Monthly Archives: March 2016

Handling Extreme Driving Conditions – Part IIII

Welcome back to our ever-important series where we take a deeper look into how you, a professional truck driver, can handle extreme driving conditions. The fact is, being able to drive in extreme weather is one of the most important skills a truck driver can have, and that’s why we’re dedicating a significant chunk of our blog to the topic. After all, it’s more than your truck that needs to be ready, you do as well.

Today we will take a look at two of the most common problems associated with driving in extreme weather conditions: skidding, jackknifing and dealing with wet brakes.

Skidding, Jackknifing and Slippery Roads

There are generally three basic causes of jackknifing. We’ll call them the “three overs”: overacceleration, overbraking or oversteering.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these causes:

  • Overacceleration occurs when too much power is sent to the drive wheels, resulting in unexpected wheel spin.
  • Overbraking occurs when the truck driver is braking too hard for the conditions, resulting in wheel lockup.
  • Oversteering results when the steering wheel is turned too quickly and the front wheels slide. In this case the drive tires or trailer wheels may also skid or swing out.

The key thing to remember is that you must take extra care when driving on slippery roads. Always operate your vehicle in a slow and deliberate manner. If the road is so slippery that you cannot proceed safely, pull over at your soonest available opportunity and wait for conditions to improve.

If you do find yourself operating on a slippery road with no immediate outlet, keep these tips in mind:

  • Never hurry. Always make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get a feel for the driving conditions.
  • When making turns, go in as gently as possible.
  • Never brake harder than necessary.
  • Never use the engine brake or speed retarder.
  • If your vehicle is equipped with anti lock brakes, don’t pump them.
  • Pass slower vehicles only when absolutely necessary.
  • Try to avoid having to slow down or speed up. Remember to go slow and steady.
  • Make sure to take curves at slower speeds and don’t brake while taking a curve.
  • Understand that road and vehicle temperatures vary widely.
  • Keep a larger following distance and don’t drive next to other vehicles when you don’t absolutely have to.
  • Slow down or stop until traffic jams are cleared.
  • Do your best to anticipate stops so that you can slow down gradually, rather than abruptly.

The fact is, you have to take extra care when operating a commercial motor vehicle on slippery roads. By keeping the rules of winter roads in mind, you can ensure safe operation every time you’re hauling a load.

Dealing With Wet Brakes

When you are driving in heavy rain or deep standing water, your brakes are going to get very wet, and when your brakes are wet, the water reduces their effectiveness. As a result, effective braking power can be paused or interrupted. In this situation, you may find yourself pulling to one side or succumbing to a jackknife.

If at all possible, try to avoid driving through deep puddles or flowing water. If you can’t avoid it, however, take the following steps:

  • Slow down.
  • Shift into a lower gear.
  • Increase your engine’s RPMs.
  • Cross the standing or flowing water while keeping light pressure on your brakes.

When you make it out of the water, keep light pressure on your brakes for a short distance. This will heat up the brakes and dry them out, which increases their effectiveness. If you can, make a test stop to ensure they are functioning properly.

If your brakes don’t seem to be operating properly, try once more to apply light pressure for a short distance. Remember to never apply too much pressure while also accelerating, so as not to overheat them.

With that final wrap-up, we complete our series on handling extreme driving conditions. We hope you’ve been able to take some valuable tips away from our look at how to operate your vehicle when operating conditions aren’t optimal. Be safe out there on our nation’s roads!

Handling Extreme Driving Conditions – Part III

Welcome back to Part III in our always-topical series on how professional truck drivers handle extreme driving conditions. In this Part we are going to dive into specific winter driving hazards that you need to look out for.

Let’s face it, although Spring is technically here, winter is still holding on in large parts of the country. Are you prepared to hit the road and know that you can handle whatever driving conditions Mother Nature throws at you?

There are two main hazards you will likely experience as you drive in adverse winter weather conditions: Reduced visibility and reduced traction.

Handling Reduced Visibility

When snow and ice build up on your vehicle’s lights and surfaces, whether windows or mirrors, your visibility is reduced in all directions, whether in front, to the sides or in the rear.

If operating properly, your vehicle’s defroster should help keep the surface warm, while your windshield wipers should help keep the surface clean. One thing must always be remembered: Never drive if you cannot clearly see in all directions.

