Recognizing and Preventing Depression in Truck Drivers

All too often, the reality of life on the open road does not measure up to a driver’s expectations. Many new drivers are lured into the field with promises of big money, time at home, paid time off and on-the-job training. Once the newness of the job has worn off, however, reality begins to take a toll on a driver’s mental health.

Hardships of Over The Road Driving

In truth, driving a semi truck full time is an incredibly difficult job. The term “road warriors” is very fitting once the hardships are factored in. Depression in truck drivers can be the end result for many who are unprepared for the realities of life in an 18-wheeler. Some of these hardships include:

  1. Loneliness – The life of a trucker is lonely and solitary as drivers spend hundreds of thousands of miles each year behind the wheel. Yes, Bluetooth headsets enable drivers to reach out to family and friends and chat as they make their way across the state or country, but when each phone call is over, the driver may still feel isolated.
  2. Lower than expected pay – Many drivers have taken on this type of job in an effort to help with bills at home. When they find out that their pay is not as much as they were promised, many drivers feel trapped in a career choice that they do not know how to get out of.
  3. Poor nutrition – Studies about the link between nutrition and mental health have been performed for years and findings usually state that eating less nutritious foods leads to declining mental health of truck drivers and feelings of overall happiness. Drivers who spend much of their time on the road have a difficult time eating healthy foods, and may have more depression because of it.
  4. Feeling of powerlessness – Though many drivers are in the job to help out with expenses at home, they often feel as if they cannot do enough from the driver’s seat to actually help with things that are going on at home. When they find that loved ones are ill, that cars have broken down or that there is a home repair waiting to be done, these feelings of powerlessness can build to an uncomfortable level.
  5. Ongoing stress – There are many stressors that come along with a trucking job. From government regulations, schedule changes and logbook rules to other drivers on the road who are not paying attention or seem to hate all semis. Finding ways to manage these stress levels in the cab of a truck can be difficult if not impossible.
  6. Irregular sleep schedule – New logbook regulations create an irregular schedule for most drivers on the road today. Instead of being able to stop and sleep when they feel drowsy, many are required to keep on driving in order to get the maximum number of driving hours allowed by law. Day and night are no longer taken into consideration, only the computer in the truck that tells a driver when they may and may not be driving. Unfortunately, this disruption of circadian rhythms has also been linked to depression.

Ways to Prevent Depression

Truck drivers and employers who understand and are willing to address the possibility of depression for over the road drivers can often make changes that help to prevent the dark cloud from settling in the cab of the truck in the first place.

One thing that can help drivers is a sense of community within the trucking industry, and with the benefit of the internet, finding a community can be as easy as the click of a mouse. Some companies work to keep drivers talking and connecting based on age group, experience or route similarities. Other companies have found that pairing an older driver with a younger driver, even if they drive different vehicles, can form a mutually beneficial teacher–student relationship. There are many driver forums available on the internet where drivers, in their downtime, can ask questions, tell about the hardest part of their day or just chat with someone who understands.

Having healthier eating habits can help drivers fight depression as well. Employers can help in this effort by making sure each semi has a working refrigerator and microwave, so drivers will not feel fatty truck stop food is their only option. Some employers even host incentive programs based on healthy eating options or weight loss among a group of drivers.

Exercise might be the very last thing on a driver’s mind, but getting regular exercise has been proven to be effective in fighting depression. Trucking companies should have exercise facilities available at the hub offices and should take time to train drivers on how to get exercise when they are not at the hub. Some drivers carry a bike so they can take a short ride when time allows while others keep a set of exercise bands in the truck so they can stretch and get some exercise before they go to sleep.

Realizing that depression among truckers is a very common problem is the first step in helping to find a cure. Employers and drivers who work together are sure to find a solution that benefits everyone involved.

Do You Carry the Right Tools for Getting Your Semi Unstuck?

If your loads are always delivered to well-paved parking lots, chances are good that you never need to worry about getting your semi unstuck. Sadly, any trucker who’s been in the industry for more than a few weeks knows that smooth, well-paved lots and yards are not always the norm. Instead, drivers of 18 wheelers encounter many unexpected driving surfaces from soft mud and gravel to snow and ice.

