Ways to Reduce Distractions While You Drive

Tips for Reducing Distractions and Boosting Safety While You Drive

News feeds across the country are filled with stories of distracted driving, and while the statistics are alarming, the consequences are often devastating. In fact, according to the NHTSA, over 3,400 people were killed in 2015 while almost 400,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that a result of distracted driving. Trucks and other commercial vehicles are not immune or exempt from being included in these startling statistics, making it important for professional drivers to understand not only the dangers, but ways that they can avoid distracted driving.

Know what Distracted Driving Really Is

Though there may be many different opinions about what things qualify as distracted driving, the true definition is pretty simple.  Any item or activity that takes a driver’s focus and attention away from driving can qualify as distracted driving. So really, eating, drinking, having an intense conversation with a passenger or reaching for something dropped on the floor could prove to be a hazardous distraction.

Ways to Reduce Distraction

When drivers attempt to cut any and all distractions and focus on the road, results could be equally disastrous. There must be ways for drivers to keep from falling asleep or becoming hypnotized by the long miles they are driving. Following are 5 solutions for distracted driving that can really help commercial drivers.

  1. Invest in Technology – Though many forms of distracted driving are dangerous, there is one form that is actually illegal. In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented a ban on texting while driving a commercial vehicle. In January of 2012, this ban was expanded to include holding a cell phone for any reason while driving. Currently, drivers who are found breaking the law could face a fine as high as $2,750 and may not be allowed to drive for up to 120 days.

With today’s hands-free technology, professional drivers are still able to use cell phones to call family and friends, get updates to loading or unloading locations or even check the weather.  However, they must have new enough technology so that they can do these types of activities without ever needing to touch their cell phone. There are plenty of options, both wired and wireless that drivers can purchase. Many prefer a current generation Bluetooth headset that has noise cancelling capability so that the party on the other end of the call will not have to listen to the truck noise in the background.

  1. Plan Ahead – Just as a driver needs to plan which route he or she will take to deliver a load, they should also take time to plan for things they will to listen to, snack on or use while they are on the road. Having a written list of options taped to the dash can make choices simple and keep more attention on the road ahead. There are many blogs and magazines that offer helpful advice on how to stay safe without getting overly bored.
  2. Easy Reach Rule – One good rule of thumb for commercial drivers is that they should never make a grab for anything in their truck that is not within easy reach. In essence, if the driver has to stretch away from the steering wheel any further than a simple arm extension, they are at risk. When drivers are willing to pull off the side of an exit or take a break in a rest area to grab an item that is outside of easy reaching distance, they are helping everyone on the roads to travel more safely
  3. Driver Education – Educating newer drivers about the risks and consequences of distracted driving can also help them make more thoughtful choices on the road. This type of training course should always cover the types of activities that can end up being too distracting, safer ways of staying awake and avoiding boredom, and a real look at fines, accidents and lifelong injuries that can happen when drivers are distracted. It can also be beneficial for drivers to be trained in how to spot drivers of other vehicles who may be distracted, so they will be able to avoid the hazards presented.
  4. Keep it Tidy–It is not an easy task for a driver who spends many hours in the truck to keep things neat and clean. However, neatness does cut down on possible distractions. An investment in small drawers, cupboards or shelves where items can be held is an additional investment in safety, as those items will be much less likely to slide around the interior of the sleeper or cab.

Invest in Safety

By taking time for planning, professional drivers can help to increase safety on each road they travel by decreasing the number of accidents caused by driving distractions. Companies that are willing to take time to educate their drivers only add to safety levels for each individual who is also out on the road.

How to Make Truck Tires Last Longer

8 Tips for Making Truck Tires Last Longer

In today’s competitive trucking industry, safety should always be paramount. However, those familiar with running big rigs know that corners are sometimes cut in an effort to make a better profit. Sadly, the very corners that are cut typically end up costing a company more money down the line, whether it is in fines, tickets, accidents or in increased repair costs.

Take a Look at the Tires

The cost of tires for a semi can be staggering, ranging anywhere from $200 – $1,000 per tire.  Multiply this dollar amount by 18 tires per truck and trailer and many realize that making tires last can really impact the overall success of any small or large operation. Following is a list of 8 things that can be done to help make tires last longer as these 18-wheelers roll across the miles.

