location, it’s already snowing and blowing. Now is the time to be proactive and start thinking about the cold weather.

This not only means winterizing the fleet, but developing a winter mindset as well. Get ready for the cold starts, frozen brake lines and sticky fifth wheel locking mechanisms.

Here are some often overlooked areas . . .

Make sure all the grease buildup on the fifth wheel is removed in and around the lock jaw, throat and the pivot points. Degrease, clean, and inspect the fifth wheel. Follow the manufactures’ guidance. Be sure to lube it with water-resistant lithium grease — on all of the fifth wheel-to-trailer contact surfaces. This needs to be done.

Be aware of new “solid precipitation” laws that cover snow, ice, hail and sleet on a moving motor vehicle. States without specific snow/ice removal laws may charge drivers for “negligent driving” — or operating in a way that endangers or is likely to endanger another person or property.

Southern drivers . . . if you are delivering in the snow belt, note that your tires will be warm coming off the road. Parking on the snowpack in a truckstop or dock may result in the warm tires melting the snow and forming ice. Don’t spin the drive wheels. Feather the fuel. If the drives start to spin, then stop.  Try the interlock, if the truck is equipped with one. Another winter tactic is to start off in a gear or two higher. This helps to keep the wheels from spinning. Sand should help stop a spin. Backing up and placing a chain under the tire may provide traction. Don’t spin your wheels is always sound advice.

Control of speed in inclement weather is essential. The contact patch of each tire is a little more than the palm of one’s hand. This means that slamming on the brakes on a snow-covered road can easily result in a jack-knife or the truck doing a 180-degree turn. Ice or wet ice is much worse . . .

 jackknifed while avoiding an accident


Raleigh, NC— On Monday, this truck jackknifed while trying to avoid an accident.




When the Gales of November Come Early

When the gales of November come early, we need to change our driving mind-set. Everything just takes longer from the get-go. Slow down on those wet or snow-covered roads and get set to enjoy the ride.

Thank you for reading this.

Top Safety Tip: Neon Safety Belts

orange safety belt






Use of safety belts by truck drivers is on the rise. Safety conscious organizations have a safety belt policy and they enforce it. Why? Professional drivers use their safety belts because they know safety belts save lives.

But safety belt use is still not 100%. Sometimes we’re in a hurry and forget to buckle up. Sometimes we get distracted. But the benefits of wearing a safety belt are clear — as we noted in a previous post:

• Would have saved 3 out of every 5 people killed in vehicle crashes.
• Reduces the risk of fatal or serious injury by up to 50%.
• Ensures driver control of the vehicle— when it is needed most.
• Protects the driver’s head, spinal cord, organs and limbs.
• In a rollover a truck driver is 80% less likely to die.

Paul Abelson, who just retired in October after thirty years of writing about trucks, recommends equipping trucks with orange, yellow, or neon green seat belts. He says,

“They stand out, and you can see at a glance if they are being used. Check your drivers as they exit and enter the yard and at jobsites.”







Safety Belts now Come in Up to 30 Colors

So the next time your are spec’ing your fleet or retrofitting your safety belts, consider using colors that stand out.

An oft-heard complaint from drivers is that they had their safety belt on when stopped for a roadside inspection, but the officer did not notice before they unbelted and this resulted in a citation and CSA points. Use of a brightly colored safety belt may help reduce these types of citations and give your company the safety edge.

Thank you for reading this, and many thanks and best wishes to Paul Abelson on his new endeavors.

Have a super-safe day.

Other informative safety related posts you might be interested in:

Let’s Eliminate “Unsafe Driving”

One “Dead Give Away of a Pothead

Deadly Com•pla•cen•cy



The 8 Biggest Mistakes Made In Dealing With Regulations . . .

1. Ignoring Deadlines







If you get an official notice or a notice from an official, then deal with it. Immediately. Wait until the last day and you are asking for trouble. Once the deadline passes, if you were facing a fine or other sanctions, you may lose your rights to an appeal. Don’t wait until the end of the day: remember the government’s “business day” legally ends at 5 PM not midnight.

Some current problem areas include the Biennial Update or renewal of DOT Number registration or the return of the completed roadside inspection form to the issuing agency (§396.9 Inspection of motor vehicles in operation).

2. Not Filling out Forms — Completely

Mr. Doc







An incomplete form or unsigned form may be taken for a missing form. If the correct response is “NONE” then write “NONE” not “n/a.” And don’t accept “bad paperwork” from employees.

Common errors are found in applications for employment, log books, driver’s vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs), shipping paperwork and supporting documents for logbooks.

3. Not reading, checking or verifying incoming paperwork







When checking documents, ask yourself “Why?” Why does the results of a drug test have a certain box checked off? Why don’t the supporting documents match the logbook? Why didn’t the driver (or mechanic) sign the DVIR?

You are responsible for every piece of paper crossing your desk. So make every day
your why day.

