Monthly Archives: January 2016

Nighttime Driving Procedures Every Truck Driver Should Know

Welcome back to the final installment of our series on truck driving at night. In our last article we covered crucial factors involved with ensuring safe driving at night. Today, we will dig into specific procedures that you need to know to operate safely in the evening hours.

Let’s face it, outside of inclement weather, such as driving during the winter, operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) at night can be a perilous endeavor. Not only should you actively know the procedures, but you’ve got to be ready to apply them. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Prepare Yourself

When it comes to driving safely at night, being prepared goes a long way. When a truck driver is properly prepared, they can focus on the task at hand without having to be concerned with minor details such as route planning or functional equipment.

This is why getting yourself ready is so important. Above all, you must be rested and alert. If you are already feeling fatigued, the effects of night driving can make the situation even more dangerous.

Even something as minor as dirty eyeglasses can turn a safe situation into a perilous one. Scratches and dirt magnify glare, after all. And although this goes without saying, never wear sunglasses at night, no matter how much you love the song.

Beyond ensuring your eyeglasses are clean, you need to put careful consideration into route planning. After all, the last thing you want to do is get lost on a dark and windy road. And remember, route planning isn’t just about your final destination. Keep roadway entrances and exits in mind and know where construction zones are located.

Finally, make sure your vehicle is ready to go before the sun dips below the horizon. When doing your pre-trip inspection, pay special attention to lights, reflectors and your windshield, and clean as needed.

The Act of Driving

Once you have ensured you are fully prepared, it’s time to hit the road. Remember, there are additional issues you have to deal with when driving at night.

First, avoid blinding other drivers. If you are using your high beams, make sure to dim them before they present a glare problem for others on the road. A good rule of thumb is to ensure you dim them within at least 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle and again when following a vehicle within 500 feet.

Second, make sure not to blind yourself. Looking directly into the headlights of an oncoming vehicle can cause serious problems. Instead, look toward the right side of the road and/or right lane edge marking when you see bright oncoming lights approaching.

Finally, make sure your vehicle’s dome lights are off and your instrument panel lighting is dimmed. Bright lights shining from within the cab can diminish your ability to see outside the vehicle. Also scan your mirrors. Not only does this help maximize visibility, but is also fights fatigue.

Proper Communication

We’ve spent plenty of time talking about proper communication while you are on the road, but this is even more important when you are operating at night. Let’s face it, in the dead of night your only means of communication is your horn or lights.

Make sure you are stopping, slowing down or changing direction far earlier than you would in the daytime. Use your horn sparingly and avoid blinding others with lights as a way of signaling your intent.

Speed and Space

When you are driving during the night time hours, it is imperative that you increase your following distance time by at least one second. This allows you extra time to react to unexpected road hazards and obstructions.

When you are rounding curves, your vehicle’s headlights shine straight ahead. Over driving your headlights can impair your ability to see road hazards or react to the unexpected. Reducing your speed is the best way to deal with curves or other immediate road emergencies.

With that, we hope you’ve enjoyed our look at the special issues and challenged associated with night driving. Above all, remember that night time driving requires extra diligence. Now get out on the road and drive safe!



The Three Factors Involving Nighttime Driving

When it comes to truck driver safety, it’s about more than just CSA scores. Driving a commercial motor vehicle requires specific skills and calm focus, especially when you are operating in adverse conditions, be it winter whether or dead of night.

In Part I of this new series, we will take a look at just that driving condition: Night driving. Although truck drivers who work overnight hours might not have to deal with congested roadways, they have another set of hazards they have to deal with.

Potential hazards of driving at night include poor lighting, reduced visibility, and impaired drivers. There are three major factors you must focus on when driving at night:

  • Driver;
  • Roadway;
  • Vehicle.

Let’s take a closer look at each factor of this crucial truck driver skill set.

