Monthly Archives: December 2015

Communicating Intent – Part I

One of the most important parts of safe truck driving is in regards to how you communicate your intent. There are basic principles of communication that you need to know. They include the processes you must go through in communicating intent, as well as how to develop the skills to understand the communication of others.

Like you, other drivers do not know how to read minds. The fact remains: If you don’t properly communicate what you’re going to do, those around you won’t know your intentions. Let’s get into the basics of effective communication on the road.

The Basics

The basics of proper communication are also the most obvious. They include:

  • Turn signals;
  • Headlights
  • Four-way flashers;
  • Brake light flashers.

Another blatantly obvious means of communication lies in altering your vehicle position, though this should be done only after you have utilized or exhausted all others. The most commonly used method of communication is done with turn signals.

Turn signals should be used to communicate your intent to change direction or lanes. If you plan to do any one of the following, you should be using your turn signals:

  • Turn;
  • Change lanes;
  • Merge or pass another vehicle;
  • Exit or enter an on-ramp;
  • Parallel park;
  • Pull into traffic.

An important thing to remember is that you should always be using your turn signal for these situations, even when there are no other vehicles on the road. Remember, you do have blind spots, and the most dangerous vehicles are the ones you don’t know are there. Better to make sure everyone is informed through your actions.

There are two basic principles of signaling that you should live by:

  • Signal early: Don’t wait to the last minute to throw your signal on. You should be signaling well in advance of turning, changing lanes, or otherwise altering your vehicle’s trajectory. In city traffic that should be one-half block. On the highways make it 500 feet. A good rule of thumb is to ensure it blinks three times before you initiate the move.
  • Signal all the way through: Don’t worry about the signal, just keep your hands on the wheel and safely complete the maneuver. If the signal does not shut down after you’ve completed the move, remember to cancel it.

So there are your basics of communication and signaling. Let’s now dig into some other safe communication essentials.

Upon Slowing

There may be occasions when you will need to let other drivers know your intent to slow down. Remember that other drivers may not expect you to slow down, especially when you hit a steep grade, set up for a turn or stop to load, unload or park.

The best way to alert those around you of your intent to slow is to lightly tap your brakes and cause the brake lights to flash. If you are driving very slowly or intend to completely stop, use your four-way emergency flashers.

Always remember the size of your vehicle and be cognizant of the difficulty drivers have in seeing what is going on in front of you. This is why you must communicate your intent early and clearly.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to try and direct traffic. Do not try to use hand signals or flash your lights to let other drivers know when it’s safe to pass. This could cause an accident, and you could very easily be found at fault if you made the signal advising someone else on the road to make a passing move.

Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed Part I of our series on effective truck driver communication. Join us in Part II of our installment, where we take a look at the different communication devices that allow you to communicate your presence and how to perceive communication from others.

A Primer On Emergency Maneuvers – Part III

Welcome to the second-to-last installment of our three-part series, A Primer On Emergency Maneuvers. We’ve covered a lot of ground up to now, and are ready to finish it out with a bang.

So far we’ve covered watching for other vehicles, off-road recovery and emergency stopping. Our next area of focus will be on brake failures. So let’s get right to it!

Brake Failure

Don’t worry, your brakes are safe. The fact is, a well-maintained brake system rarely ever completely fails. Despite this, however, brake failures do occur, so you need to be ready just in case it happens to you.

What happens when your brakes fail? The eventual loss of control of the vehicle. Like any other emergency situation, the most important thing is to keep your cool and do your best to bring the vehicle under your control.

There are generally four types of brake failures:

  • Loss of air pressure;
  • Air blockage;
  • Brake fade;
  • Mechanical failure.

Let’s start with the first.

Loss of Air Pressure

You should immediately hear a warning buzzer, tone or light (or combination thereof) when air pressure gets too low. You should stop immediately once this happens.

Fortunately, your brakes should automatically apply when air loss reaches a critical level. Keep in mind that whenever things go as planned, air loss can happen very quickly. Also remember that the independent trailer brake won’t function, as it depends on the air system.

