Monthly Archives: November 2015

Personal Safety: From Cab To Cargo – Part I

When it comes to running your route, safety goes beyond how you drive the commercial motor vehicle (CMV). You’ve got to consider your own safety, the safety of your equipment and the safety of your cargo.

The fact is this: Year in and year out, thousands of truck drivers are injured or assaulted. Additionally, millions of dollars are lost in both thefts and robberies. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help prevent you from becoming a trucking crime statistic.

Advance Communication

The very first step in ensuring the safety of your person, equipment and cargo is to ensure that there is proper communication between carrier and shipper. Everyone involved in the transaction needs to be ware of who is picking up a given load and when they will do so.

There are specific pieces of information that the carrier and shipper must ensure are communicated to each other. They include:

  • The name of the truck driver who will be picking up the load;
  • The vehicle number assigned by the motor carrier;
  • The trailer number assigned by the motor carrier (if applicable)

Once the proper information has been communicated, it’s time to hit the road. Your next stop on the safety round up lies with the shipper itself.

At the Shipper

You may think that arriving at the shipper means automatic security. While this may be true in most cases, that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down or eschew proper safety measures.

First, when you arrive at the shipper, you must be prepared to show proper identification. It is likely the shipper will also require you to provide the name of the receiver and final destination before they release it to you.

Once everything has been cleared and it’s time to load the vehicle, there are several procedures you need to follow:

  • If you are not loading the vehicle yourself, supervise the process;
  • Do not accept unscheduled cargo;
  • Be suspicious of requests to load unauthorized or unscheduled cargo. Contact your carrier for clarification before accepting such loads;
  • The most valuable cargo should be loaded first, close to the cab and furthest from the trailer doors;
  • Visually inspect the cargo to ensure there is no physical damage to it;
  • Give a thorough review to all load-related documents;
  • Ensure any discrepancies are reported and resolved before it is signed and the trailer sealed.

When you are sealing the trailer, you will want to ensure you are using a proper trailer seal. There are generally two types of trailer seals you can use. They include:

  • Indicative seals: These are one-time-use plastic seals that are meant to be slipped through a hasp or around handles or locking bars. They are broken by simple tools or by hand and are not sufficient to prevent committed thieves.
  • Barrier seals: Barrier seals are much hardier; usually made out of metal or metal cable, these often require heavy-duty bolt or cable cutters in order to be removed.

Always remember, no matter what type of seal you use, write down the seal number(s) on the seal – somewhere on the receiving documents.

Once you have made it through these procedures and can ensure the cargo should be on your truck and is in proper order and secured, it’s time to hit the road.  Here is where your safety really counts.

One the Road

Did you know that the majority of cargo thefts happen within a few miles of the load’s origin? In many cases, thieves will stake out a particular loading dock and know when and where to strike.

You must always be on alert when you are leaving the shipper. When you are on the road or heading to the highway, make sure your doors are locked and windows are up.

Be extra vigilant when nearing prime hijacking areas such as signal-regulated highways, on ramps and off ramps. But what if you have to stop for a rest? Join us in Part II of our installment when we discuss what to do if you have to stop, how to communicate with your carrier, receiving procedures and personal security.

A Primer On Emergency Maneuvers – Part I

The best way to avoid having to use emergency maneuver is to avoid the emergency in the first place. Safe driving, effective hazard detection techniques, and preventative maintenance can all go a long way in making sure you don’t get caught in an unwanted emergency situation.
That being said, there may be a time where you can’t avoid an emergency situation. After all, you can’t control what people around you on the road are doing. Or perhaps your driving in a low visibility situation. These are all instances when you will have to engage in emergency maneuvers. So let’s talk about what you’ll do if you get caught in one of those situations.

Evasive Steering
In most cases steering to avoid an emergency is safer than trying to stop on a dime. If there is an opening available for you to maneuver into, steering into it gives you a greater chance of avoiding the collision than attempting to stop.
The two most common routes you might escape into are either another lane of traffic or the shoulder of the road. If another lane is available, making a quick lane change would be the best route. If there is a vehicle in another lane and the shoulder is not inaccessible, move to it.
Evasive steering, when done correctly, is a safe way to get out of a hairy situation. You’ll get the best results, however, when you are hauling secured cargo with a low center of gravity.