Driver Factors

There are several major factors that affect your ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). They are:

  1. Vision – The fact remains: We don’t see as well at night as we do in the daytime. In the dark hours, visual acuity is reduced, side vision is poorer, and your eyes have a difficult time adjusting to abrupt changes in darkness and light.
  2. Glare – The bright light of oncoming lights can temporarily blind you. When it does, your eyes can take several seconds to recover from the glare effect. When a vehicle is covering 150 – 160 feet in two seconds, a few seconds of blindness can be quite dangerous.
  3. Fatigue – When it comes to safe driving, fatigue is a factor, and no more so than at night. After all, our body is accustomed to shutting down at night. Fatigue can reduce your reaction time and cause blurred vision. Watch for fatigue if you are experiencing the following:
    • Frequent or repeated yawning;
    • Struggling to keep your eyes open;
    • Heavy or drooping head;
    • A sore neck;
    • Dozing off for a second or two;
    • Erratic speed control;
    • Following too closely.
  4. Driver inexperience – While this may be a lesser factor than the others, truck driver inexperience can play a part.

Roadway Factors

The road you are on plays an important role in the safety of you, your vehicle, and those around you. Here are the factors that are at play on the roadway:

  1. Visibility – Because your visibility is reduced at night, it is much harder to see the roadway. Your reaction time to recognize an oncoming hazard is impaired and constricted to the scope of your headlights.
  2. Route familiarity – If you are on a road you do not recognize, there could be a hazard lurking around that next corner that you don’t know about. Always proceed on unknown roads with caution and make sure you have enough stopping distance.
  3. Impaired drivers – Impaired drivers are a hazard to everyone on the road. Keep a keen eye for vehicles that are weaving in-and-out of lanes or have trouble maintaining a constant speed.
  4. Road users – Whether it is someone walking or a wild animal, you must always keep an eye out for other users of the road. Pay special attention to shoulders and roadways lined with tall grasses or woods.

Vehicle Factors

The condition of your vehicle plays an important role in your ability to drive effectively at night. Here are the three essential items that play into your vehicle’s nighttime safety:

  1. Lights – At night, your headlights are the main way you see the road, especially on rural roads and highways where other lights may not be present. In good weather, your beams should shine at least 250 feet in front of you. Make sure the following lights are clean and working:
    • Marker lights;
    • Reflecting lights;
    • Clearance lights;
    • Taillights;
    • Identification lights;
    • Turn signals;
    • Brake lights.
  2. Windshield and mirrors – Although you may be able to get away with a grimy windshield or set of mirrors, the night won’t be so forgiving. Dirt on the windshield can create glare, especially during the dusk or dawn.

Above all, remember that nighttime driving requires extra care and concern, for both you and your equipment. Stay safe driving at night, and you’ll be alright. And don’t forget to join us next week when we cover in-depth factors of nighttime driving techniques!

Communicating Intent – Part III

Welcome to the third and final installment of our blockbuster series, Communicating Intent. We’ve covered quite a bit so far, so now it’s time to end on a high note. Considering you are driving a large vehicle, communication is vitally important to making sure you are driving safely every time.

In this final installment, we are going to cover communication basics that surround how we use basic communication tools and how we decipher communication from others. The first communication tool we are going to take a look at is the most common one: Your cell phone.

Cell Phone Usage

Like a CB Radio, if used properly and legally, a cell phone can be an effective communication tool. Even so, remember that section 392.82 of the FMCSRs prohibits truck drivers from using a handheld communication device while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

There are several scenarios outlined in the policy, and they include:

  • Using at least one hand to hold a cell phone while conducting voice communication;
  • Dialing or answering the cell phone by pressing more than one button;
  • Reaching for a cell phone in such a way that causes the operator to maneuver out of a seated or seat belt restrained driving position.

Use of cell phones is allowed if it is necessary to get in contact with law enforcement officials or any other type of emergency services. Still, if possible, it is best to pull of the road to a safe area before using a cell phone.

Text Messaging

Text messaging is absolutely prohibited while you are operating a CMV. Texting itself is defined as manually entering text into, or reading text from, a mobile device.

This includes actions such as:

  • E-mailing;
  • Instant messaging;
  • Short messaging;
  • Accessing a webpage or surfing the internet;
  • Any other forms of electronic text retrieval or electronic text entry, whether for present or future communication.

Again, as with voice calls, texting is allowed if you are intending to contact law enforcement or other emergency services. But again, you should also try to bring the vehicle to a stop if you can before texting.

Deciphering Communication From Others

As a professional truck driver, not only must you know how to effectively communicate your intentions to those around you, you must be able to watch for and understand the communications coming from others on the road, whether they are directly communicating with you or not.

First, you will want to watch for the most obvious signs of communication, which include turn signals, lights and horns. But beyond that, there are a number of other, more subtle forms of driver communication that you will want to watch out for.

One such example is driver movement in the vehicle. If you see a driver shifting around, looking around, or peering into a mirror, this may indicate a potential directional change. Remember, other drivers may not be as conscientious as you are, so it is important for you to be able to properly gauge what they are doing without them needing to directly inform you.

Carefully observing other vehicles can give you direct clues into a driver’s intentions. Sudden slowing or a slight position change in their lane could indicate they are about to change direction. If a car is parked, watch for turned wheels or visible exhaust, as this may mean they are about to enter the roadway.

Overall, be alert to the obvious, and sometimes not so obvious. But most importantly, don’t let your careful observation of others distract you from your driving. The last thing you want is to potentially cause an accident because you were so busy trying to avoid one.

With that, our series on communicating intent comes to an end. We hope you’ve learned a few valuable things about why proper road communication – from both you and others – is so important. So next time you get out onto the road, keep communication in mind.




Communicating Intent – Part II

Welcome to the second installment of a series where we take a deeper look at how to best communicate your intent to those around you on the road. In this discussion, we are going to take a look at the various way you can communicate your presence, as much as your intent.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways for you to let people know you’re there, whether it be through your own actions or through some technological means. Let’s dig down into the basics.

The A,B,Cs of Communicating Presence

Always remember that people may not notice your vehicle, even when it is clearly in plain sight. Sometimes it is up to you to communicate your presence.

For example: If you are about to pass a pedestrian or a cyclist, automatically assume that they don’t see you and are liable to move in front of your vehicle at any given moment. Once it is safe and legal to do so, steer to the left of your lane and lightly tap the horn, or at night, flash your lights. Make sure to execute these maneuvers from a distance, so as not to startle the individual.

When it comes to communicating your presence, few things do this better than your headlights, no matter the time of day. You should be running your lamps from dusk to dawn, especially in times of rain, snow, fog or other inclement weather. Remember, not only is this helping you see the road, it’s also helping other drivers see you.

The fact is, driver error is the number one cause of tractor-trailer accidents. Always stay vigilant, stay alert, and make sure you are doing your best to ensure those around you know you’re there. Remember, it’s not just your CSA scores at stake.

The Horn

Your horn is right up there with lights among the best ways to communicate your presence. Even so, only use it when absolutely necessary – to prevent an accident, for example. Overuse of your horn is dangerous. Always remember that a light tap sends a far different message than a long blast.

For most purposes, only use your vehicle’s electric horn. The air horn is quite loud and can easily distract or frighten others.

In general, the horn should only be used to prevent an accident or warn others of impending danger. It isn’t a toy or all-purpose communication device and should be used only in appropriate situations.

Warning Devices

When your vehicle is stopped on what is considered a “traveled” portion of the highway, you must immediately activate the hazard warning flashers. Any other emergency warning devices – such as flares or cones – need to be set out within 10 minutes.

As you place the devices, ensure you wear a high-visibility vest. If a high-visibility vest is not available, set the emergency warning devices up in front of you, with your body closest to the shoulder. And above all, be quick. Always be alert for vehicles that may not see you on the roadway.

For more information on warning devices visit section 392.22 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).

CB Radio

When used safely and legally, the citizen’s band (CB) radio is a capable communication device. CBs can provide valuable information about weather and traffic. They also allow you to notify authorities in the event of an accident or emergency.

CBs are also how truckers communicate. The best way to send and receive crucial information is through each other. But just like your vehicle’s horn, CBs should be used with proper consideration and respect. Avoid idle chatter and never use offensive language over a CB radio.

These are some of the most capable and widely used means of communicating your presence, but they’re not all. Join us in our third and final part of our communication series, when we cover cell phone usage, text messaging, and deciphering communication from others.