Be Able to Identify a Potential Hazard Spot

Any driver who has managed to get their rig stuck would be the first to tell others to avoid this at all costs. A semi truck stuck in mud can cost the driver hours of stress and unpaid labor and may still result in the need for an expensive service-truck callout. Being able to identify and avoid places where a semi might get stuck is the first and most important step in avoiding them. Some places truck drivers should avoid, if possible, include:

  • Muddy lots
  • Any driving surface with soft sand
  • A yard with ice or snow
  • Loose gravel

Anytime drivers question the firmness of a parking lot or delivery site they should park the truck and take a stroll in order to test the safety of the driving area. Sadly, being able to identify possible hazards does not always mean that a trucker can completely avoid them. Many drivers in colder climates know that the chances of finding a well-plowed place to park and sleep at night are slim to none. At other times, drivers may pull up to a delivery address to find that the entire lot is under construction and is covered in mud, sand or loose gravel. Skipping out on the delivery to avoid getting stuck is just not an option.

Carrying the Right Tools

There is a certain peace of mind that comes with being prepared for any occasion. This is especially true if you know, as most truckers do, that money is made when the wheels are turning. On rare occasions where a parking lot or job site is not ideal, knowing how to get an 18-wheeler unstuck and having the right tools can save both time and money. Following is a list of tools that can be carried easily in any 18-wheeler.

  1. Heavy-duty chain – Truckers know that calling a tow truck or service truck is expensive and time consuming. Those who carry a heavy-duty chain with them may be able to ask a fellow truck driver for a quick pull in order to get unstuck.
  2. Shovel – Though the thought of digging a semi truck out with a shovel might be overwhelming, there are certainly times when a shovel can help free a tractor trailer stuck in mud. A shovel can assist in moving ice or loose sand, or can be just the right tool for a driver who needs to add a dry material such as dirt or ashes to the area just under the wheels for additional traction.
  3. Tire chains – Though chains are not always required, especially in warm-weather areas, it is always a good idea to keep a set stored in the truck. Not only do they come in handy when driving on snow or ice, they can give much-needed traction in mud or sand.
  4. Traction aids – There are many traction aids available that can be easily carried in the cargo compartment of a semi. Tire claws and traction jack boards are only a few. While it may cost a little bit to outfit your rig with these items, they can save a lot more money down the road when you don’t have to call for a tow truck.
  5. Rock Salt – Having a 5-10 lb. bag of rock salt in the semi can also help in case a trucker is stuck on ice an unable to free the rig.

By having these items easily available, truck drivers are able to get on the road more quickly and get back to earning.

Know Your Rig

Knowing and understanding the vehicle you drive is a must for all drivers, but those who drive 18-wheelers can really benefit from a little additional knowledge.  For instance, drivers who understand that tires heat up as they are rolling down the road may also understand the importance of letting the tires cool down, then rocking their entire tractor trailer forward and back a few times so that the snow or ice which has melted around the warm tire will not freeze the vehicle into that spot come morning.

The more steps a truck driver can take to be prepared before getting into a sticky situation, the better. A few tools carried in the cargo box can make all the difference.

Defensive Truck Driving Fundamentals | Trucking Safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control, motor vehicle accidents consistently rank in the top three causes of death each year for every age group. Many people are scared of flying, but the real danger in today’s world is actually driving or riding in a car. Defensive driving isn’t just a class that people take after they get a ticket. Defensive driving tactics are ways to prevent accidents from occurring. When you consider that 1 in 4 fatal work injuries involves a vehicle accident, you can see why commercial vehicle defense driving is so important to your business.

One key element in defensive truck driving is to be aware. Distracted driving is one of the biggest reasons people get into accidents. Commercial vehicles are often much heavier and larger than standard vehicles. It takes more control and more time to handle your vehicle. You cannot control what any other driver does. But you can be defensive in your own driving.

Be Prepared

Before you ever get into your vehicle, you should make certain that it is in safe driving condition. Keep an emergency kit with you, medical supplies, water, a blanket and other items that are important to your survival if you are in an accident. Know the conditions of the places where you’ll be driving. It’s much different driving through a sand storm in Arizona than in the mountains in Kentucky. But don’t stop there.