Emergency Stopping
We put evasive steering first is because over application of the breaks could lock up your vehicle’s wheels and potentially cause you to skid or jackknife. You could also lose control of the vehicle. Emergency braking, when done right, will allow you to bring your vehicle to a stop without losing control of it.

There are two main types of emergency breaking techniques:

  •  Controlled braking: With controlled breaking, you apply a smooth and steady pressure to the breaks, applying them just short of them locking up. Since it is difficult to know exactly when the breaks will lock up, you’ll want to develop this skill carefully.
  • Stab braking: When you are stab braking, you’ll want to fully apply the brakes. But you’ll want to immediately partially release the brake pedal as soon as the wheels lock. Hitting the brakes achieves stoppage, but releasing and backing off for a moment avoids a skid. You want to make sure each wheel gets to rolling again between each skid.

You aren’t the only one on the road. You will have to deal with other drivers and in many cases an emergency maneuver may result in their actions. Here’s what you need to do when you are in emergency situations where other vehicles are involved.

Oncoming Vehicle
If you have a vehicle coming up fast, you’ll want to immediately steer to the right. Also make sure to sound your horn to get the driver’s attention. Doing so may get the driver’s attention.

Stopped Vehicle
If the left lane is clear, turn into it. If the left lane is not clear, make sure the right lane is clear, as the shoulder may be blocked.
If you are in the middle of a multi-lane highway or road, steer into the lane that presents the least danger. Otherwise, always try to evade to the right. Just in case another vehicle is involved, it’s better to force them on to the shoulder than into oncoming traffic.

Merging Vehicle Obviously, the first thing you’ll want to do is sound the horn to get the driver’s attention. Most of the time this will work, but if the vehicle continues to merge, swerve away from it. Avoid trying to steer behind it.

Above all, never steer away from a merging vehicle if doing so will put you into the path of oncoming traffic. You’re better off colliding at an angle with the merging vehicle than you would be if you were to swerve into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
Join us next week for part two of our emergency maneuver primer course. We will dig into off-road recovery, brake failure, and blowouts!

Trucker Tips For A Quick Sleep

Safely operating a semi-truck requires you to be well-rested and alert. These are huge pieces of machinery that can do real damage if you pass out behind the wheel and send it careening into oncoming traffic.

As hours of service continues to change, truckers hours and driving habits have changed. Many truck drivers prefer to drive at night when there are less cars on the road, but there is a real possibility of compromising on sleep if you are consistently spending long hours on night rides.

Driving a truck is a very demanding job and not getting enough sleep makes it even more difficult. Not only are you not able to meet the demands of the job, but you are at an increased risk for vehicle crashes.

Most drowsy driving crashes or near-crashes happen during the following times:

  • 4am to 6am
  • Midnight to 2am
  • 2pm to 4pm

You can see the pattern there. Most crashes occur either during late night or early morning hours, when a truck driver would otherwise be sleeping, and during evening rush hour. This is why good sleep counts.

Good Sleep Counts

The fact is this: Good sleep is as important to your health and well-being as proper nutrition and exercise. When your body is getting proper sleep, it is repairing itself and preparing your mind and body for the exertions of the following day.

When you aren’t getting enough sleep, you may encounter the following:

  • Your reactions are slower
  • Your thoughts are clouded
  • Your mood deteoriorates
  • You feel more ill and more susceptible to sickness
  • Your blood pressure goes up
  • Your appetite changes, you overeat or don’t eat too much.

We understand, when you are on the road it’s not always easy to get into a good bedtime routine, but the fact is a good bedtime routine is the one thing that will ensure you get a good night’s rest. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine, whether you are at home or in your cab, will help you improve your sleep.