If the vehicle is equipped with spring-loaded parking brakes, they will usually engage when air loss creates critical situation.

Air Blockage

There are a number of different ways that an air blockage can prevent air from reaching the brakes. But most commonly this is caused when moisture gets into the duct system and freezes. It could also occur if dirt somehow makes its way into the system.

Brake Fade

If you thought long downgrades in a passenger vehicle are bad on brakes, try heading down a huge hill in a big-rig truck. On long downgrades, brakes may overheat or “fade.” When this happens they will lose their ability to retard the wheel rotation. CMV brakes also don’t cool as quickly as personal vehicle brakes, due to their size and composition.

Mechanical Failure

When there is a failure in the linkages that connect the control system, brake failure can occur. Fortunately, on CMVs, rarely will all the brakes be affected at once. Generally the CMV will still be able to be brought to a complete stop.

So what can you do if you encounter any one of these brake failure situations? With a cool, calm, collected and educated response, your safety won’t be at stake.

Brake Failure General Procedures

If your vehicle’s brake system fails, immediately implement the following procedures:

  • Downshift: If you are driving on a relatively flat road, downshifting will help slow the vehicle down. Immediately start transitioning into lower gears to reduce speed. Get your vehicle to a low enough speed that you can safely deploy the parking brake. If you are on a downgrade, do not try to downshift.
  • Escape route: While you are attempting to slow the vehicle, immediately begin looking for an escape route. Escape routs can be anything from open fields to side streets or escape ramps. You can also turn uphill to slow your roll. If you come to a stop, remember to apply your parking brake so that you don’t roll backwards.

If you are on a downgrade and your brakes fail, you will have to look outside your vehicle for a method of slowing it. If there is an escape ramp, take it. They often are composed of gravel or sand and help to dramatically slow the vehicle.

Just remember to immediately look for a way out once you realize your brakes have failed. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to stop. Once you’ve done that, join us for our final installment of our emergency maneuver series, where we examine blowouts.

Personal Safety: From Cab To Cargo – Part II

In Part I of our installment, Personal Safety: From Cab to Cargo, we took a look at what you need to do to ensure the safety of you, your equipment, and your cargo, whether it be at the shipper or on the road.

This week, in Part II, we will address proper safety measures that cover the moment you arrive at the receiver. It’s important to remember that your safety and security can be at risk – and must be ensured – at every step in the process. There should be no room for negligence. So let’s start where we left off: At the receiver.

The Receiver

Just as vigilant as you were at the shipper, practice the same vigilance once you get to the receiving dock. Upon first arrival, you will likely be asked for identification and either a bill of lading or set of shipping papers.

As you begin the unloading process, you and the receiver will go through the following steps together:

  1. Match the load-related numbers on the bill of lading or shipping papers.
  2. Do a visual inspection of the seal(s) and match the numbers with whatever is on the corresponding documentation.
  3. Break the seal(s).
  4. Unload the cargo.
  5. Ensure there is a signature on the bill of lading or shipping papers.

As the unloading process carries on, make sure you are closely supervising it. The last thing you want to do is assume this is a time to relax. If you notice any discrepancies in the process, make sure to alert your fleet manager.

Now you may be thinking you are done, and there is nothing more to worry about. Actually, one of the most important factors of all is up next: your personal security.

Personal Security

When we are talking about personal security, we mean from beginning to end. Whether you are just waiting at a rest stop or waiting on the receiver, your personal health and security should be paramount.

While safeguarding your equipment and cargo is important, it is equally important that you protect yourself from personal attack of theft of personal property.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure your personal safety:

  • Be aware of vehicles behind you that may be following;
  • Be suspicious of people inquiring about your cargo or its destination;
  • Never share information regarding your cargo or its route;
  • Do not leave items of value in plain site in the cab;
  • Lock the vehicle when it is stopped;
  • Always be cognizant of what is going on around you;
  • Never carry large amounts of cash;
  • Be alert when using an ATM;
  • Inspect the vehicle and your seals and locks at the beginning and end of each rest period.

When it comes to stopping, always make sure you are parking at a reputable truck stop or high traffic area. Park in a well-lit area and, when possible, park your trailer backed into a wall, fence, or other obstruction that blocks the doors.

When you are stopped at truck stops, hotels, restaurants, or any other facility that requires you to be in another location from your vehicle, always try to stay in an area that affords you a clear view of truck and cargo.

Avoid stopping in dark or deserted areas while you wait to make your deliveries. If there are other trucks around, try to park close to them. After all, there’s safety in numbers.

Finally, when you are on the road, view anyone who is asking for help as suspicious. A frequent hijacking ploy is to try to get a driver to slow down or stop. If someone does try to rob you, don’t be a hero. Call the police.

Communication and Planning

The last safety considerations are communication with home base and trip planning. First, a well-planned trip can be its own kind of security. The best route will get you to the destination without needing to stop.

Never take a load home or to an unsecured area. Also, be wary of asking for directions on a CB. You never know who you may get or where they may try to direct you.

As you make your way through the route, stay in contact with your carrier over a satellite or cellular phone system. Always keep your conversation private because you never know who is listening.


A Primer On Emergency Maneuvers – Part II

Welcome to Part II of our series, A Primer On Emergency Maneuvers. In our previous installment we covered the basics regarding what you need to do in a tight situation. Whether it be watching for other vehicles or knowing how to brake properly, you need specifics on what to do in an emergency.

In this installment we are going to dive deeper into something you’ll want to try and avoid, but once or twice may have to engage in: Off-road evasive maneuvers and recovery.

Why You Need to Know

Let’s face it, you’re on the road, and in some emergency situations you may need to leave the road in order to avoid colliding with another vehicle. Do not be fearful of leaving the roadway.

Many automatically assume that the accident or crash will result from them leaving the road, when in fact it’s the other way around. Many reported crashes are a result of fatigued or impaired driving. Remember that evasive maneuvers are often successful and rarely reported.

What You Need to Do

Successful off-road recovery will usually mean you need to leave the roadway immediately. Too often truck drivers react too late. When crashes do happen off-road it’s usually because the driver uses an incorrect technique.

Roadside recovery is generally safe, provided that the roadside is wide enough and firm enough to accommodate the vehicle.

If you need to leave the road to avoid a collision, make sure you brake before turning and reduce your speed as much as possible without losing control. If your vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), keep braking until you have reached a safe speed. Otherwise, utilize a controlled stab.

Also make sure to maintain steering control. Do not brake while turning, otherwise you may transition into a skid, unless you have full ABS. With full ABS you can brake and turn at the same time.

As you are entering the maneuver do your best to minimize turning. Always strive to keep all the wheels on the pavement. Maintain as straight a course line as possible, because each turn creates the danger of a skid.

If the roadside clears up, avoid the urge to try and return to the roadway. Instead, grasp your steering wheel firmly and do everything you can to stay focused and in control of the vehicle. Stay on the roadside until your vehicle comes to a complete stop.

If you find the roadside is blocked by a parked vehicle or sign, you may need to return to the roadway. If this happens, allow your vehicle as much time as possible before returning to the road.

Once you make the decision to return to the roadway, do so in a swift turn, rather than a gradual turn. This will allow you to determine the point of return to the road and opens the door to counter-steering.  A gradual return to the roadway raises the risk of losing control.

Once you have returned to the roadway, engage in a counter-steer. As soon as the steering axle rides up onto the surface of the roadway, turn quickly into the direction of it. When you turn back into the roadway your turning and counter-steering should be executed in one maneuver.

In situations where your truck is too close to the roadway and drops a set of wheels, avoid immediately returning to the roadway. You only want to execute extreme maneuvers when you are avoiding vehicles or roadside objects.

You can easily maintain control of your rig with only one side on the pavement. If you veer too quickly you may overturn or end up off the roadway.

We understand that in times of new regulations, staying safe is crucial. Join us in Part III of our series when we take a look at brake failure and blowouts. After all, we can’t forget the tires.