4. Not Reading the Regulations







“Every employer shall be knowledgeable of and comply with all regulations contained in this subchapter which are applicable to that motor carrier’s operations.” (49 C.F.R. Part 390.3(e) Knowledge of and compliance with the regulations)

Sure it’s dry stuff. But here’s a tip: Start the Federal Motors Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) at 49 C.F.R. Part 390 — that would be Chapter One of any other book . . .

5. Not Reading Into the Regulations Far Enough

read me






The same section goes on to say in (2) “Every driver and employee shall be instructed regarding, and comply with, all applicable regulations contained in this subchapter.” If you are the employer and driver, then all the regulations apply.

Don’t stop reading at the point when it seems the regulations meet our predisposed expectations. Keep going . . .

6. Not Setting up a Tickler File

tickler file









A tickler file is a term used by office professionals to remind themselves and keep track of upcoming events. For example: vehicle maintenance and inspections, annual inspections, driver annual reviews, driver’s license renewals, medical examiner’s renewals, the biennial update, all of these documents and forms have due dates or renew dates. Loss of ability to operate and fines may occur to employer and/or driver, if any actions take place after the due dates.

There are many apps that can help in this area.

7. Not Doing Your Homework . . .

due diligence










In business it’s called “due diligence.” There is no requirement for any government agency to inform you of your legal and regulatory responsibilities. Transportation laws may vary from state to state and even city to city. Bridge laws and seasonal load restrictions may restrict when and how much you may carry.

Know what you are allowed to do or not do. Get any special permits, if necessary. If you are not sure what you need for a trip, then ask a specialist.

8. Falling Short of the Regulations








Just as we can’t leap a gap in two jumps, it’s bad policy to ignore regulations or go around them for the sake of expediency. Missing permits, missing paperwork, incomplete files, can lead to trouble, months or years later.

STAR — Stop. Think. Act. Review.

STAR is a safety acronym. In approaching a new work challenge, before rushing in it’s always better to first stop, think it over, before taking action, and then reflect on whether we made the best possible decision.

Many of us make these mistakes due to biases in our thought process.

Availability bias — making a decision based on limited information. “Well, I found it on the Internet, so it must be true . . .”

Anchor bias — making a decision based on an “anchor” fact you have been given. “I won’t vote because the polls show my candidate is down.”

Overconfidence bias — making a decision based on one’s own subject judgement. “I can have it there by tomorrow. No, really . . .”

Confirmation bias — making a decision based on one’s preconceptions, ignoring evidence to the contrary. “The economy will keep growing forever.”

Rush-to-solve bias  — making a decision without considering all of the data. “My intuition tells me it’s a go.”


Nobody wants to make mistakes. Mistakes cost time and money. Regulatory mistakes often carry a high price tag: audit risk, the potential for unbelievable fines, and even the loss of ability to engage in certain aspects of your business. There is always a lot going on in any successful business or organization, but skipping or going around regulations to save the bother is not one of the options.

Loss Control: Preventing Truck Repair Shop Fires

truck shop fire

Many firms with commercial motor vehicles have in-house repair shops which may engage in anything from light repair work to full frame-up overhauls. Risk of fire and loss may increase depending on the nature of repair work done. Loss of the shop may result in the additional loss of any vehicles in or around the shop. A major shop fire could truly test business continuity.

Here are a few tips to avoid risk of fire in your truck repair shop.

Perform a Waste Audit
What types of waste are produced by the shop?
Is the waste hazardous?
Are refrigerants, solvents, batteries, used oil and antifreeze recycled?
Does the shop use a reputable recycling company for assistance in its waste stream?
Is hazardous waste kept separate in properly labeled and sealed containers?
Is the waste storage area secure from the elements (rain, snow, standing water) and unauthorized personnel?
Are written records kept of any waste stored on property?
Is hazardous waste transported by a licensed hazardous waste hauler and properly disposed?
Are waste manifests and documentation kept for at least three years?

Properly Store any Flammable and Combustible Liquids 

For small quantities (containers under 5 gallons U.S.) does the shop have an approved flammable liquids storage cabinet (designed to meet the requirements of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code)?

Does the shop have a policy limiting the storage and quantity of flammable liquids used and stored inside buildings?

Does any outdoor flammable liquids storage meet the requirements of NFPA 30?


Properly Store any Compressed Gases

  • Are areas posted where gases are present?
  • Are cylinders inspected (1.) Upon delivery (visual) (2.) Per manufactures’ recommendations thereafter?
  • Are cylinders examined as soon as you receive them? If you detect signs of damage or leakage, move them to a safe, isolated area and return them to the supplier as soon as possible.
  • Are gases grouped and kept separate from combustibles?
  • Are cylinders stored upright with the steel protective cap screwed on?
  • Are full and empty cylinders kept apart when stored?
  • Are cylinders secured with chains or cables (to keep cylinders from falling over)?
  • Are cylinders stored in dry, well-ventilated areas away from exits and stairways?
  • If storing compressed gas cylinders outside, are cylinders stored off the ground and out of extremely hot or cold environments?
  • Are compressed gas containers stored away from high pedestrian and vehicle traffic areas? (Containers are more likely to be damaged there.)
  • Are oxygen cylinders stored at least 20 feet from flammables or combustibles (or separated them by a 5- foot, fire-resistant barrier)?
  • Are oil and grease kept away from oxygen cylinders, valves and hoses?
  • If hands, gloves or clothing are oily, is there a written policy in place to not handle oxygen cylinders?
  • Are fire extinguishers near the storage area, appropriate for gases stored there?

Some Gas Cylinder Do’s and Don’ts
• Do not tamper with connections and do not force connections together.
• Do not hammer valves open or closed.
• Do not drop, bang, slide, clank or roll cylinders.
• Cylinders may only be rolled along the bottom rim.
• Do not let cylinders fall or have things fall on them.
• Do not lift a cylinder by its cap unless using hand trucks so designed.
• Use carts or other material handling equipment to move cylinders. Use ropes and chains to move a cylinder only if the cylinder has special lugs to accommodate this.
• Keep cylinders secured and upright. (But never secure cylinders to conduit carrying electrical wiring.)
• When transporting compressed gas cylinders, be sure the vehicle is adequately equipped to haul compressed gases safely. (Do not haul compressed flammable gases within a van, inside a car, or in the cab of a vehicle).
• Know accident procedures.

Empty Gas Cylinders

When empty, close and return cylinders. Empty cylinders must be marked with the word EMPTY or letters MT. Empty acetylene cylinders must be so labeled. Be sure valves are closed when not using the container and before returning containers. Properly label returning containers.

Fire Extinguishers

Are fire extinguishers placed near all doorways and exits and/or to local fire codes?
Are fire extinguishers periodically inspected and serviced?
Are staff trained in use of fire extinguishers?

Ensure that access to fire extinguishers is not blocked or obstructed by any object or materials.

Other Shop Tasks

Is the shop floor swept daily and clear of combustibles?
Are shop rags placed in a fire-resistant container?
Are cleaning solvents secured when not in use?
Are any spills immediately cleaned up?

“Hot Work” (Electric or Gas Welding, Cutting, and Brazing or similar Flame Producing operations, and Grinding)

Is there a written hot work policy?
Does the hot work policy prohibit hot work in or on a tank or container unless it is properly vented?
Does the hot work policy prohibit hot work in or on any vessel, tank or container which
carries or has carried flammable materials, liquids or gases until the container
has been cleaned and tested and declared safe for “hot work” by the job safety
Are appropriate ventilating devices before and during hot work? (Opening a shop door will not provide proper ventilation in most cases.)

Hot Work Do’s and Don’ts
Never strike an arc on a compressed gas cylinder.
Always wear the appropriate type of PPE for the welding or cutting, including proper PPE and eyewear for infrared or ultraviolet radiation, depending on the process being employed.
Always wear protective ear equipment as appropriate. Protection which covers
the entire ear is recommended.

Smoking Policy

Is smoking prohibited near flammables and allowed in designated areas only?

No smoking signs should posted in all areas of the building or facility.

Other Fire Prevention Steps

Automatic sprinklers, fire suppression systems, smoke and fire detectors, etc., will help protect the facility and may result in reduced insurance premiums.

To Learn More . . .

For further protection of your truck repair shop, I strongly recommend obtaining a copy of your local building fire code and becoming familiar with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code.

Thank you for reading this.



Please Don’t Pull out in Front of Me

“Please don’t pull out in front of me . . .”

One of the strangest realizations when driving a truck is that, as big as the vehicle is, your truck is invisible. Drivers will look up, seemingly make eye contact and pull out right in front of the truck.

Train engineers experience this as well.


Driving Blind

There are various theories for this happening. Sometimes the mind of the observer cannot connect something big coming toward them with its actual velocity.

If one observes a 747 Landing, it appears to be hanging in the air and yet the “drop speed” is 140 knots or about 160 MPH.

A-pillar Blind Spot.

At times drivers glance up and don’t look around their A-pillar blind spot.


Or drivers are simply not attentive to driving . . .

There Are Many Reasons Drivers Don’t See You

Drivers may be distracted. Drivers may be under the influence. Drivers may have limited eyesight or multiple blind spots in their vision. Eyesight can change overnight. There are as many distractions as there are drivers.


Drive defensively. Use the Smith System of driving. The idea for Harold L. Smith’s copyrighted system for safe driving came to him in the Navy during WWII when he read a notice on a board in Guam pointing out how many servicemen were dying in car collisions. After the war, Smith researched vehicle collisions and concluded the majority of collisions were caused by “a lack of vision.”

The Smith System of Driving

  • Aim High In Steering ® —Looking further ahead than other drivers
  • Get The Big Picture ® —Seeing more around you than other drivers
  • Keep Your Eyes Moving ® —Being more aware than other drivers
  • Leave Yourself An Out ® —Positioning in traffic better than other drivers
  • Make Sure They See You ® —Making yourself more visible than other drivers

Distracted driving is on the rise. More people than ever are texting, phoning or driving inattentively. There are more drivers taking meds or combinations of meds that could affect their driving. There are simply more drivers out there than before and the need for defensive driving is greater than ever.