Your Sleep Environment

A good sleep environment significantly improves your quality of sleep. While your sleep schedule may depend on your driving schedule, you can improve your sleep environment whether at home or on the road.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Park safely: Make sure you stop somewhere with a balance of safety and quiet in mind. The last thing you want to do is choose a remote location and end up sliding down a hill because you were looking for the quietest spot.
  • Block light: Close all of your curtains and truck shades or you can also use an eye mask or covering.
  • Block noise: If you don’t like ear plugs, try a white noise machine like a fan. There are white noise apps you can also download to your mobile device to help you block out the noise.
  • Keep a cool temperature: Although many people’s sleep preferences vary, it’s always easier to sleep in a cool cab than in a hot one.
  • Get comfortable: If your old sleeper mattress is wafer thin and barely provides any support, it may be time to get a new one.

Try to make sure you are getting at least 7 – 9 hours of sleep each evening. Always try to be aware of your body’s natural sleep times and be cognizant of when you begin to feel drowsy. Don’t push your body to the point where you are passing out on the road.

When you are driving, try to plan your stops and breaks to match your body’s natural sleep times. Sleeping at the the same time every day will help you get a better night’s sleep.

Above all, remember that better sleep not only leads to better health, it leads to safer driving. So next time you feel you aren’t getting enough rest, remember that your sleep is about your safety.


A Primer On Safe Driving Techniques – Part III

Over the past couple of weeks we have been taking an in-depth look at safe driving techniques for truckers, and we aren’t done yet. Honestly, this is a topic that we can’t talk enough about. After all, there’s nothing wrong with safe trucking.

This week we will move on to the next two factors in safe truck driving:

  • Road hazards and visibility
  • Distractions and alertness

The first stop in our safe trucking journey is an area that is both in – and yet not in – our full control.

Road Hazards and Visibility

Here’s a common joke among truckers: There are only two seasons – winter and road construction. And though we all know that isn’t the truth, to a trucker trying to stay safe, it’s a mantra.

Regardless of what time of years it is or what the road conditions are, you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled for things like:

  • Road hazards, such as ruts, pot holes, rough patches of road, and uneven lanes;
  • Foreign objects in the road, such as pieces of tire, various items of trash and animals – whether dead or alive;
  • Heavy traffic or major congestion;
  • Construction zones;
  • Lane restrictions;
  • Vehicles, whether operational or broken down, on the side of the road or off to the shoulder, and;
  • Pedestrians walking along the side of the road.

Compounding the need to stay vigilant are times where you are driving at night or in inclement weather. For these reasons, it’s important to make sure you are never out-driving your headlights. Furthermore, always be prepared to stop or act quickly in the event a road hazard unexpectedly pops up.

Part of keeping safe in times of low visibility or inclement weather includes keeping your windshield, side windows, and mirrors clean so that you can easily see out of them.

Also keep in mind the principle of “see and be seen.” Make sure you are always appropriately using your lights. In many cases it is even beneficial to use your lights not just during nighttime hours, but during daytime as well. Also pay close attention to the surfaces of those lights. Are they clean?

We understand, it can be time-consuming to go around and clean all your glass and reflective surfaces, but it’s important. From a visibility standpoint, it is time well spent. Finally, are you using reflective strips on your vehicle? If not, it might be time to.

When talking about visibility, you must also consider your visibility to other truck drivers and passenger cars. If you are ever in a situation where you encounter a quick slow down in traffic, or when you are hauling a heavy load up a hill and traveling at speeds under 40 mph, use your flashers to alert those around you.

While things like visibility and weather are important, it is what is under your complete control that really matters, which leads us to our next consideration in safe driving techniques.

Distractions and Alertness

The fact is these factors are completely under your control. Just because you are sitting for extended periods of time while you are on a run doesn’t mean you can watch a full-length movie.

As a truck driver, you can be distracted by many things, not the least of which including:

  • Electronics, smartphones, and other mobile devices;
  • Pets;
  • Music;
  • Talk radio;
  • GPS units;
  • Personal computers;
  • Maps;
  • Smoking;
  • Eating, and;
  • Drinking a beverage.