  1. Start Right – Scrimping on tires for your rigs may seem like a good idea at the moment, but losing a tire or two when time is of the essence can really multiply costs. When investing in new tires for your trucks, look for those that can hold up to the grueling mileage you want to get out of them. Though they may be more expensive, highly-rated tires have reinforcements, that are made to insure you get the most miles possible.
  2. Write it Down – Reviewing stats and costs can really help truck owners to know what their tire cost really is per mile driven. Keeping up-to-date records about tire purchases including brand, anticipated mileage, tire enhancements and initial cost is a must. Asking about how long 18-wheeler tires last is also important. Some tire companies provide software with their tires that helps store, sort and calculate such data. Additional software is also available that can be used by a trucking company or an owner-operator. Such systems use RFID chips in the tires as well as electronic gauges so that company mechanics can check a truck’s tires no matter where they are in relation to the vehicle.
  3. Keep it Clean – Newer truck drivers are often told that keeping their truck and trailer clean may help them get pulled over for inspection less frequently. Keeping tires clean can also help them last longer as snow, ice, salt or other road chemicals can break down a tire more quickly. Some drivers prefer to use a sponge and bucket of soapy water on their wheels, while others choose the convenience of a pressure washer that can easily reach the inside of the tire as well.
  4. Fill ‘em Up – Checking the pressure in all 18 wheels can take some time, but is a great way to extend the life of tires. Not only can improperly inflated tires wear badly and develop weak spots, they can also affect overall fuel economy. Many larger fleets are investing in automatic monitoring systems that will alert the driver and the fleet mechanic if pressure is low or if a tire is failing.
  5. EncourageGood Habits – Drivers who are well-trained understand that certain behaviors behind the wheel can shorten the life of a tire dramatically. These include speeding, braking too quickly and making excessively sharp turns. The same type of automated tire monitoring system that can send an alert when air pressure is low may be able to send additional alerts when drivers are engaging in any such behaviors which are shortening the life of their tires.
  6. Inspect Alignment – Keeping the tires of a semi aligned is just as important as with the tires on a car. Not only does this help a vehicle to ride more smoothly, it prevents tires from developing irregular wear patterns. Technicians familiar with the importance of taking care of truck tires will check tires, axles and trailers to make sure alignment is good.
  7. Use Clean Air – Using air that is clean and dry inside of truck tries can also help to make them last longer. Drivers should be trained to look for an air filter and in-line dryer on a compressor before using it to add air to a tire. Any water that gets inside a tire can immediately start breaking down the lining and steel belts which are both critical to the longevity of the tire.
  8. Get Metal Caps – Metal caps are of critical importance on commercial tires, as they are the first defense against air loss, dirt and water. To make checking and maintaining the air pressure easier, many drivers use metal flow-through valve caps.

Start Out Right for Big Savings

In order to spend less on frequent tire replacement and repair, it is sometimes necessary to spend more at the beginning. Buying highly-rated tires, insisting on good inflation and cleanliness habits, and utilizing automated monitoring systems and up-to-date driver training programs may cost more up front. Owners realize, however, that starting out right tends to mean big overall savings down the road.

How Long-Haul Drivers Can Stay Awake While Driving

Though many long-haul drivers may have been lured into the industry by dreams of the open road and freedom from the stress of a 9-5 job, the job of road warrior is anything but a dream. Instead, it is filled with many different types of stress that differ greatly from those in the jobs they may have previously held.

Turning Wheels Mean Dollar Signs

One of the most stressful parts of driving long-haul is often seen plastered on t-shirts, coffee mugs and posters in truck stops across the country. Though the grammar may make some people cringe, the well-known saying “If the wheels ain’t turning, you ain’t making no money” is one that is known across all aspects of the industry. In essence, it means that anytime the truck is not moving, it is not making any money for the owner.

This leads trucking companies to come up with creative solutions, such as assigning two drivers to the same truck, each sleeping while the other is driving. It does not matter, however, if drivers are alone, or if they have a partner sleeping in the back of the rig. The long miles drive across the country can feel even longer than they really are, no matter how excited they were to begin driving a big rig for a living.

Boredom Leads to Mental Exhaustion

Current log book regulations mean that gone is the day that a driver could make his way across the country only taking cat-naps. Instead, drivers today have enforced limits on how long they can drive before they are required to take a specific length of time off-duty. There is much heated debate about whether or not the current system of hourly regulations really work out best for those who are behind the wheel, but currently they stand as law.

On average, a trucker drives anywhere between 2,000 – 3,000 miles each week. Even with enough sleep or off-duty time, the long miles put in by truck drivers can lead to a very real mental exhaustion which can, if not recognized and planned for, lead to a driver falling asleep behind the wheel. No matter if they spend those miles listening to talk radio, to music, or talking on the phone via Bluetooth headset (drivers are not permitted to hold their cell phones while they drive), the passing miles and the hypnotic hum of the tires on the road can still lead to boredom and mental exhaustion.

