Monthly Archives: May 2016

A Primer on Space Management – Part I

Ask any professional truck driver and they’ll tell you how important space management is when operating a commercial motor vehicle. Proper space management means maintaining enough space around your vehicle to operate it safely.

The fact is, space management when operating a tractor-trailer requires a number of different observational skills, the most important of which is knowing how large and where your space cushion is.

Your space cushion includes all of the space ahead, behind, above, below and to the sides of your vehicle. You must always allow enough space so that if you need to adjust to rapidly changing traffic condition, you can safely do so.

Space Cushion Awareness – AHEAD

The space ahead of your vehicle is quite possibly one of the most important, but also one of the easiest to monitor and adjust as you travel. In the end, the amount of space needed will depend on the road conditions at the time.

One good rule of thumb to follow involves allowing at least one second for each 10 feet of vehicle length when you are traveling at speeds below 40 miles per hour. At greater speeds, add an additional second. In poor driving conditions – such as fog, snow or heavy rain – allow for an even greater stopping distance.

In order to determine how much space you have, wait until the vehicle ahead of you passes a clearly defined landmark such as a pavement marker or road sign, then count off the seconds until you reach the same marker or sign or whatever else you use. Compare your count with the rule of one second for every 10 feet of length, with one additional second for each 10 miles per hour over 40 miles per hour.

One example would be if you are driving a 60 foot vehicle around 55 miles per hour in good weather. If you count only three seconds between you and the forward vehicle, you are following too closely. At this speed you should have at least seven seconds of space.

Space Cushion Awareness – BEHIND

It is nearly impossible to keep other drivers from following you too closely without engaging in any dangerous or punitive maneuvers, but there are steps you can take to help mitigate the problem and increase your operational safety scores.

First, always stay to the right, slow down and give the person tailgating you plenty of opportunity to pass you. If you find you are being tailgated to a point where it seems like it might be unsafe, consider the following:

  • Avoid quick lane changes. If you have to slow down or turn, signal early and gradually depending on your vehicle’s speed.
  • Give yourself greater following distance. If you open up room in front of you, it will help avoid a surprise if there are sudden speed or lane changes. It also makes it easier for the person tailgating you to get around you, if need be.
  • Keep your speed low. When you are being tailgated, it is always safer to allow it at a lower speed than at a higher speed.
  • Avoid signaling measures. Do not turn on your taillights or flash your brake lights, as this may be more distracting to the person following you and cause an unsafe situation.

Space Cushion Awareness – TO THE SIDES

It’s no secret: Commercial motor vehicles generally take up most of whatever lane they happen to be in. Fortunately, there are several things you can avoid to ensure you have enough space between your truck and those around you:

  • Avoid hugging the center line. If you don’t hug the center line, you are less susceptible to drifting over it and into oncoming traffic.
  • Avoid hugging the right side of the road. If you are hugging the right side of the road, you could run into a soft shoulder, which could cause problems.
  • Avoid traveling alongside other vehicles. Since another driver may change lanes quite suddenly, if you don’t have space beside you, your vehicle may be trapped between the shoulder and the other vehicle. Also try to avoid following to closely next to the vehicles lest a big gust of wind blow them or you into each other.

Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed this first look into ensuring proper space around your vehicle. Join us in Part II of our series when we dive into space above, below, turning space and cross-traffic spacing.

A Primer on Speed Management – Part III

Welcome back to Part III in our ongoing series, A Primer on Speed Management. As a professional truck driver, it is imperative that you are maintaining control of a vehicle that is often barreling down the road with thousands of pounds of freight being pulled behind it.

The fact is, if you aren’t watching your speed, any number of terrible things could happen, so this week we are going to move on from talking about weather and dig into specific aspects of the roadway that should govern your speed. The last thing you need is your tires lifting because you race around a road curve too quickly. Finally, we’ll take a look at how utilization of cruise control might affect how you operate.

Road Shapes – Curves

Always remember that the posted speed limits on curves are designed for passenger cars. Driving a semi-truck pulling freight at or above the posted speed limit can cause a number of problems, not the least of which being skidding off the road or rolling the vehicle over.

You must always slow to a safe speed before entering a curve – a speed that is at least 5 miles per hour below the posted limit. Make sure you slow down as needed, but also remember that sharp braking in a curve can also be dangerous. It is easier to lock your vehicle’s wheels and go into a skid this way.

Never, ever exceed the posted speed limit while negotiating a curve. Finally, to help maintain vehicle control, always be in a gear that will allow you to slightly accelerate through a curve.

Road Shapes – Grades

When understanding speed management, remember that gravity and weight both play a part in how you negotiate up or downgrades.

On an upgrade, your vehicle must work harder to fight against the pull of gravity in order to maintain its speed. In order to maintain your speed, you must put constant pressure on the accelerator, and/or possibly shift into a lower gear.

