Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Importance of Completing a Proper Visual Search – Part I

As a professional truck driver, you know how important it is to know what is going on around your vehicle at all times. That’s why it is so important to complete a good visual search before you set out.

You need to make sure you are seeing ahead and to the sides at all times. The fact is, a tractor-trailer covers more distance than a passenger vehicle when it is coming to a stop, changing lanes or reacting to problems on the road.

You must be focusing on the road, other vehicles on the road and other problems. You must be constantly aware of vehicles to both the left, the right and behind. This is called distance scanning.

Practicing Distance Scanning

When you are looking ahead, just make sure you look far enough.

  • Give yourself enough time to spot a problem;
  • Make time to to decide on how to avoid a problem;
  • Try to be aware of any adverse traffic conditions;
  • Give yourself enough time and space to maneuver if sudden evasive maneuvers are called for.

As a general rule, always make sure to look about 12 – 15 seconds ahead of the vehicle you are operating. If you are in city driving, imagine 12 – 15 seconds as two to three blocks. On the highway it would be about a quarter mile.

While looking ahead is crucial, it is also important to make sure you are scanning behind and to the sides of your vehicle. Keep a keen eye out for road signs and pay close attention to your vehicle’s instruments. Your eyes must be constantly roving to stay aware of what is going on both inside and outside your vehicle.

As you scan ahead, pay close attention to things that could cause you problems or impact your path of travel.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Vehicles;
  • Road signs;
  • Traffic signals;
  • Road debris;
  • Animals (alive or dead);
  • Weather hazards;
  • Intersections or road undulations;
  • Construction zones;
  • Work crews;
  • Emergency vehicles;
  • Accidents.

Distance scanning carries several benefits to making sure you are constantly scanning the distance and area around your vehicle. It allows you more time to identify and react to situations around you.

Distance scanning can help prevent hard stops and evasive maneuvers. Scanning can also help you fight fatigue. If your eyes are continually moving and not fixed on a specific target, they are less susceptible to fatigue.

Side Scanning

When you are traveling down the road, you should be periodically scanning the sides of your vehicle. There are some situations where side scanning is even more important, such as while you go across crosswalks.

Crosswalks deserve extra caution. You must scan the entire area and pay special attention to what is going on to the right of your vehicle. Pedestrians and bicycles are very often out of your line of sight when they are closest to your vehicle.

When you are at an intersection, move your vehicle slowly. Make sure to look to your left and to your right, then left again. Make sure to consistently scan as you enter the intersection.

Be extra careful in school zones. Kids will often dart through traffic and their small size makes them easy to miss. Maintaining proper side scanning can help prevent a terrible and tragic accident should you miss a child for lack of proper scanning.

When you are in city driving, side scanning is especially crucial. Cars parked on the shoulder present hazards. They may also obscure other hazards that could present a safety concern.

Remember that people will often walk between cars or open their doors into traffic without even looking to see if a vehicle is coming by. The inattentiveness of others can create a safety concern for you. This is why proper side scanning is required to prevent potential accident or injury.

We hope you have enjoyed this week’s look at conducting a good visual search. Join us next week when we delve into the best way to use your mirrors and conclude with seeing to the rear of the vehicle.


How To Safely Couple And Uncouple Your Trailer – Part IIII

In this ongoing series, we have went into great detail about how a professional truck driver should safely couple their trailer. But just as important as coupling is, you’ve got to know how to uncouple it, as well.

We are going to give you a clearly defined 12-step process that will guide you completely through the process of uncoupling a trailer from a tractor. Let’s begin!

Position and Secure

Your first step should be to make sure the parking surface you are on is level and that it can adequately support the weight of the trailer. Dirt, sand and gravel and other uneven surfaces could cause uncoupling problems. If you must, always use trailer supports or boards to prevent the trailer from sinking.

Once you have aligned the tractor with the trailer on an even surface, get out if you must to make absolutely sure they are perfectly aligned. Pulling out an angle could damage the trailer’s landing gear.

Next you want to secure the trailer and ease the pressure on your tractor’s locking jaws. Pull out the trailer air supply button and ensure the trailer brakes are locked.

Next, ease pressure on the fifth wheel locking jaws by giving your vehicle a gentle back up. The pressure of the lock jaws against the kingpin will release.

While the tractor is pushing against the kingpin, slowly put the tractor parking brakes on. Doing this will hold the rig while still relieving pressure on the locking jaw. Put your vehicle in neutral and turn off your engine.

Chock Wheels and Lower Gear

If your trailer doesn’t have spring brakes, make sure to chock the wheels. If air releases and the emergency brake is released the trailer could move, so chocking the wheels is important, regardless.

Next, you’ll want to lower the landing gear. First, check the gear for any excessive rust, damage or broken welds or components. Ensure both supports are firmly touching the ground. If they aren’t, you may need to go find more level ground somewhere.

If the trailer is loaded down, once the landing gear makes firm contact, turn the crank in low gear for an extra turn or two. This will lift some weight off of the trailer. It will also make it easier to unlatch the fifth wheel and recouple it later. Do not lift the trailer off of the fifth wheel.

Disconnect Air Lines and Unlock the Fifth Wheel

Next, you’ll want to make sure you disconnect the air lines from the trailer. Connect your airline glad hands to the dummy couplers. They should be located on the back of the cab. Make sure they are coupled together.

Then hang the electrical cord with the plug facing down. You do this to prevent moisture from getting into the electrical wiring. Also ensure the lines are supported to prevent damage once the tractor begins to move.

Once the airlines are handled, move on to the fifth wheel. First, lift the release handle lock or safety latch. If you need to use a hook or extension to reach the locking mechanism, do so.

Pull the release handle into the open position. Always remember to keep your legs and feet clear of the rear tractor wheels. If it unexpectedly rolls forward onto your feet, well let’s just say you don’t want that. As always, safety first.

Final Steps

The first in your final steps includes lowering the air suspension. Make sure you slowly drive the tractor forward to clear the kingpin, but don’t pull it completely out from under the trailer.

Release the air pressure bags if so equipped. Once done, release the tractor’s parking brake and pull the vehicle forward until the fifth wheel just begins to clear the trailer’s apron.

Stop just before you clear the trailer, apply the parking brake, put the transmission in neutral and inspect the trailer supports. If necessary, use a trailer safety jack.

Once you are sure everything is safe, release the brakes and slowly drive the tractor clear of the trailer. If the trailer is equipped with air suspension, use it.

With that said, you have officially uncoupled your trailer! We hope you’ve enjoyed this series on coupling and uncoupling your trailer from your tractor. As a professional trucker, you know how important this step is. Safe driving out there.