Preventing Rollovers- What Can You Do?

This summer the NHTSA issued a new rule requiring electronic stability control systems (ESC) on new commercial heavy trucks and large buses starting in 2017. It is believed that the new rule will prevent as many as 1,759 crashes, 649 injuries, and 49 deaths each year. In the meantime, what can you do to protect yourself? Many trucks currently have ESC, but for those that don’t (and even those that do), these tips could be lifesaving.

What Causes Rollovers?

The standard answer when it comes to rollovers is that the crashes are caused by driving too fast. This is a factor, but it is so much complicated than that. To prevent rollover, drive a safe speed of course, but also try some other strategies.

  • Pay Attention to Your Center of Gravity- The center of gravity is important in keeping things from toppling over. When driving a car, your center of gravity is almost always the same, but when driving a tractor-trailer, it can change depending on what you’re hauling and how it is loaded onto your trailer. Pay attention to your loads and drive carefully until you’re familiar with how a particular load is situated. Strap and secure properly. If a load isn’t fully secured it can shift as you drive, changing the center of gravity and potentially leading to a rollover. Drivers of cargo tanks should be especially cautious as liquids inside of the tank move as you do and can topple the tank rather easily.
  • Focus on the Road– Many drivers believe that rollovers are most common when entering and exiting the highway. While these are certainly times to be cautious, rollovers can happen at any time and are actually more likely on the roadway itself. Maintain focus at all times and look for hazards (sharp curves, soft shoulders, steep grades, hard berms, curbs, narrow driveways, limited visibility, etc.).
  • Watch Out for Vehicle Tripping– Vehicle tripping is a primary cause (95%) of single car rollovers, but is also a major contributing factor to tractor-trailer rollovers. This occurs when the tires strike a curb or fall into a soft shoulder. It often occurs during turns. To reduce your risk of tripping allow 3-4 feet between the tractor tires and the curb, giving room to the trailer’s tires should it shift a little during the turn.
  • Survey Before You Go- You can prevent rollovers before you ever get behind the wheel. Look at your expected route in detail before you head out. Look for hazards and areas where you’ll need to be extra vigilant. If you can, talk with others that have recently been on those roads and in the area for up to date advice on road conditions, weather, etc. Use your dispatcher and fellow drivers as valuable resources for knowing what’s ahead.
  • Don’t Get Complacent– Whether you’ve been driving for 1 year or 20, accidents can happen. Don’t let your familiarity with a particular route or your experience driving lull you into complacency. Driving a big truck is always dangerous and needs your full attention. Vigilance can prevent many rollovers.
  • Turn Left– When available and safe, left hand turns into a driveway are much safer than right hand turns. Turning left gives the rear tandem more room to track the tractor’s path.
  • Don’t Let Pre-Trip Inspections Slide– They take just a few minutes, but are so important. Always perform a thorough pre-trip inspection and don’t start driving until you’re confident that your truck is road-worthy and safe.
  • Speed Matters- Finally, remember that speed is an important factor in many rollovers. Speed limits aren’t always a safe speed to drive. Determine your speed based on road conditions and the weather and never exceed the maximum speed limit for an area. When approaching a turn, drive slower than the posted recommendations on the yellow safety signs. Safety experts recommend at least 10 mph less than the recommended speed for tractor/trailer combos. When going downhill, look at your speedometer rather than relying on feel. The bigger the vehicle, the slower it feels.

For more great tips on avoiding rollovers, watch this video from the FMCSA. It was created with cargo tanks in mind, but is packed with valuable tips for any tractor-trailer driver. Travel with care.

 

 

Sleep- Essentials of Health and Wellness for Truck Drivers

Are you getting enough sleep? Many truckers don’t and it can have a negative impact on both quality of life/health and safety behind the wheel. What can you do? How can you get enough sleep with the crazy hours trucking brings? Getting plenty of sleep as an over the road trucker isn’t going to be easy, but with these tips you can get the most ZZZZs possible even if your situation isn’t ideal.

Why Is Sleep Important?

The Department of Transportation estimates that fatigue related causes account for about 13% of all truck accidents. It can also increase your risk for negative health effects including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes (all things that truck drivers are at risk for). Getting sleep on the road is difficult, but the risks of not getting enough sleep are worse. Make sleep a priority.

What Can You Do?

Getting enough good quality sleep is difficult when you’re on the road and dealing with variable schedules. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Avoid Drowsy Times- Your body is most drowsy from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. If you can, stay off the road during these particularly drowsy hours.
  • Nap Properly– A nap can be a great way to fight fatigue, but only if you do it properly. An effective nap should be more than 10 minutes but less than 45 minutes. Give yourself 15 minutes to fully wakeup before you get back on the road. Short naps have been shown to restore energy more effectively than coffee. Naps work best if they are used preventatively before you get tired, rather than after.
  • Skip the Tricks– What’s your secret to staying awake when tired? Many drivers rely on caffeine, an open window, loud music, and other tricks to stay awake on the road. These tricks may increase alertness for a few minutes, but they aren’t effective or reliable. Skip the tricks and pull over for some shut eye if you’re feeling drowsy. Caffeine can be a tool you use, but use it wisely.
  • Turn Off Your Alarm– During the week, you’ll likely need an alarm to get to deliveries and pick-ups on time, but when you’re home for the weekend or taking a restart, turn off the alarm. Let your body get the rest it needs and sleep until you’re no longer tired. These periods of rest can help you from becoming severely sleep deprived.

While fatigue is possible at any time, it is especially common during periods of shift or schedule changes. These tips will help you adjust:

  • Stick with Your Schedule/Routine– Limiting the changes your body goes through can help you adjust to a change. Try to stick with your typical work schedule, even if you’re home for a few days. If you do need to change your schedule, keep your pre-bed routines in place and use light and dark to help you adjust.
  • Get More Sleep– When going through times of adjustment, increase your sleep if you can. Getting more sleep helps your body adjust to the changes.

Sleep Disorders- Do You Have One?

In the U.S. alone 70 million people have some sort of sleep disorder, or a condition that keeps them from getting sufficient restorative sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), insomnia, and restless leg syndrome are common sleep disorders. If you have one, work with your doctor to minimize its impact on your sleep and to find effective strategies for getting the rest you need. Talk with your doctor about sleep disorders and be aware of the signs of sleep disorders so you know if you’re at risk.

Tools for Better Sleep

The North American Fatigue Management Program is a great resource for truckers, their families, and others involved in the transportation industry. They have two great courses on fatigue that drivers should consider taking: Driver Education (focused on fatigue and fatigue management) and Driver Sleep Disorders Management.

Make the commitment today to getting better sleep. Your health and safety depend on it. And keep checking back for more tips on truck driver health and safety.