Monthly Archives: February 2019

How Virtual Reality Is Used For Trucking Safety

A Canadian non-profit organization called Operation Lifesaver has tapped into something that all trucking companies could use as they try to attract a younger generation of truck drivers. That something is virtual reality, or VR. Imagine, instead of being on the tractor and stuck on the tracks in a railway crossing, you can experience what that is like in a VR setting. As the train approaches, what do you do? Training these principles in real-time is what younger truck drivers need.

VR-based truck driving training programs help truck drivers learn about real-world scenarios without putting them in a risky situation to learn in real life. The new program offered by Operation Lifesaver features VR videos that specifically test truck drivers response to railway crossing challenges and it can be a life-or-death scenario.

Imagine the truck driver feeling the emotion of the moment. What do they do? A railway collision can happen in a matter of seconds. Truck drivers need to be able to trust their instincts and make split-second choices and being able to see the outcome, in real-time and in a virtual setting, they get all the benefit without the potential tragedy.

What if a program like this were available through trade schools? We all know the best way to attract today’s youth into trucking is to appeal to what excites them. VR technology is an incredibly immersive and realistic way to train anyone anything without putting them or anyone around them in immediate danger.

In Canada, the program is built with two training scenarios. The first of which includes clear weather, but there is heavy traffic around the railway crossing. The second involves a clear road, but instead the truck driver is operating at night, in bad weather, and there are in-vehicle distractions complicating everything. All of this happens within their headset. Obviously, bus drivers would stand to benefit greatly from this system.

Although the program currently focuses on railway crossing incidents, the company building the platform could essentially program any situation into it. Truck drivers could learn just about any scenario where they must think fast in dangerous situations. There are so many ways this technology can be used.

Companies are already targeting the shop. VR systems in highly technical shops can provide technicians with a way to interact with parts. Augmented reality, as science fiction as it sounds, is already becoming science fact in the truck shop.

VR is huge in China right now. According to a Bloomberg report, China’s VR market will be $8.5 billion in 2019. Yet, the United States is not too far behind. The best-selling VR unit sells around 100,00 units on Amazon per month. There certainly is a future for this technology and the trucking industry needs to be at the forefront of it.

UPS has already begun to adopt the technology at every training center. Heavy-duty trucking companies are looking at several companies who specializes in freight-related VR systems. Still, the systems are not cheap. At between $60,000 and $100,000 a-piece, not every trucking company can afford them. Trade schools may be able to afford one.

The most important thing is to keep technologies at the front of mind as prices drop. With greater adoption, more motor carriers will be able to afford them. These make great retention and safety-improving tools. When you are considering a fleet management or telematics solution, it could be you end up looking at virtual reality next.


Why Truck Drivers Need To Focus On Wellness And Fitness

Truck divers go to work in a moving office. They are in the cab of a truck and there is little time for them to relax. They certainly do not have a full-size gym in the truck. As a result, truck drivers push themselves hard. If they aren’t driving, they aren’t getting paid. For this reason, it is more important than ever that they take proper health and wellness seriously.

Even though a well-balanced diet and lots of time at the gym may feel unrealistic to some truck drivers, there are plenty of ways to ensure a strong and fit body. Many hours on the road does not have to make for difficult healthy living. If you have a proper guide to eating well and staying fit, there is no reason why these should seem like unattainable goals. Proper health is essential to proper trucking.

Eating Right on the Road

For many truck drivers, eating wherever they can get their food is simply the name of the game. Yet, what you eat plays a central role in how healthy you are. Do you order more food than you can eat? How often do you eat and what extras, dressing or sauces do you indulge in?

Typical truck drivers likely hop in their truck, take in a cup of coffee, snack for lunch, and then sit down at night for a large meal, all of which leads to a poor level of health, expanding waistline, and decreased fitness. Eating late makes you less hungry in the morning, which is typically when you should have your largest meal. Even more, coffee is not an acceptable stimulant when you are hungry. Professional truck drivers need to focus on having a large breakfast, a mid-size lunch and a small dinner.

Of course, where you eat largely influences what you eat. Places that offer a large menu selection provide a level of variety that prevents you from having to eat the worst thing on the menu. It is important to pay close attention to the fats, sugars, and overall sodium intake of each meal.

Your best bet for finding a decent meal is at a full-service restaurant. Restaurants provide a great variety of food and often have things like salads and other healthy options. The drawback to eating at full-service restaurants lies in the time it takes to get the food.