On the road, stay alert:

  • Make note of safe areas where you escape potential accidents
  • When you spot dangerous behaviors of another driver, remove yourself from their vicinity. Change lanes, slow down, speed up and move around them if it’s safe.
  • Use a technique known as “high eyes driving.” Don’t fixate on the car in front of you. Look at the road horizon to know what’s up ahead. This will give you ample time to react if there is an emergency ahead of you.
  • Minimize lane changes. A driver who stays in his or her own lane at a steady speed will rarely experience a rear end accident. The most common accidents occur when vehicles change lanes.

Avoid Road Rage

Even calm and reasonable people can get frustrated on the road. If you’re worried about meeting deadlines or are subjected to another driver’s bad driving, it can make you uneasy. Don’t give in to temptation and try to teach the other driver a lesson when you see someone behaving dangerously on the road. When you get stressed, put in music to help you relax. Contact your dispatcher to explain the situation. Remember your limitations. It’s better to be a little late than to get in an accident or even get a traffic ticket. Stay calm and don’t give in to your emotions when you’re on the road.

Create Space Around You

When driving at high speeds, you need to give other drivers plenty of space. Don’t tailgate other drivers. In bad weather, make sure to give extra room between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Slow down when a driver cuts in front of you. It might be frustrating, but it’s better than rear-ending another car.

Keep Other Vehicles in Your Sight

As a commercial vehicle, you are probably very visible to other drivers. However, the same cannot be said of them. Install mirrors on your vehicle to avoid blind spots. Not every driver on the road realizes that you may not be able to see them. Don’t make sudden lane changes or exit without signaling. You have to drive defensively to avoid accidents.

Know When and How to Swerve

Sometimes, you have to make quick judgements to avoid a deer in the road or run into another car. Understand that you may have to kill an animal to prevent humans from being injured. Know how to handle the vehicle if you do have to swerve to avoid an accident. When you swerve, you need to correct your vehicle to avoid ending up on the side of the road. Take a defensive driving class that lets you practice handling your vehicle under hazardous conditions.

Avoid Driving Impairments

As a commercial driver, you are aware that drinking or using illicit drugs will get your licensed revoked. However, there are other impairments you may not think about. Some over-the-counter medicines can cause drowsiness, such as antihistamines, cold and flu medications and even antidiarrheals. Combining some medications can also cause your driving to be impaired. Don’t do any activity that takes your eyes and ears away from the road. Eating, drinking, talking on the phone and changing the radio station are considered distractions. And focus on the road when you see an accident. Turning your head away to glance at the damage can leave you vulnerable to another accident.

Defensive driving is really about focusing on the road and other drivers while you’re in the vehicle. Something all drivers should be doing anyway. Unfortunately, you can’t rely on them. You can only control your own vehicle.

How to Lower Blood Pressure for DOT Physical

High blood pressure is a common condition that many Americans deal with. Blood pressure is the measure of the amount of blood pumped by your heart and the amount of resistance in your arteries. As you pump more blood through narrower arteries, blood pressure increases.

Considered a silent disease, as there may be no symptoms of the condition, uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems such as heart attack and stroke. Your arteries become weakened due to the constant pressure of blood flowing through them, leading to kidney failure, damage to the blood vessels in the eyes and fluid backup in the lungs.

Blood Pressure and Your DOT Physical

Truck drivers are required to have blood pressure under 140/90. The medical examiner electronically transmits the result of your physical to the DOT. Instead of stressing over your blood pressure before a physical, it’s best to address and find ways to keep it lower, not only for your livelihood but for your overall health.

Drivers with blood pressure over 140/90 can still get certified to drive, but the certification will only be for 1 year or less depending on the level of hypertension. To keep your certification, your blood pressure will have to be below 140/90 or you will be disqualified to drive. You can lower your blood pressure with medication, through lifestyle changes or both.