Conversely, on a downgrade, your vehicle is working with gravity, so you will experience an increase in speed. Vehicle weight must also be a consideration on a downgrade. Heavier trucks will always want to accelerate faster on a downgrade. Always practice care when maintaining even speed during an up or downgrade.

Use of Cruise Control

Due to safety concerns, a large majority of fleets have policies in place that either limit or prohibit the use of cruise control. In situations where you do use cruise control, however, it is vitally important to take certain considerations in mind.

First, only use cruise control in good driving conditions, during the day, and on roads that have light traffic, few curves or mountain passes or hills, and a steady speed limit.

Never use cruise control under the following conditions:

  • When the weather is wet, icy, snowy or slippery;
  • During rush hour, heavy traffic or on congested highways;
  • When you are feeling tired or fatigued, and;
  • At night.

Using Adaptive Cruise Control

In this age of connected fleets and smart highways, some manufacturers are fitting adaptive cruise control technologies on their vehicles.

In an adaptive system, you program speed and following distance settings and the truck does the rest. The system uses forward-looking sensors to monitor speed and following distance and adjusts accordingly

Speed Limit Violations

Two or more excessive speeding violations – 15 miles per hour or more above the posted limit – in either a commercial or passenger vehicle, can disqualify you from operating a commercial motor vehicle. Under section 383.51 of the FMCSRs, you can face a disqualification period of 60-120 days.

All speeding convictions become a part of your permanent driving record, whether you are disqualified or not. And since your driving record must be reviewed by your employer each time you begin work with a new motor carrier, this could have a significant impact on your career.

Finally, speeding convictions can cost you a lot of money in fines and court fees. You will also require higher insurance premiums.

In the end, for so many reasons, speeding just isn’t worth it. We hope you’ve enjoyed this series looking at speeding. Take these lessons with you and be a caretaker of the open road!

A Primer On Speed Management – Part II

Welcome back to our second Part in our three-Part series on practicing proper speed management. Last time we took a look at the basics of speed management. Today we will dive into specific road conditions and how you should manage your speed when operating under those specific conditions.

So get ready as we dig into the following road conditions and why maintaining proper speed control is so important:

  • Rain
  • Snow
  • Ice

The fact is, under any of these conditions, traction is necessary to maintain control of the vehicle. The less friction between a vehicle’s tires and the road, the less traction you’ll have. And when certain conditions reduce traction, lower speeds are necessary.

Speed Management in the Rain

Obviously, rain can affect a vehicle’s traction in a number of ways. As rain begins to fall, it mixes with oils on the road, causing them to rise to the surface, and until more rain washes the oil away, there will be a slippery layer between your vehicle’s tires and the road. These road conditions can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Also consider that new pavement is more slippery when it’s wet than old pavement is. The reason behind this is that new pavement has a greater concentration of oils on it that has yet to be washed away by years of rain.

If you see white foam on the road, that is an indication of water and oil mixing. Immediately reduce your speed to prevent a loss of traction.

Heavy rains that result in standing water on the roadways can also cause your vehicle’s tires to lose traction. When this happens, and your tires skim on the road’s surface, this is called hydroplaning. The faster you are traveling over the road’s surface in these conditions, the greater the chance you could hydroplane and find yourself in an unsafe situation.

Remember, even a fully loaded trailer can hydroplane with very little water on the road, so when it rains, make sure to reduce your vehicle’s speed by at least one-third.

Speed Management on Snow

Slowing down when it’s snowing isn’t merely for traction and vehicle control purposes, but also for visibility purposes. A light, powdery snow will often blow off the road and you won’t have to worry about it, but the more it accumulates, the slicker the road’s surface will become.

Heavier, packed, slushy snow can have a serious impact on your ability to control the vehicle. If the snow becomes hard packed, it can turn to ice.

While rain requires a one-third reduction in speed, driving a semi-truck in snowy conditions required a speed reduction by half. Always remember that when determining what your vehicle speed should be in snowy conditions, you must be confident that you can both safely stop and maneuver.

Speed Management on Ice

Nowhere is speed management more important than when you are driving in icy conditions. An icy road presents more dangers than rainy or snowy roads combined, especially for a large commercial vehicle with a heavy load. And when temperatures are freezing, you have to be especially careful for black ice.

When temperatures drop rapidly, black ice forms. In these conditions the road looks wet, but is actually covered in a thin layer of slick ice.

The best way to check and see if ice has formed on the road is to check your mirrors and antenna. If they are icy, you must slow down. As with snow, your speed should be dictated by confidence in your stopping distance and maneuverability. When operating in icy conditions, you must reduce your speed by at least half, if not more.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of speed management. Join us next time when we cover road shapes, using cruise control and accidents and penalties related to speeding.