Tried and Trusted Tips to Avoid Falling Asleep

Thankfully, drivers are typically willing to share with each other the tips and tricks that keep them from falling asleep while driving. Following is a list of ways that have been found to work for those who are looking for better ways of staying awake.

  • Healthy Food – Though it is so tempting to indulge in fast food meals while driving, many have found that healthy meals consisting of protein and complex carbohydrates help them stay awake for much longer than foods that are full of fats, salt and sugars. Healthy snacks work as well. Instead of grabbing a candy bar, truckers who want to stay awake prefer trail mix, or a bag of almonds. Having a mini-fridge and a small cooking oven in the truck are not only convenient, they enable drivers to eat much more healthy foods overall.
  • Switch up the Listening – Drivers should change up listening selections while driving. Alternate between music, talk radio, podcasts and digital books. This way, the brain will be entertained instead of falling into a bored, sleepy slump. And if all else fails, turning up the volume to ear-splitting levels and singing along seems to work as well.
  • Cat Nap – Taking a short nap before starting on a long drive can be incredibly beneficial. In fact, studies show that a nap that is under an hour can power you enough to stay awake for many more hours than had you taken a nap that lasted for a few hours. Drivers who find themselves becoming drowsy on the road can always pull over and grab a 20-minute power nap in order to make it to the needed destination.
  • Get Out and Move – Sitting for extended periods of time can be hard on a body too. Any time drivers feel sleepiness sneaking in is a good time to find a spot for some safe exercise. This can be as little as a few laps around the truck or as extensive as some push-ups, squats and a quick jog. Getting that heart rate up means the blood will be less-sluggish upon return to the drier seat.
  • Don’t fall for Caffeine – Good hydration is very important to staying alert. Unfortunately, sodas that are readily available in every truck stop do not aid to overall hydration. Even worse is the fact that drinking too much caffeine while driving can make a driver need to find a restroom much more frequently than if they had simply stayed with water.

No matter the reason for getting into the long-haul industry, the end result is typically the same after many miles driven. Being prepared to combat sleepiness and stay wide awake, no matter how long the road ahead, should be the goal of every road warrior.

How to Improve Semi Truck Fuel Efficiency

While semi trucks aren’t exactly known for having superior fuel efficiency, there are steps you can take to conserve diesel while you’re on the open road. No matter who’s paying for semi truck fuel use, it’s always best to take steps to not only conserve gas, but steps to save the environment as well.

Watch Your Weight

You can most certainly haul more than other vehicles you share the road with, but carrying more than necessary digs into your diesel mileage. Before heading out, be sure to double-check your load to ensure it’s not more than what your truck is designed to carry. You should also take a look inside your cab to see if you have anything inside that might add more weight.

Keep an Eye on Your Speed

Pushing the speed limit might get you to your destination faster, but doing so will empty your tank faster as well. You can slow your speed down to better conserve fuel manually by reducing the pressure on the pedal, or you can put your truck’s ECM to good use to help you out. Another reason to keep your speed at or below the speed limit is so you don’t risk getting a ticket and tarnishing your driving record, which could cost you in more ways than one.

Keep Your Truck Tires Properly Inflated

As you look over your load to ensure it’s not too much, check your tires to see that they’re properly inflated to improve fuel economy. Just like with a regular automobile, you don’t want your truck’s tires to be under or overinflated. That being said, you might need a bit of overinflation during the colder months of the year when frigid air can shrink the air in your tires. On a related note, be sure to act promptly when you notice tires that seem to lose pressure often, as they can negatively impact your ride as well as your fuel economy.

Accelerate Gently

When you’re ready to get going, ease into accelerating rather than smash the pedal down. Rapid acceleration tends to overwork the engine, which eats away at fuel. You want your truck to glide forward rather than lurch forward. There’s also the fact that shotgunning might put drivers around you in danger should you need to react quickly after kicking into warp drive.

Idle Only When You Have To

When you realize you’re going to be parked somewhere a while, it’s better that you turn the engine off rather than let it idle, as doing so wastes diesel. While you most certainly don’t want to shut the engine off when you’re in the middle of a traffic jam, you also don’t want to leave it going when you’re parked at a rest stop or otherwise when you’re likely going to hop out of the truck soon.

Think Beyond the Engine

The performance and condition of your truck’s engine are most certainly essential to semi truck fuel mileage, but don’t forget about the components of the engine. For instance, you’ll want to take a look at the air filters as well as the air intake and exhaust systems. Are there any leaks in the after-cooling piping? There might also be blown turbo or manifold gaskets that could be eating away at your overall efficiency.