Here are some short-term ways to reduce your blood pressure:

  • Drink water instead of soda, coffee and juice. Water lowers your sodium levels, which contribute to high blood pressure. Coffee is known to increase blood pressure.
  • Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • Increase your intake of potassium. Bananas, oranges, carrots and leafy greens are packed with potassium.
  • Reduce your stress. Meditate. Take deep breaths.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – or DASH diet can give you some good guidelines. Reduce the amount of salt you eat. Beet juice has been shown to measurably reduce blood pressure.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation increases your risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.

While these steps may lower your blood pressure for DOT physical, you still have to address the long-term effects of your career. Sitting in one place for long periods of time can negatively affect your health, not only increasing your risk of high blood pressure but also diabetes and cancer. Whether or you not you are diagnosed with hypertension at your DOT physical, you have to take steps to take care of your health. You’ll be more alert, faster and more efficient.

Exercise and lose weight

Cardiovascular exercise strengthens your heart. This lowers your blood pressure because it takes less effort to pump blood when your heart is stronger. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise and 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or a combination each week. That’s 30 minutes each day, give or take a couple.

Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, your heart works harder to pump blood through the arteries. Even a modest loss of 5 to 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure.

Eat healthier

It’s not easy to eat healthy on the road unless you plan ahead. Pack your cooler with fresh meals made with lean cuts of meat and lots of vegetables. Keep fruit and fresh veggies on hand for snacking.

When you do eat fast-food or at a diner, choose grilled or baked fish and chicken over fried. Go for the salad bar and load up on spinach, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers. Opt for a low-cal salad dressing. Skip the French fries and get broccoli or roasted potatoes.

Drink water. Making sure you are hydrated keeps your hypertension under control. It also benefits every system in your body. Watch your caffeine intake. Limit sugary drinks for your heart’s sake.

Don’t smoke

When you smoke, it temporarily raises your blood pressure putting stress on your cardiovascular system. Premature deaths caused by smoking are the most preventable death in the United States. It only takes seven days for nicotine to leave your system when you stop smoking. You can deal with the physical aspect of quitting. To deal with the psychological triggers, such as boredom or smoking after dinner, you will need to make a plan to replace smoking with something else. You can do it.

Get enough sleep

Regular, deep sleep plays a part in lowering your blood pressure. Eating healthier and exercise are conducive to sleep, but if you’re struggling with sleep, try blocking out light and sound or investing in a better mattress. Use your downtime to take care of yourself. You deserve it.

Limit your alcohol intake

Even though you may not have many opportunities to drink because of your job, when you’re off-the-clock, you shouldn’t binge on alcohol. One drinking session can increase your blood pressure temporarily, putting unnecessary stress on your heart. Repeated binge drinking is a precursor to hypertension.

Winter Preparedness Checklist

During cold conditions, your business’s equipment is stressed. It’s not just your heating system, but the electrical, the windows and plumbing can all be affected by the cold. Use this checklist to prepare your business for brutal winter conditions.

Trucking companies need to be especially cautious and ready when the winter weather hits. There are simple steps you can take to prepare your fleet for winter driving and help avoid issues like frozen truck brakes.

Protect Your Business During a Cold Snap

When your business faces extreme temperatures, winter weather preparedness is very important. Preparing for winter season includes taking care of your building and your employees:

  • Have a chain of accountability within your organization. Ensure maintenance, building owners and business owners are working efficiently to get the building ready. You don’t want to duplicate efforts, but you need to make sure everything is getting done.
  • Inspect the building, making sure windows, doors and dampers are closed. Caulk all openings where cold air can enter the building. Have snow and ice removal arranged before you need it. Schedule a maintenance check during a storm or cold weather to keep everything running or at the least, to know when you’ll need to call in repairs.
  • Inspect the roof for leaks and debris. Make repairs when necessary.
  • Give your employees emergency contact information for snow removal, heating repair, utilities and road conditions. Have a plan for employees who cannot get out in bad weather conditions to keep everyone safe. Get your employees to sign up for weather alerts, either by text or through another app.
  • Expect flooding. Keep vulnerable equipment and stock out of harm’s way. Either move it to a location where water can’t reach it, or move it up on raisers.
  • Keep cold-weather gear on hand for employees, such as flashlights, blankets, gloves, hats, snow shovels and ice-melt chemicals. