Tractor-trailer Pileup!

5-semis-12-19-2018

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

 

Winter Driving Woes . . .

Tesla pulling truck in NC

Tesla assisting a semi in North Carolina

No Traction—No Action

Those of us living in the snow belt fully experience winter in all its glory. For truck drivers it means breaking out the anti-gel, chains—when needed, gallons of window wash, and brushing off your dormant winter driving skills.

Know, know, know . . .

Commercial drivers also need to know when to use the “diff lock” (Inter-Axle Differential (IAD) Lock, also known as the Power Divider) and, perhaps more importantly, when not to use it.

Due to the significant number of failures surrounding the Inter-Axle Differential (IAD) Lock, also known as the Power Divider, there is confusion and frustration with the proper use of this component. The IAD is often referred to as the “weak link” of your truck’s drive train and can be a big unexpected maintenance cost. If you catch the damage early through oil analysis tests the repair can cost $1600, but if it progresses to a catastrophic failure, it can cost up to $7000. —Team Run Smart

In addition to your vehicle’s special safety features as the diff lock, winter driving techniques need to be reviewed with all of your drivers.

According to education expert Ulrich Boser, author of Learn Better (Amazon’s 2017 best science book of the year), experience isn’t always the best teacher—we have to make sense of what we know or think we know. Mastery is not the same as familiarity. Many experienced drivers have never used chains, know about anti-gel fuel conditioners, how to avoid a skid, or how to use their vehicle’s safety features, etc.

Driving on An Icy Patch

Drivers need to be aware of road ice, especially on bridges and in shaded areas. Sudden braking on ice can cause a skid and loss of control. Sometimes even taking your foot off of the fuel pedal can induce a skid—defined as uneven tire rotation. A driver should press the clutch in (with a manual transmission) or slide the shifter into Neutral with an automatic transmission, and roll over the ice until safe control of the vehicle can be regained.

Driving on Snow

Truck tires can be warm coming off a roadway. Ice easily forms when the vehicle is parked on a snow-covered . Keep some sand in the truck for extra grip. A chain can be placed under the tire.

A key technique when driving on snow is to not spin the tires when starting. Spinning the tires can form more ice. A much better technique is to ease off into a slow start. One way to get rolling in the snow is to start in a higher gear. Drivers are usually very surprised how well this works in snow.

Check Driver’s Knowledge . . . and Review

To know if your drivers make sense of driving in winter or any other season, it is wise to check their understanding. This can take the form of a pre-training questionnaire, pop-quiz during training, a formal assessment or a combination of the above.

If knowledge is not up to snuff, then a safety review is needed. Training adults is not the same as instructing juveniles. Content and materials need to be useful, relevant, and presented in a respectful manner. In addition, the adult learner needs to feel comfortable and at ease during the process.

Be sure your drivers have the right Knowledge, Skills or Attitudes (KSAs) to successfully negotiate driving in deep snow and in any other condition this winter.

Thank you for reading this. Much success in 2018.

Learn more about inspections: Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) Inspections