You can also choose a cafeteria or buffet, since they also have a variety of selections, and the timing is better because the food is prepared in advance. You also have greater control over how large your portion sizes are. Just ensure you practice self-control during situations where you can eat as much as you want.

The places you should avoid as much as possible are fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. Many of the foods found at fast-food restaurants are deep fried, loaded with fat and calories, and overabundant in their portions. Do you really need a double burger, large fries, and a milk shake? One combo meal at a typical fast-food joint will run the total number of calories you need for an entire day.

Convenience store meals are even worse. These foods are often pre-packaged, loaded with preservatives and, simply put, bad for you. While you can sometimes find healthy refrigerated options, such as yogurt, fruit, and fresh juice, the pickings are often slim.

When you can’t spend a lot of time preparing your own meals or spending a long time at the gym, it is important to pay close attention to where you eat, because you are not just what you eat, you are where you eat. Are you eating in the right places?

Proper Maintenance Is The Key To Safety

When you are behind the wheel of a Class 8 commercial motor vehicle, safety is paramount. Yes, you need to get your load to its destination, but more than anything, you need to get it there safely. One of the most important factors in operating a safe tractor is ensuring it is properly maintained.

Maintenance needs can also be reduced by purchasing the right size and right vehicle for the job. If you want your work trucks to perform their best and get you and your freight safely from one destination to another, maintenance is a key component. But what is a truck driver or fleet manager to do to ensure this paradigm is followed?

Listen to Your OEM

There is a reason why OEMs make recommendations. When it comes to maintaining your truck(s), OEMs know best. Still, since recommendations can change from year-to-year, it is important that trucking companies know and keep up with the changes. Always make sure you are following the OEM-recommended schedule and use your trucks according to the job they were purchased for. Out-of-route or tough jobs shoehorned for a truck they weren’t built for can accelerate maintenance problems or create unnecessary safety issues.

Listen to Your Dealer

The second-most-important bit of advice you should listen to is that of your dealer. The dealer you purchased the vehicle from and take it to will have the most recent diagnostic and repair information on file. Your technicians should have access to this information. Furthermore, make sure your dealer is asking the right questions. They should want to know how their customers are going to use the vehicles so that they can provide proper advice and insight.

Listen to your Third-Party Provider

Are you a fleet that uses a third-party provider for your maintenance needs? It is up to you to stay on top of what they are doing and ensure you are regularly getting in touch with them. If you are using a third-party provider and they are not staying current with OEM recommendations, it could create greater maintenance costs if repairs mount because your provider is keeping up with the latest information.

Listen to you Truck Drivers

Consider who will be on the front-line using these vehicles: Your truck drivers. Truck drivers can and should directly influence your buying decisions. Truck drivers also have a clear understanding of how the vehicles operate. When you involve your front-line employees on making your buying decisions, it only enhances your overall safety and performance efforts. Don’t shortchange yourself by leaving your truck drivers out of the decision-making process.

Correlate Hours and Forms

You should be carefully looking at your odometer readings to determine when maintenance is due. Even more, you should also be looking at engine hours. You should also be reviewing inspection forms. Both factors will give technicians a good idea of where they are at in the maintenance chain. Your fleet should always be conducting preventative maintenance. If you are completing unplanned repairs, you aren’t doing it right.

Choose Wisely

This may seem simplistic but choosing the right commercial motor vehicle for the job is critical. Considering the number of hours and miles you need to get out of that vehicle, the last thing you want to be doing is shooting yourself in the foot because you did not choose wisely. In addition to choosing the proper vehicle, your maintenance schedule should also sync up with your route and vehicle application. Doing your due diligence by properly researching the vehicle(s) you need will save you big headaches down the road.


The Professional Trucker’s Winter Weather Survival Guide

We’ve talked extensively about how to properly operate a large Class 8 commercial motor vehicle in winter weather, but what about situations where you are trapped in wintry weather due to hazards or road closures? If you run into impassable conditions and cannot make your way back, what do you do? Would you be equipped to stay safe if the weather presents a significant challenge? Here are the tips you need to know to stay alive when the worst happens during frigid temperatures.

Monitor Your Fuel Tanks

When it comes to freezing weather, your engine may be your only reliable source of heat. When you need to keep the engine running to provide yourself heat when you are stuck, you’ve got to have enough fuel to last. When your fuel tank is less than half full, the fuel also has a greater chance of gelling or freezing up. This comes from the water in the fuel having less area to disperse.

While anti-gel additives help prevent fuel from gelling, the best bet you have is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Always double check that your fuel tank is above half-a-tank, especially when you may be running into adverse winter conditions.