Use the Right Fuel and Oil

When it comes to maximizing fuel efficiency, the type of diesel that keeps your truck running makes a huge difference. Know that the seasons will dictate the type of fuel as well as the type of oil you put into your truck. During the winter, you want thicker fuel and 10w30 oil for every season except the most sweltering of summers.

Speaking of having the right fuel for your truck, it’s important you not overfill your tank when it’s time to refuel. The reason this is important is because high temperatures can lead to fuel expanding in the tank, which can lead to it overflowing, which is essentially wasted money and wasted fuel. Something else to think about is the fact that all that extra fuel can also act as extra weight, which you now know is exactly what you don’t want if you’re looking to get as many miles as possible from your truck’s fuel.

Stay in a Higher Gear When Possible

Yet another move to make when it comes to boosting your truck’s overall fuel efficiency is stay in a higher gear whenever possible. When you gradually increase or decrease your speed rather than coming to a complete stop or speeding up faster than absolutely necessary, you don’t have to switch gears as much, which doesn’t burn as much fuel.

Bring out the best in your truck’s fuel economy and extend the life of your vehicle by taking steps to save gas. See how much better trucking can be with the help of the above tips.

Owner Operator Truck Insurance 101

So you’ve made the decision to become an owner and operator rather than work for another company. Congratulations are most certainly in order, but you’ll want to proceed with caution to maximize the opportunity before you. One of the first tasks to take care of is to secure owner operator insurance. Just like insuring your car or your health is intended to bring you peace of mind, the same applies to getting insurance for your truck as well as your new business.

Don’t Rely on Your Broker or Insurance Agent 100 Percent

While insurance brokers and agents can most certainly help you find the perfect plan for your truck insurance requirements, you shouldn’t leave everything up to them. Instead, it’s better that you familiarize yourself with the different types of truck coverage, how they work and whether you truly need them. Agents and brokers are undeniably helpful, but they can also prove to be great teachers. You don’t have to become an insurance expert, but you should make yourself as knowledgeable as possible.

Learn the Basics

Part of getting the most out of your truck insurance is knowing all the options available to you for coverage. Some of the essentials common to policyholders everywhere include:

  • Under/Uninsured Motorist Coverage – In the event you get into an accident with a motorist who doesn’t have coverage and is at fault for the incident, you’ll need under/uninsured motorist insurance to make sure you aren’t paying for someone else’s oversight out of your own pocket.
  • General Liability Coverage – Say you’re on someone else’s property and accidentally cause damage to that property. Such instances that take place on truck stops, loading docks and the like fall under liability coverage. Additionally, this type of insurance takes care of mistakes made while making a delivery.
  • Physical Damage Coverage – Should someone damage or steal your truck, you’ll be glad to have physical damage included in your policy, which handles the repair and replacement of your equipment.
  • Primary Liability Coverage – No matter how great and careful of a driver you are, no one is immune from making mistakes. Should you physically harm someone else during the course of business, your primary liability coverage is intended to take care of the resulting medical bills.
  • Motor Truck Cargo Coverage – With this, you’ll be covered in the event you have a refrigeration mishap, have your cargo stolen or experience a wet load. Here, you want to make sure your insurance agent provides you with a broad form policy rather than a specified peril policy.

What You Can Expect to Pay

Rather than focusing on the overall price of insuring your truck, you should instead pay close attention to what’s included in the quote and the policy. You don’t want to save money upfront only to have to spend much more later on out of pocket because of gaps in your coverage. Because deductibles are often a major part of getting the claims process started and saving money on your policy, make sure you know just what kind of deductible your plan has. For instance, will you have three separate deductibles for your cargo, trailer and truck, or just a single deductible cost for all three? While one policy might be more expensive, you could end up shelling out a lot more for another “less expensive” policy that has three different $1,500 deductibles.

Understand the Conditions of Your Coverage

While you’re checking off each type of basic coverage, dig deeper into what’s included with the coverage provided by each insurer. For instance, going back to the specified and broad form policies described above, if the incident that caused you to file a claim in the first place doesn’t fall within specific conditions listed on your policy, paying for damages will likely be entirely left up to you. Because it’s impossible to know when you’ll need to file a claim and why you’ll need to file a claim, both you and your finances are likely much better off with generous coverage.

Your Agent Should Be Familiar With Your Industry

Just like you want to familiarize yourself with the insurance industry, your agent should know a few things about the trucking industry. This is because your agent will have a better idea of the types of incidents, accidents and worries truckers have, which allows them to offer them better coverage and better service. Taking your insurance needs to an agent who doesn’t know about your industry is like taking your truck to a cardiologist for repairs.

Do your due diligence when it comes to insuring your new owner-operator venture. Your efforts are sure to serve you and your truck well on the road ahead.