Monthly Archives: February 2016

Incident or Accident Handling Procedures – Part II

Welcome back to an important series, that of incident or accident handling. When you’re in charge of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), you need to know how to handle yourself in an instant, no matter the situation. When safety is at stake, quick thinking is required. It’s something no amount of training can prepare you for.

In our last Part we discussed the basics of first aid and on-the-scene conduct. Today, we will dive into fire prevention and suppression features. In a perilous moment of high heat and potential danger, you’ve got to be prepared.

Preventing fires should be a function of your pretrip and post-trip inspections. Attentive driving is also a factor in preventing fires. If you end up with a vehicle fire, it is likely many of the conditions leading up to it could have been spotted in advance, and therefore been prevented.

The three most common things that lead up to a potential vehicle fire are wiring problems, hub problems or tire problems. You can prevent problems with any of them by focusing on proper maintenance actions.

For electrical problems:

  • Do not modify any part of the electrical system without authorization or training.
  • When completing your inspections, make sure none of the visible wires are frayed, worn, cracked or broken.
  • Be cognizant of signs of short circuits, including wire charring or open wire resting against a vehicle component.
  • Take note of any smells that conjure up an image of a hot electrical component.
  • Take note of failed fuses or circuit breakers and replace fuses.
  • Ensure your battery covers are in place.
  • Ensure your battery connections and cables are secure and not in contact with any metal surfaces.

For tire problems:

  • Always ensure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Make sure your tires aren’t coming into contact with any other vehicle components.
  • Take note if the tires go flat throughout the day as the vehicle is parked.
  • Repair or replace tires that are regularly losing air.
  • If you find a “hot tire” (too hot to touch or smoking) do not operate the vehicle until you find the reason and repair it. Most often underinflation is the problem.

For hub problems:

  • Ensure your hubs have an adequate level of oil or grease on them.
  • Ensure none of the hubs are leaking grease or oil.
  • Make sure your breaks are fully releasing and you have no wheel bearings dragging.
  • Make sure that all of your wheels are actually turning. This especially includes trailer wheels and during the winter.

When you are driving, always watch your mirrors for indications of a potential problem. In a situation where you see smoke rising from under the vehicle, stop immediately and locate the problem.

Keep your odds of a vehicle fire low by keeping the following considerations in mind:

  • Don’t let trash build up in the vehicle.
  • Avoid smoking in the vehicle.
  • Ensure people who are smoking are outside the vehicle and at an adequate distance.
  • Do not use flammable liquids as cleaners.

If a fire does break out in your vehicle, you will be required to make a critical decision. Can you put the fire out yourself or will you need an extinguisher. If the fire is small, contained to a small area and doesn’t involve a tire, you should be able to extinguish it with a fire extinguisher.

However, if the fire is large in size, involves a tire, or is in an area of your vehicle you cannot access, immediately contact emergency services. If the fire is growing out of control you may need to simply evacuate the area around the vehicle and wait for emergency services.

If you decide to fight the fire, make sure to secure your vehicle before getting out of the driver’s seat. Do not forget to park it in the excitement.

Then, join us in Part III of our series when we take a look at the procedures surrounding using a fire extinguisher.


Incident or Accident Handling Procedures – Part I

While we all strive to keep safety the number one part of the job, incidents and accidents happen. Safety is about more than just your CSA scores, you’ve got to know what to do if you find yourself in the heat of the moment.

As such, we want to take some time to go over what you need to do if you are involved in an accident or other road incident. It’s very important you pay close attention to each step as you go about ensuring everything is handled by-the-book.


If you are involved in an accident – even a minor one – you have to be the authority on the scene and conduct yourself accordingly. Always keep a cool head and make sure you are reacting properly. It is likely the other person you were involved in an accident with is much more nervous than you are.

In all cases, make sure your safety, and that of the other motorists, is the primary consideration. If you are involved in an accident, there are some standard procedures to undertake.

These include:

  • Stop immediately.
  • Notify emergency services.
  • Move your vehicle to the side of the road, if possible.
  • Turn on your four-way flashers and put out three warning devices as soon as it is practical.
  • Help any injured, if there are any, to the extent of your ability.
  • Under no circumstances should you leave the scene.
  • Contact your company and provide them with a quick situation report.
  • Establish a “contact schedule” during the call.
  • Assist emergency services upon their arrival.

Once the scene has been secured, you will need to document the accident. When documenting you must get the names of all involved, including other drivers, passengers, and any other parties, witnesses or law enforcement officers.

Also get the license plate of all the vehicles involved and vehicles driven by witnesses. Take photos of the scene, showing the approach and impact area. Also take pictures of the vehicles involved.

When working in or around the accident scene, make sure you are very careful. Traffic does not always act appropriately and in some cases other drivers are distracted by whatever is going on in the accident scene.

Always face approaching traffic and watch it closely as you make your way around the scene and place warning devices such as reflective triangles. Always don high-visibility wear and be cognizant of everything going on around you.

Once you have completed your investigation of the scene, always return to your vehicle, as this offers the best possible protection. If waiting in your vehicle is not possible, stay as far away from the traffic lanes as possible.

Finally, do not leave the scene until you are released by the law enforcement officer on the scene. Be prepared to undergo a post-accident drug and alcohol test, as well. Generally, both your company and law enforcement will want to test you.

Basic First Aid

In some serious situations, you may be required to perform basic first aid. If you have not taken a basic CPR or first aid class, consider investing the time to take one. As a professional driver, the odds that you may have to deal with an injured person at some time are greater than for most people.

Knowing you can assist can make all the difference in an accident or other incident. If you are called upon to provide first aid, keep the following principles in mind:

  • Protect yourself and do not get any of the other person’s bodily fluids on you.
  • Contact emergency services.
  • Do not move an injured person unless they may die where they are.
  • Check the person’s “ABCs” (airway, breathing and circulation)
  • Make sure the person is breathing.
  • If the person has no pulse, CPR may be necessary.
  • If you need to control bleeding, apply direct pressure to the wound.

Hopefully, you will never end up in a situation where these skills are required. Even so, accidents happen, so if you find yourself on the scene of incident, always remember the importance of conducting yourself properly. Join us in Part II when we take a look at fire prevention and suppression.

Handling Extreme Driving Conditions – Part II

Knowing how to drive well in adverse conditions can’t be covered in just one installment. As yet another terribly freezing snow storm bears down on the Northeast, we need to know how to keep our vehicle’s humming.

In our last installment, we took a look at the rubber on the road: Your tires. This week we are going to journey under the hood and address what you need to do if you experience cold weather starting issues, as well as how to avoid them.

Avoiding Cold Weather Starting

The fact is, the colder it is, the harder of a time your engine is going to have getting cranked up. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can ensure your engine turns over, no matter the temperature.

The first, is ether and ether-based fluids. One thing to note is that if used improperly, these types of fluids could potentially damage your engine. It is also highly volatile, so make sure to handle with care.

Ether and ether-based fluids comes in a variety of forms:

  • Aerosol sprays;
  • Pressurized cylinders;
  • Driver-controlled or automatic injection systems.

If you are using an aerosol spray or pressurized cylinder, this will require manual placement of ether into your air intake. Automatic injection systems are activated by the driver either through a switch or other in-cab implementation method.

Another item to consider would be a glow plug, which are essentially electric heating elements that warm the air coming into the engine from the air intake manifold.

But probably the most widely used device is a preheater. Preheaters keep the engine warm while your vehicle is parked for extended periods of time. Most CMVs use an in-block type of heater.

In-block heaters can usually be fit into the freeze plug holes or lower water jacket, then plugged into an electrical outlet. The coolant is then heated to 160 degress Fahrenheit and circulated throughout the engine block.

For severely cold climates, preheaters are usually supplemented with battery box, oil sump or fuel heaters.

Addressing Non-Starters

But what if you don’t have any ancillary equipment and you are stuck in a situation where your engine won’t start? First, if you are using heating aids and the engine still won’t start, you may want to check your fuel or electrical systems.

Watch the exhaust stack as you are cranking the engine. If you do not see any vapor or smoke, your engine may not be getting the fuel it needs to turn over. Discontinue cranking the engine because you don’t want to run down the battery. Then check the fuel tank or lines for any ice blockage. Also verify there is no blockage around the fuel tank vent.

Remember to never crank the engine for more than 15 seconds. If the engine is getting fuel, but still isn’t starting, you may need to turn your diagnostic eye to the electrical system. Double check your battery terminal for corrosion, loose connections, cable cracks or excessive moisture on the cables.

If your vehicle utilizes an air starter, make sure there is sufficient air supply for it to function properly. If there is no air, you will need to resupply it, either from an air compressor or another vehicle of similar type.

Above all, don’t spend too much time in unsafe areas if you are having problems starting in cold weather. Furthermore, always make sure to handle different aspects of checking your engine, fuel and electrical system with great care. Many of these components can be volatile or come with great risk if handled improperly.

So as you prepare your vehicle for extreme weather conditions, always endeavor to be prepared ahead of time. Then, join us next week when we get into Part III of our series and take a deeper look at driving hazards, skidding and jackknifing.

Handling Extreme Driving Conditions – Part I

Let’s face it, not every trip is going to be smooth sailing with sunny skies and dry weather. There are many instances in which you might find yourself dealing with an extreme driving condition.

Extreme driving conditions require a higher level of awareness and preparation. Both you and your vehicle must be in fine form. There are challenges to driving a tractor-trailer in extreme weather conditions.

What You Need to Know

Adverse weather conditions demand increased attention, whether it be snow, ice, rain, fog or otherwise. During the winter months especially, conditions can change quickly. Being prepared for such times demands attention in a number of areas.

  • Coolant: Always make sure your coolant system is full and that your antifreeze concentration is even. A low coolant level can negatively impact your engine’s performance, as well as the operation of your defroster or heater.
  • Defrosting/Heating Equipment: Ensure your defrosters and heaters are working. Operating this equipment isn’t always easy, so don’t go in blind. Also do a once over on the mirrors for the heaters and fuel tanks.
  • Wipers/Washers: Are your blades in good condition? Make sure your wiper blades press hard enough against the windshield to get it clean in one swpe. Also make sure your washer reservoir is full and that there’s an appropriate amount of fluid – especially to prevent freezing.

Beyond the equipment necessary for visibility, there may be situations in which you are required to use special devices to get through adverse conditions.

Tire Chains

Per state or local law, you may have to put tire chains on your vehicle at one time or another. Always make sure you are prepared for the possibility by carrying the appropriate size and number of chains, including their cross-links. Make sure there are no broken hooks or bent or broken side chains.

When installing tire chains, remember that they are constructed to grip the tire around the sides and provide traction across the full spread of the tread. Installed properly, they provide decent uphill traction in snowy or icy conditions. On trailer wheels they improve the downward braking traction.

Tire chains are most effective in heavy snow. While they do provide some traction in light or dry snow conditions, they are mostly ineffective on glare ice. When you are installing the chains, make sure they are snug, but not too tight.

Regularly check the chains to ensure there is not excessive creep or movement. You need make sure they don’t slap against the trailer or catch on the suspension or fuel tank.

Engine Starting Problems

Engine starting problems represent one of the most common reasons for roadside breakdowns. The colder it is, the harder it is for any type of engine to start .

If your engine won’t start with the use of starting aids – which we will get into in a later part – check your fuel and electrical systems. Watch your exhaust stack as you crank the engine. If you don’t see vapor or smoke, your engine may not be getting enough fuel. Double check your tank and fuel lines for blockage.

Never crank your engine for more than 15 seconds. If you find your engine is getting enough fuel, but still isn’t restarting, check the electrical system. Verify there’s no corrosion on the battery terminal and verify there are no loose connections. If you see cracks or moisture in or on the cables, take immediate action.

If your vehicle is equipped with an air starter, make sure it has proper air supply. If there is no air, you will need to supply it from a compressor or another truck. For specific procedures check the vehicle’s manual.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s look into extreme weather preparation. Join us next week when we delve deeper into making sure your ready for whatever mother nature throws at you!

Tips For Back Injury Prevention

As a truck driver, it’s likely that at some point during your career you will have to lift something heavy or move a large object around. Fortunately, there’s no reason why the love of your job should result in a personal injury.

It’s probably no surprise that one of the most common injuries suffered by truck drivers are back injuries. The problem is, back injuries are almost always preventable. The key is to do it safely and operate in good health. Here’s how you do that.

Safe Lifting Procedures

One study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that over 36 percent injuries, which lead were because of back injuries. Almost all back injuries are caused because of an improper lift.

Avoid unnecessary injuries by keeping these practices in mind as you lift a heavy object:

  • Don’t be a hero. If an object is too heavy, get help.
  • Make sure the object is positioned properly before you try to lift it.
  • Make sure your path is clear.
  • Always bend at your knees.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Try not to twist your body while you are carrying a heavy object.
  • Bend at the knees to lower the object down once you’ve reached the destination.

Some situations require that you use a hand cart or truck. If you are called on to do so, remember it is always better to push than to pull. Ensure you are moving slowly and have the cart under your control at all times. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you have to lunge or stretch to regain control of the cart.

Also be careful when loading cargo onto a vehicle or performing tasks such as unlocking the fifth wheel or trailer slider. Make sure you never bend and twist at the same time. Common back injuries occur when being bent over, twisted and trying to lift a heavy object.

Posture and Arm Strength

Posture and arm strength play a big role in ensuring back safety. If you have poor posture while you’re sitting, you could wind up with back or neck strain, common precursors to worse back injury.

Always try to keep your knees slightly higher than your hips and maintain a seated position all the way back in the seat. Avoid letting your back slouch or curve excessively while in the seat. Also try standing without slouching and change foot positions regularly when you stand, as these movements can help prevent potential back problems.

Weak knees and shoulders also act as contributing factors in back strain or injury. This usually happens when a person attempts to compensate for weak shoulder or knee abilities by using more back muscles. By utilizing basic strengthening exercises involving your arms and legs, you can help prevent back problems down the line.

Avoid Jolts

One of the primary causes of back problems among truck drivers specifically is when they jolt themselves either too harshly or too quickly. There are a number of ways this can be done.

You may be at risk for a back breaking “jolt” if you:

  • Are in a seat that is not adjusted properly or does not “bottom out” correctly.
  • Do not step down off of the vehicle deliberately and carefully.
  • Don’t pull straight and steady on anything (heavy object or otherwise) that needs to be pulled.
  • Always watch where you step and ensure obstructions are clear.

Finally, one of the most simple and effective ways to keep back pain or injury at bay is by stretching. Simple, regular stretches help to keep your muscles limber and your joints lubricated. It is especially important to stretch after a rest or before you’re about to lift a heavy object.

Above all, remember that a back injury can severely disable you and prevent you from being able to get behind the wheel. Always take special care when lifting heavy objects or moving around in the cab and you’ll be back healthy for a long time.