Thank you for reading this.


Just Another Mile of Road . . .

Hamilton Road

Just Another Mile of Road

There is nothing special about Hamilton Road, in northern Michigan. Its shoulders are wide, like many roads in the area, to help spot deer. The road is kept up and in good shape and lightly traveled.

The truck driver was familiar with the road, having worked for his employer for five years, one-third of his driving career. But, this summer on an early Wednesday morning, for some reason, he didn’t negotiate the above curve.

Perhaps it was a deer in the roadway, springing out like they sometimes do. Perhaps it was something else. We’ll never know because the 36 year-old driver was found trapped and “unresponsive” in his overturned tractor trailer. He was survived by his wife and three children.

Rural-road, Rollover Crashes are the most Prevalent

The DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) was established in 1992 to track all Transportation related crashes. Prior to the BTS, fatal crashes were closely tracked from 1975 onward by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Their findings about trucks (vehicles over 10,000 pounds GVWR) include:

Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of all fatal crashes involving large trucks occurred on rural roads, and 24 percent occurred on rural and urban Interstate highways.

Rollover was the first harmful event in 1 in 20 (five percent) of all fatal crashes involving large trucks and 3 percent of all nonfatal crashes involving large trucks.

Single-vehicle crashes made up 21 percent of all fatal truck crashes, 15 percent of all injury crashes, and 22 percent of all property damage only crashes involving large trucks in 2012. The majority (63 percent) of fatal large truck crashes involved two vehicles.

For truck driver, speeding was the most often coded driver-related factor; distraction/inattention was the second most common.

What do the Numbers Really Say?

One thing we know for sure is that every crash is different. The roadway is different. The vehicles involved are different. And the drivers are different.

Tracking statistical data, however, can point to trends. For example, one insurance company noted that their data showed a lot of limo and bus collisions occurred when the vehicles had no passengers. The implication is that the limo and bus drivers may have let their guard down a little when driving, after making their drops.

European Truck Accident Causation study found the top 3 main causes for collisions between a truck and other road users are:
1. Non-adapted speed,
2. Failure to observe intersection rules,
3. Inattention.

So what do the numbers really say?

  • Truck crashes are trending upwards. Car crashes, too. Insurance is likely to rise.
  • All drivers need to be mindful, not mind-full. Pay attention. Don’t become another statistic.

Thank you for reading this.








Ignorance: More Deadly Than a Speeding Bullet?


War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. George Orwell

Too Big to Quench

The fire was big and hot. Too big for the local Fire Department without help from an airport foam truck. So hot the driver could not be found.

Cause of the crash?

A sudden swerve by the tanker driver to avoid a mattress on the road . . .


mattress on road

That’s right. Police say the driver crashed after swerving to avoid mattresses that fell from the roof of another vehicle.

The mattresses are fine. The tractor, tanker, and driver are now just memories.

Sure, the driver probably believed he was doing the right thing. The outcome was not what he expected or desired.

Preventable or Not?

Insurance companies see accidents as random events. That means in any given time or place the “odds” — a measure of the likelihood of an event’s occurrence — have an equal probability of happening  — or not happening (for a given set of like organizations).

Somewhere out there another mattress will fall off another vehicle. But we just can’t predict when or where. It will be another random event.

“Luck is the residue of design.”

We can, however, prepare our drivers for these freakish events. We know, for example, that 90% to 95% of crashes are due to human error. Driving means operating a vehicle at high speeds inches away from other humans operating their vehicles. Human drivers are prone to making errors. Sometimes serious errors. This means we need to always drive defensively. Fully automated driving is years, if not decades away (according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute).

Defense driving means asking ourselves and our drivers questions like:

  • What do I do if a mattress is on my path in the roadway?
  • How should I safely crest a hill?
  • How should I check traffic at an intersection?
  • What should I do for a tire blowout?

These are just a few “random” events I pulled from today’s Google Alert on truck crashes.

There are many driving situations that should be reviewed periodically with drivers. Top companies do this in the form of a newsletter, in the context of a safety meeting, a Qualcomm message, or a call from a dispatcher.

Prepare today for tomorrow’s random events. It will save lives and property and help keep everyone’s insurance rates down.

Thank you for reading this.









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

false log

Roadside Inspectors follow Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) criteria for placing drivers Out-of-Service (OOS) for regulatory violations. During the stop the Roadside Inspector will ask the driver some basic questions about his or her recent activities and ask for today’s logsheet and the previous seven days’ worth, and possibly various supporting documents as trip bills, receipts, tolls, etc.

Some examples of Hours of Service (Part 395) violations resulting in an OOS include:

On Duty Beyond Maximum Periods Permitted
No driver shall drive after being on duty in excess of the maximum periods permitted by this part. Part 395.13 (b)(1).

No Record of Duty Status (RODS)
No record of duty status in possession, when one is required. Part 395.8(a)

No Previous 7 Days Logs
Failing to have in possession a record of duty status for the previous seven (7) consecutive days. Part (395.8(k)(2) — See Exception in Part 395.13(b)(3) – if the duty status is not current on the day of examination and the prior day, but driver has completed records of duty status up to that time (previous 6 days) — the driver will be given the opportunity to make the duty status record current, but may be cited for 395.8(f)(1) – Driver’s record of duty status not current (which is better than an OOS).

False Record of Duty Status
A false record of duty status is one that does not accurately reflect the driver’s actual activities and duty status (including time and location of each duty status change and the time spent in each duty status) in an apparent attempt to conceal a violation of an hours of service limitation within the current 60/70 hour rule period. Part 395.8(e)

Consequences of Being Placed Out-of-Service
• The driver must be placed Out-of-Service for ten (10) consecutive hours. The driver cannot drive any commercial motor vehicle while in OOS status.
• In addition, a driver may get a fine up to $200, per violation, per log-book page.
• The company may receive a $1,000 or greater fine by the FMCSA after a compliance audit or CSA intervention.
• The company will get CSA points.

Drivers can be placed Out-of-Service, if not medically fit, missing their prescription glasses or contacts, ill, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, not having a CDL in their possession, driving on a suspended license, etc.

Drivers should abide by any and all OOS orders. Fines to a company for violation of an OOS order can run in thousands of dollars and/or result in suspension of credentials to operate.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John E. Taratuta is an Independent Risk Engineer. Call (989) 474-9599 to chat him up.





Understanding Whistleblower Protection

Uncle Sam

Whistleblower Protection is right of an employee to question the safety practices of an employer without the employee’s risk of losing a job or being subject to reprisals simply for stating a safety concern (29 CFR Part 1978). The the Employee Protection Provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) of 1982 was codified in 49 U.S.C. §31105.

As of October 20, 2004, every CDL driver in interstate commerce (and a number of states) must receive Whistleblower training as one of four required training areas for Entry-level Driver training.

Unlike most transportation rules, whistleblower protection regulations for drivers are not enforced by the DOT but are are administered and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

An organization or firm found in violation of whistleblower rules may have to pay fines, back wages, litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees, and have to rehire and reinstate the driver, as well as, since 2007, pay punitive damages in an amount not to exceed $250,000. Claims for several drivers filing together for protection have approached $1 Million at one company. OSHA says STAA claim filings are up almost 10% from 2011 and over 30% since 2006.

Employer Responsibilities

Earlier we noted that the Employee Protection Provision of STAA established a “right.” With every right comes a responsibility.

An employer who doesn’t like something an employee is doing at work can put them “on notice.” For example, the employee is late for work. The employer has the right to alert the employee to that fact and give them some kind of warning or ultimatum. Perhaps in that particular situation the employee was delayed by factors beyond their control. The employer should take that additional fact under consideration.

If a driver-employee (and the definition of employee here is broad including an independent contractor when personally operating a commercial motor vehicle, a mechanic, a freight handler, or an individual not an employer, who directly affects commercial motor vehicle safety or security) has a safety concern (hazardous safety or security condition), they can put the employer on notice to their safety concerns in the following two circumstances (Both circumstances are considered distinct.):

  1. An employee may refuse to operate a vehicle when such operation is in violation of any regulation, standard or order of the United States related to commercial motor vehicle safety or health.
  2. An employee may refuse to operate a vehicle when they have a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public. In this second instance, the employee must also have sought from the employer and been unable to obtain correction of the unsafe condition hazardous safety or security

The activities protected under STAA include complaints to the FMCSA or other agency responsible for commercial motor carrier safety (e.g. highway patrol) or testifying in any proceeding related to a violation of commercial motor carrier safety.

In addition to being fired or laid off, an employee may suffer “adverse action” in the form of being: blacklisted; demoted; denied overtime or promotion; disciplined; denied benefits; not being hired or rehired; intimidated; a recipient of threats; reassigned affecting promotion prospects; and a recipient of reduced pay or hours.

Cases brought under the whistleblower provisions of STAA are referred to as actions alleging “retaliation” rather than “discrimination,” because focus on actions taken by the employer as a result of an employee’s protected activity rather than as a result of an employee’s characteristics (e.g., race, gender, or religion).

This doesn’t mean an employer cannot fire or demote an employee if the employer has cause. Under the Clean Harbors ruling (146 F.3d at 21-22), the employer bears “the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that it would have taken the adverse employment action in the absence of the employee’s protected activity.”

How to Avoid an STAA Claim

Have crystal clear safety policies and procedures. Written policies are better than oral.

Have clear job and work expectations. Have a process in place to report and correct any unsafe conditions or hazards.

Take seriously any report concerning safety, hazards or compliance. Make sure supervisors are attune to all safety and hazard concerns. Investigate and document.

Thank you for reading this.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599


Let’s Eliminate “Unsafe Driving”


Violation Summary

If one looks at their organization’s CSA Violation Summary, the list generally starts off with “Unsafe Driving” violations. Unsafe Driving is one of the six CSA Behavior Analysis & Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).

Unsafe Driving violations vary from “392.16 Failing to use seat belt while operating CMV” (essential to maintain control of a vehicle), to “392.2Y Failure to yield right of way” (the leading cause of fatal crashes), to “392.82A1 Using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a CMV” (a factor in up to 25% of all crashes).

In short, Unsafe Driving violations get to the crux of safety. By definition, the unsafe driver is operating unsafely. The unsafe driver listing varies by company from zero violations to dozens, some reoccurring again and again and again. Congrats, if no such violations are listed on your CSA Violation Summary.

Turning a Blind Eye . . .

There is a leadership quote making the rounds these days. It goes like this:

“The culture of any organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.”

An organization’s culture is how it gets things done. Safety culture is the reflection of attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to doing things safely or as safely as possible (free of risk).

Culture is the organization's immune system.

Another quote says:

“When the leader blinks, the entire organization turns a blind eye.”

How does this happen? How does one not see what is going on, sometimes, literally, “before their eyes?”

The concept of “willful blindness” originated in criminal law in the nineteenth century. One becomes willfully blind when there is knowledge that they could have had and should have had, but chose not to have, in order to evade responsibility.

I know there are companies that do not actively check their CSA scores. Sometimes they are not aware of CSA. In some situations, they have never been inspected by the DOT and have nothing to see. The most common excuse I hear is that resources are lacking. And it’s true, there is never enough time in the day when you are pulled in ten different directions. If so, then it’s time to prioritize and put safety-related activities back on the top of the to-do list.

Everyone should check their CSA scores to at least make sure that there are no DOT violations which were mistakenly listed. You can bet the insurance company will check the CSA scores when it comes time to set the premium.

Eliminating Unsafe Driving Violations

There is no secret to eliminating Unsafe Driving violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published a helpful brochure on this called, “Safety Management Cycle for the Unsafe Driving BASIC.” You may not agree with all of its suggestions, but this is a good place to start.

We should be able to agree that there is no place for unsafe drivers on U.S. roads. While we are not responsible for other driver’s behavior, we can influence our own drivers, and  eliminating Unsafe Driving violations is a good place to start. Here are some additional safety tools:

  1. Driver coaching is effective in changing unsafe behaviors. According to a study by Teletrac, up to 40% of drivers change their behavior after their first safety warning.
  2. Telematics can provide real time information on safety events as harsh acceleration or braking (when more force than normal is applied to the vehicle’s brake or accelerator), harsh cornering (the coffee-cup test— if the driver is cornering fast enough to spill a coffee cup, then it’s too fast of a turn), and speeding.
  3. Accident Event Recorders capture safety related events, both in front of the vehicle and/or inside the cab, with video technology. Insurers may offer a discount for their use.
  4. Pay attention to reports from the general public. At times, the reports may be unwarranted or unjustified. Look for patterns of unsafe driving behavior.
  5. Perform check rides. Most of us over-rate our own levels of performance. Periodic check rides provide drivers with feedback on their driving and safety skills.  For example, one Texas ready mix company with over 100 trucks has a retired driver doing check rides with every driver at least once a year,
  6. Set your own standard of safety. Ex. One large motor carrier bans all U-turns.

Finally, do not tolerate any Unsafe Driving. Vehicles are much larger, roads are congested and on some days, it’s really crazy out there. Taking unnecessary risks or turning a blind eye to those who do, invariably leads to unintended consequences . . . usually of the negative sort.

Rules don’t protect people; people protect themselves and each other by observing the rules, by following safe and healthy work practices without having to be reminded constantly. (Contractor′s Supplies, Inc., Toolbox Talk)

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599

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.

Deadly Com·pla·cen·cy

detached trailer

Any DOT Roadside Inspector with some experience will tell you one of the most shocking discoveries they make time and time again, are how many tractor-trailers they inspect with the trailer not secure to the tractor. In some cases the “jaw” is not secure to the trailer’s kingpin. In other cases, critical components like the kingpin are totally missing, but the trailer “sits” on the tractor.

Recent news tell of the deadly consequences of a trailer not secured to the power unit.

  • March 17, 2015 — Four people were killed and two injured after a trailer detached from the tractor on a foggy U.S. 27 in Palm Beach County, in Florida
  • April 7, 2015 — a semi-trailer detached on on South Park Avenue Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County, PA, killing an oncoming truck driver.
  • May 7, 2015 — a woman was killed when a trailer detached from the tractor on the I-5, south of the Kern and Kings counties line, near Bakersfield, CA.

Many trailer detachments occur on smaller roads and go unreported. Trailer detachments unfortunately are fairly common, but almost always preventable.

After a trailer detachment, the truck driver:

  • may be charged with homicide by vehicle or vehicular manslaughter, or Recklessly Endangering Other Persons
  • may have his CDL license suspended
  • may be put on probation or incarcerated
  • face civil court cases/lawsuits

An investigation by Lower Providence Township Police and the Montgomery County Detective Bureau revealed that on the morning of the fatal crash, the defendant (driver) failed to properly secure the trailer component of his tractor-trailer before setting out from a business in Reading, Berks County. (Police Report)

The truck driver is responsible for any trailer detachment. A dropped trailer is usually grounds for termination of employment. If the driver is not sure about the equipment condition, the driver has an obligation to inform management of his inspection and observations, and have the equipment professionally inspected, and if necessary, repaired. This would be evidenced by a mechanic’s signature on the Driver’s Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR), per FMCSA regulations.  All companies and carriers and drivers regulated by U.S. DOT are bound by FMCSA regulations. 

Criminal charges can be brought against drivers pulling a trailer that breaks free or becomes detached.

Training Competence

Never assume a new driver knows how to drop and hook. This aspect of driving is not on the CDL test and therefore is not always practiced. It is possible to have a CDL driver who has never dropped or hooked a trailer in his life.

tractor with no fifth wheel hitch

This “tractor” in a CDL school has no fifth wheel.


Drivers must visually inspect the jaws/kingpin each time before they set out.

Drivers must visually inspect the jaws/kingpin each time they leave the truck and trailer unattended.

Drivers must preform trailer hook-up procedures according to accepted safety practices or manufacturer’s guidelines including: setting proper lineups and heights, doing several pull tests, visual inspections, brake tests, checking to ensure the 5th wheel is free of ice, snow, excessive grease or any other debris, etc.

Management has a duty to be knowledgeable on safety policies and FMCSA regulations.

Management has a duty to enforce safety policies and FMCSA regulations.

Cold weather can affect hook-ups. The locking mechanism may need extra time to work in very cold conditions.

Proper uncoupling procedures are important as well, and uncoupling should be done in mind with making the hook-up as safe and as easy as possible.

Thank you for reading this.

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer and driver trainer. (989) 474-9599

Back to School . . . Safe Driving Tips for Bus Drivers

school buses

Today for many school districts across the U.S marks the official start of school. Hundreds of thousands of yellow school buses hit the roads carrying millions of students. Now is a good time to review some defensive driving techniques for bus drivers (and the rest of us).

1. It’s All about Attitude

Defensive driving is an attitude toward driving.

Fact: Surveys show that half of the population believes they will never get into an accident. “It can’t happen to me.” Another interesting statistic: most drivers involved in a fatal accident have never been in an accident before. In some cases their first accident will be their last.

Developing a defensive driving attitude among fleet drivers can reduce accidents and incidents by 25% up to 33% percent. Driving attitudes are important and the most important attitude is to drive defensively.

2. Bad Habits Die Hard

Over time, we all develop bad driving habits. It might be in putting on the turn signal late . . . or not at all, or stopping past the stop line, . . . or making rolling stops, etc. We get away with bad habits because other drivers have to compensate for them. They have to hesitate or second guess our intentions. This can lead to frustration, anger and even road rage.

There is only one cure for bad driving habits: bad driving habits need to be replaced by good driving  habits. Good driving habits are never automatic. Good driving habits take time and a lot of work to develop.

Top Tip: A number of bus accidents occur when the vehicle is empty. Don’t relax your defensive driving when the bus isn’t hauling students anymore.

3. It’s all about Managing Time and Managing Space

Did you know that most (up to 90%) motor vehicle accidents are avoidable? That’s a chilling thought when one looks at the annual statistics. The key is in managing time and managing space. There are many examples and situations where this principle can be applied.

For example, approximately thirty percent of accidents in the U.S. are rear-end collisions, By staying back at least four seconds (depending on the speed and/or weather conditions) when following another vehicle, it’s extremely unlikely a rear-end collision will occur.

Backing accidents can be avoided three ways (1.) don’t back, if possible (2.) back in position immediately upon arrival, so you don’t have to back out blind later, (3.) always have an adult spotter to assist in backing.

There are many examples of a driver giving him/herself more time and/or more space leads to accident and risk avoidance. It has been estimated that up to 90% of accidents could have been avoided if the driver involved had one extra second. Managing time and managing space can give a driver several seconds extra time to respond to a situation and avoid a collision.

4. Manage the Blind Spots

Every vehicle has blind spots, where nearby things appear invisible. Mirrors get bumped, get loose, get knocked out of adjustment. Mirrors need to be checked everyday, and adjusted if necessary.

Another blind spot is found behind the the “A” pillar, on the ends of the windshield.


The A-Pillar blind spot can hide a pedestrian in the crosswalk, motorcycle or even blend in to hide a tractor-trailer. Savvy defensive drivers have learned the Rock & Roll (or Crunch and Lean) technique to “rock and roll” in the seat, to look around the A-Pillar and other blind spots

Tip: Spend at least a full second in each mirror. 


5. Slow Down

Driving slower helps in management of time and space, allows for processing of multiple risks at the same time, or to deal with emergencies. In fact, driving slower may even be the law. For example, drivers should slow down BEFORE a curve or turn. Keep at least 10 miles under the posted curve speed. The posted curve speed is for cars not buses or other commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).


Proper speed (and space) management means:

  • Positioning your vehicle between clusters of vehicles to your front and rear. Don’t ride bunched with other vehicles in a “platoon” or “wolf pack.”
  • Positioning your vehicle for the greatest visibility that allows you to “see and be seen” by other drivers.
  • Positioning your vehicle in a lane position for maneuverability. Leave yourself an “out.”

6. Beware of the Risks While Driving

  • Drivers on their cell phones
  • Highway-rail crossings / train tracks
  • Parking lots
  • Inattentive drivers
  • Distracted drivers

(To name a few.) Look for and identify risks. One definition of safety is to be risk free. But risks need to be seen before they can be dealt with effectively. Make it a habit of actively looking for risks. Be on constant alert for new hazards. Once a risk or hazard has been identified, then take measures to avoid the risk/hazard situation.

reflective vest


One school district has bus drivers wear a reflective vest during their pre-trip inspection.


Defensive driving is an attitude. Every driver can choose to drive a little better by driving defensively. Often we are aware of everyone else’s bad habits. It’s much harder to identify and hopefully change our own bad driving habits. One effective way to drive defensively is by managing time and space to allow a safety factor for other driver’s mistakes. Knowing our blind spots and properly adjusting mirrors and properly using the mirrors helps to avoid collisions. Rock and roll in the seat to see around the A-Pillars. Slow down and manage vehicle position to see better and to be seen. Use the lane position that gives you the best line of sight and path of travel. Look for new risks and hazards while driving and have a plan to deal with them.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe day.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599


Semi-truck driver wasn’t paying attention . . .

I-94_PawPaw 9-3-15

Date: 09/03/2015  Time: 14:15 hours ET.

Location: East bound I-94, near exit 60.

Vehicles Involved: Two tractor-trailers and five cars.

Sequence of events: Traffic was stopped or slowed for construction (crews were putting out a grass fire that may have been distracting), when a tractor-trailer fully loaded with apple pulp ran into the back of an SUV. That vehicle was pushed into a Pontiac car. The tractor-trailer ended up off of the road, on its side.


  • Four vehicle occupants were transported to area hospitals; two were critically hurt.
  • Seven people were treated at the scene
  • One fatality, male, age 72, from  Illinois man,  former Illinois state representative and college professor. The victim’s wife is hospitalized in serious condition.
  • Several vehicles were totaled.
  • Traffic was rerouted for at least three hours.

Probable cause of collision: ‘Inattentive’ semi-truck driver.

“Police said the semi-truck driver wasn’t paying attention and didn’t slow down for construction in the area.”

Michigan State Police, Lt. Dale Hinz of the Paw Paw Post said the tractor-trailer driver is considered “at-fault” The driver was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

“Hinz said police are investigating why the truck driver was not paying attention to the road at the time of the crash.”

What is Inattentive Driving?

Inattentive driving is the failure to pay proper attention to the road while driving.

“Operating a motor vehicle in a manner which shows a lack of that degree of attentiveness required to safely operate the vehicle under the prevailing conditions, including but not limited to: the nature and condition of the roadway, presence of other traffic, presence of pedestrians and weather conditions.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) holds that driver inattention is a major factor in most serious traffic crashes. In one study, NHTSA defined driver inattention as:

  1. Driver engagement in secondary tasks (those tasks not necessary to the primary task of driving)
  2. Driver drowsiness
  3. Driving-related inattention to the forward roadway
  4. Non-specific eye glance away from the forward roadway

dumptruck in wires

Inattention comes in many forms.

Studies Show . . .

According to attentional theory, our minds cannot simultaneously make sense of constant inputs from many sources. Intensely focusing on one particular thing can lead to a form of invisibility known as inattentional blindness, leading researchers to conclude that “the most effective cloaking device is the human mind.”


Gorilla spotting

In a now famous experiment, half of viewers did not recall seeing the gorilla in the video when asked to count how many times white-shirted players passed the ball.

Said one researcher, “Most of us are unaware of the limits of our attention—and therein lies the real danger.”

In commercial vehicle driving, inattention can be sometimes caused by white-line fever or highway hypnosis, hypnotic state induced by the monotony of driving a motor vehicle, usually on long, straight roads.

Driver inattention may be due to distractions as personal problems, emotional trauma, and a number of other factors. There is on-going research to determine the causes of driver inattention and driver distractions leading to collisions and other safety incidents and events.

Fact: Driver inattention is a growing problem.

Countermeasures to Inattentive Driving

  • Encourage “mindful driving.”
  • Commercial drivers need to cultivate a proper attentive mindset.
  • Drivers should not take any phone calls when driving.
  • Train drivers in proper mapping and route planning techniques.
  • Drivers should know how to manage breaks and take them when needed.
  • Motors carriers need strict, enforced policies on driver use of new technologies while driving.
  • Motors carriers need to investigate and deploy new technologies where appropriate for their particular operational needs.
  • Motor carriers need Fatigue Management Programs, according to the NTSB.

Finally, there is a key upside: “Our ability to ignore distractions around us allows us to retain our focus.”

Safe driving is possible. Good safety and loss control practices and polices can turn your transportation operations into the profit center you intended it to be.

Thank you for reading this. Have a safe weekend.

J Taratuta

John Taratuta is an independent Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599