As mentioned earlier in this series, snow, ice, and dirt can build up on your vehicle’s lights and reflectors. If your side windows or mirrors get dirty, you may need to stop to clean them.

Also make sure to adjust your speed during times of reduced visibility, as snow and ice can greatly impede your ability to see objects as close in as 50 feet.  If visibility is too low, find the nearest safe place to stop and wait until conditions improve.

Handling Reduced Traction

Different surfaces afford different levels of traction. As an example, a snow- or ice-packed surface will have only one-fifth the level of traction that the same surface has when it’s wet.

When you are in a situation of low traction, it becomes easier for your vehicle’s drive wheels to spin and slip, which will impair your ability to maneuver the vehicle. While proper tire inflation, tread and vehicle weight increases traction, having a deft hand at the wheel is essential.

Just as you must stop in times of extremely low visibility, you must dramatically reduce your speed in times of low traction. On a wet surface, you may need to decrease your speed by one-fourth or more. As an example, if you normally travel at 65 mph on a particular stretch of road, you may need to reduce that to 45-48 mph when the road is wet.

On packed snow, you can generally drive around one-half your normal rate of speed. So that 65 mph would drop even further to 30-32 mph. On ice, you can cut that to about a third of your normal speed, or 18-20 mph.

Watching for Black Ice

Black ice is one of the most dangerous road conditions any driver – whether professional or passenger – may encounter. The danger with black ice is that it can be very difficult to spot. Most drivers aren’t aware of black ice until it’s too late.

Black ice forms when the ambient temperature drops at a rapid clip at or below the freezing mark (32 degrees). Any moisture on the road at that moment immediately freezes into a nearly invisible, slippery surface.

On extremely cold days, when the road is wet, be sure to pay extra attention to the spray thrown from other vehicles. If the spray suddenly stops, then that’s a sign black ice may be forming on that stretch of the road.

The most common places you may encounter black ice include:

  • Bridges;
  • Beneath underpasses;
  • Dips in the road where water collects;
  • Shaded areas around buildings, trees, hills or embankments;
  • The lower side of banked curves.

Also make sure to watch for rain turning into freezing rain as the temperature outside continues to drop. Another sign includes the sound of your tires on the road. Sudden crunching could be a sign of ice forming. Feel for ice on the front of your mirror and watch your vehicle’s antenna for signs of ice formation.

Always remember to take extra care on cold wintry roads. Then, join us back here in Part IIII of our series when we dig into skidding, jackknifing and dealing with wet brakes.

Incident or Accident Handling Procedures – Part IIII

Welcome to our fourth installment in this very important series, Incident or Accident Handling Procedures. The fact is, as a professional truck driver, you may find yourself in any one of these situations, so you need to be qualified and know what the procedures are when the moment comes.

Today we are going to take a look at how you should handle spill prevention and suppression if you are a hazardous material trucker. Making sure you can prevent or contain a spill is vital not only to your safety, but to that of the public and environment.

Preventing spills of hazardous materials includes the following:

  • Fully inspect the containers when they are loaded and refuse any that seem questionable.
  • Properly secure the containers. If you are in a tanker, make sure all the valves are closed and covers in place.
  • Drive safely.

What You Should Do

If you are in a situation where there has been a release of hazardous material – whether as a result of an accident or equipment failure – immediately protect the scene and contact emergency services.

If possible, take whatever steps you can to contain the spill. Your company will likely have specific procedures outlined on how to contain or mitigate a spill should one occur.

Your immediate concern should be getting everyone else (including yourself) far enough away from the hazardous material. How far depends on the material involved and how hazardous it is.

The shipper should have provided emergency response paperwork with the load. You are required to keep it in specific locations when transporting hazardous material. Those locations include:

  • Within your reach and clearly visible.
  • On the seat or in a pouch on the driver’s door.

The Emergency Response Guidebook

Another great resource for information on how to handle a spill is the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). The ERG provides response information for all hazardous materials outlined by the DOT.

Because of how it is designed, the ERG is fairly easy to use. First, you will need to know the name and/or four digit number associated with the material being shipped. If for some reason this isn’t available, the class placard on the vehicle can be used to get some basic information.

Once you know what material is involved, your next step will be to use the yellow, blue or white pages in the ERG. Knowledge about the material you are dealing with will be used to locate the correct “guide,” which is in the orange pages.

The orange pages provide information on:

  • Potential hazards, including fire and explosion hazards, and health hazards.
  • Public safety considerations.
  • Immediate isolation instructions, distances, and protective clothing.
  • Emergency response information, including what to do if a material is burning.

The key thing to remember about the ERG is that it is intended to provide initial response information, but that is it. It will explain how to clean up and dispose of contaminated materials.

Containment Steps

If you do find yourself in a situation where a spill has occurred, you need to know the steps to containing it. Keep the following in mind as you try to mitigate the problem:

  • Park the vehicle over a hard surface.
  • Use dirt or some other material to restrict the movement of the spill.
  • Ensure the material does not enter the sewer or another waterway.

In the end, the most important thing is to be constantly aware of what you are transporting and the hazards involved with its transportation. Always make sure you read shipment paperwork and emergency response information.

The bottom line is that it is imperative you know what to do in the case of an emergency involving hazardous materials. Only by following these guidelines will you ensure the health and safety of you, those around you and the environment.


Incident or Accident Handling Procedures – Part III

Welcome back to our in-depth look at how a professional truck driver should handle an incident or accident. In the first two Parts of this series we dove into first aid and fire prevention.

Today we will round out fire prevention by looking at the fire extinguisher itself, and how to use it. Although the use of these ubiquitous devices may seem obvious, they require special care and knowledge to operate properly.

Modern Fire Extinguishers

If you are going to use a fire extinguisher, you need to first know a few things about it ahead of time.

  • Where is it located?
  • What types of fires is it intended to be used on?
  • What is its rating?

Modern extinguishers also have color coded symbols and “pictograms” indicating what type of fire they are intended to put out.

  • A green triangle with an “A” in it and/or a pictogram showing burning wood in a garbage can indicates that fire extinguisher is made to be used on common combustibles, such as wood, plastics or paper.
  • A red square with a “B” in it and/or a pictogram showing a gas can on fire indicates that fire extinguisher should be used on burning liquids.
  • A blue circle with a “C” in it and/or a pictogram showing an electrical plug and receptacle indicates the fire extinguisher can be used on energized electrical equipment.

Always remember that a fire extinguisher may still be effective against a fire it is not clearly intended to be used on, so don’t not try to put out a fire with it just because you’re afraid it won’t work. The one mismatch you do want to avoid, however, is trying to fight an energized electrical fire with anything other than a “C” rated fire extinguisher.

How To Use It

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to use the fire extinguisher, always remember the “Pass” rule:

  • Pull: There is a safety pin. Pull it. There may be a seal in place holding the pin. You will have to pull hard enough to break the seal.
  • Aim: Always aim the extinguisher towards the base of the fire. You want to hit whatever is actually burning. Do not aim at the flames.
  • Squeeze: Give the handle a good squeeze to activate the extinguisher.
  • Sweep: Sweep the extinguisher back and forth across the burning material.

While the PASS system should be at the front of your mind, there are some other considerations, as well.

  • Don’t breathe the smoke. Smoke from vehicle fires is especially toxic. Stay back from the smoke and hold your breath whenever it heads your way.
  • Be at the range of the extinguisher when you are using it. Never get right on top of the fire to fight it. For most fire extinguishers the range is somewhere between 5 and 8 feet.
  • Test the extinguisher before you approach the fire. Do this by giving off a couple short bursts in the direction of the fire as you approach it. If the extinguisher is not functioning, do not continue approaching the fire.

If the fire is in the engine compartment try to extinguish it through normal openings first. If it is safe to do so, open the compartment upon reduction of the fire.

If you are not able to completely put out the fire using the extinguisher, immediately evacuate the area. If it is safe to do so, you may consider disconnecting the trailer to minimize the damage.

If you do manage to put a fire out using the extinguisher, do not immediately walk away. You, or someone else, will have to observe the area for several minutes to verify that the fire is not “rekindling.” This is especially important if it was a tire that was burning.

Once the fire is out, contact your company. Do not operate the vehicle again until it has been checked for damage and properly repaired.

We hope you found Part III of our series informative. Join us next time in Part IIII where we cover spill prevention and suppression.