Keep Food Handy

While it may seem strange to hear us recommend having emergency rations on hand, the last thing you want to do is starve because you are stranded and there is no food anywhere nearby. Eating food also generates body heat, so it would not be a bad idea to stock a small supply of emergency snacks and rations, whether it be candy bars, granola bars, easy-to-make hot meals, or dried fruits and nuts.

Canned soup or jerky also comes in handy and may not need to be heated. You can also use alternative sources of heat, such as defrosters or Sterno cans. Either way, there are different options available to you if you do need heat, but the best idea is to find ration sources that do not need to be cooked and are ready-to-eat.

Prepare Yourself

Have you ever considered carrying a winter survival kit in your cab? Just because you may not be used to dealing with extreme winter weather does not mean you should be caught unprepared. Additionally, you want to make sure you are carrying appropriately warm clothing. Whether it be a heavy parka, long johns, thick socks, or otherwise, if you run out of fuel or food and you are stranded on the side of the road, you will need to fall back on warm winter clothing.

Fortunately, if your budget does not accommodate expensive warm clothing, you can always visit your nearest army surplus, Goodwill, or thrift store. Keep in mind, you won’t be wearing these clothes to a major event, but rather would be using them only in times of extreme need.

Have a Strategy in Mind

If you find yourself in a situation where you are stranded on the side of the road, it is important to have a survival strategy. The worst thing you can do is panic and make a poor choice. You want to clearly assess your options and not do anything rash.

Before you head out, knowing the weather will be bad, make sure you know who you will try to contact if you get stranded. Plan to use your fuel sparingly, idle as little as possible, and properly ration your food. Never leave your vehicle in search of shelter. Your truck is your shelter.

Keeping warm is key in such situations. Provided you have a strategy in place and are well-prepared to survive the elements, survive will be just what you do.

The Safe Way To Crank Your Landing Gear

Cranking landing gear on a tractor is a common task for truck drivers yet, if not done properly, it can result in severe pain or injury. So, what is the best way to reduce pain and injury related to landing gear cranking?

Unfortunately, there has never been a definitive guide to cranking. Truck drivers have had to rely on training and hand-me-down knowledge from other truck drivers and fleet managers. By not knowing the tried-and-true way to crank landing gear, many truck drivers have become susceptible to injury.

Fortunately, people are on the case. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries recently set out to create a guide to cranking. They wanted to ensure truck drivers had access to a best practices guide that would help prevent injury. So, they teamed up with researchers from North Carolina State University to design a landing gear mock-up and measured range of motion and muscle activity when volunteer truck drivers utilized the crank.

Obviously, raising the trailer will create a greater resistance level for the truck driver. When raising the landing gear, the researchers found that the most ideal position for truck drivers when operating the crank is to stand parallel to the trailer with the trailer to their side. Operating the crank in this position allows the truck driver to utilize the full strength of their body and decreases the amount of overall strain.

When lowering the landing gear, the best position was facing the trailer, as opposed to being parallel to it. The reason behind this lies in the range of motion used. When a truck driver is facing the trailer and crank, they are essentially drawing a circle as they rotate their shoulder. Lower resistance means this is not a problem as the shoulder can adequately operate under those circumstances.

But as you raise resistance, the shoulder cannot bear too much strain. It is much harder for your shoulder to draw that circle when you are raising the landing gear. Drawing the circle without standing parallel takes the power of the elbow out of the equation. Without the elbow and associated muscles, the strain on the shoulder to generate the required torque could cause injury or pain.

Slippage also represents a danger when torqueing the crank. If you are raising the landing gear and standing face-on to the trailer, if your hand slips off the crank handle, the ricochet coiling force could impact the truck driver, which could cause even greater injury. Still, the experiment was not without some problems.

Researchers did not have the easiest time setting up a laboratory environment that adequately mimicked how truckers operate in the field. Other tasks that leave truck drivers open to potential injury include pulling the fifth wheel pin or pulling the rolling door. But those tasks were much harder to stimulate. A controllable study was far easier when simulating lifting the crank.

Additionally, tasks like pulling a fifth wheel pin, raising the hood, or operating the rolling door have a lot more documentation regarding how to do it without potentially creating a hazardous situation. Operating the crank seemed to be a task that there was very little documentation on.

The next step, according to researchers, is to create an industry-standard document that trucking companies can turn to when they need to train truck drivers on this potentially hazardous task. Studies like these only benefit fleets and truck drivers by preventing injury and potential loss. We hope that more studies like it appear in universities across the country.