Almost anything can be a distraction, provided you allow it to be. Professional drivers of commercial vehicles and buses are not allowed to text while driving. Many fleets even disallow the use of cell phones in the cab. Just remember that when you are driving you should be concentrating on driving.

In regards to alertness, it is important that as a trucker you take proper care of your health. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly and try to get plenty of sleep.

Finally, be aware of any medication you are on and certainly never drink alcoholic beverages or take controlled substances while you are behind the wheel of a big rig.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this dive into safe driving techniques. Join us next week when we conclude our series with a look at the final factors in safe driving techniques.

A Primer On Safe Driving Techniques – Part II

Last week we took a deeper look at what it means to safely drive a semi-truck. We were reminded that operating these large commercial vehicles comes with an added level of responsibility. Being a professional trucker is being a safe trucker.

So now that we have covered the first five safety attributes, what’s next? Plenty. Likely there are more than we can discuss even in this series, but we will certainly try.

Next up we will take a look at the following safe driving factors:

  • Inclement weather
  • Vehicle momentum
  • GPS Guidance
  • Following distance
  • Backing up

Ready for a deep dive into big rig safe driving techniques? Well then get in, sit down, strap in and let’s hit the road!

Inclement Weather

Experienced and professional commercial truck drivers know that the weather changes stopping distance considerations, among other things. When there is precipitation on the ground, whether it’s rain, snow, or ice, you’ve got to give yourself extra stopping and turning time.

If you do lose traction, the key is to prevent the vehicle from not responding to your control over acceleration, braking or steering. Above all, keep this one thing in mind: Never use an engine brake in wet weather, lest you flirt with losing complete control of the vehicle.

Wet roads are not the only weather consideration. Fog, wind, blowing sand, snow and extremely bright sunlight can all be very problematic for a trucker behind the wheel. For drivers of high-profile vehicles, cross-winds can be especially dangerous.

So, what is the secret to safe driving in inclement weather? Slow down, take your time, and pull over if necessary. Better to wait it out than risk the safety of you and others on the road.

Vehicle Momentum

Large Class 8 commercial vehicles are large and heavy. Their sheer size, when combined with a fully loaded trailer or other heavy cargo, makes for a massive amount of momentum. Because of this, a big part of truck driver training is instilling into them the need to be looking farther down the road than would other drivers.

Since judging longer distances is harder on hilly or curvy roads, truck drivers have to take extra care in lowering their speed. Also keep a close eye on what vehicles in front of you are doing, as that will give you a clue as to what the road is about to do.

GPS Guidance

You may see this category and wonder how in the heck anything about a GPS unit could be unsafe. Consider that many truckers who have not been using a carrier’s unit have either had part of their roof peeled back or gotten stuck in a tunnel or under an overpass.

Not only must you make sure you are using the carrier-approved or other “trucking-ready” GPS units, but you have to be paying attention to road signs and carefully reviewing the motor carrier’s atlas.

Following Distance

Remember that space cushion from part one of our series? You’ll need to make sure you have a space cushion between your truck and all of the vehicles and objects around it. While tailgating in a passenger car can be unfortunate, tailgating in a semi-truck can be deadly.

No matter the size and weight of the vehicles around you, never tailgate. Is someone tailgating you? Generally a slow reduction in speed takes care of that as they move to get around you.

It is also particularly dangerous to cut in between large trucks. Doing this automatically reduces the following distance of whichever truck is at the back of the line, setting things up for a potential collision.

Backing Up

Backing up is an intrinsic part of a truck driver’s job. Not only does it occur at the shipper’s docks, but it happens at truck stops and fleet headquarters.

Do you practice safe backing up techniques? If so, then you know this familiar acronym: G.O.A.L. When all else fails, remember to Get Out And Look. This is even more important when you are backing up from your blind side.

You also need to be very aware of your trailer’s pivot points and tandem positions. If you encounter a difficult backing situation, try having someone “spot” you as you pull in. Above all, never try to squeeze your truck into a spot not big enough for it. Better to be safe than sorry.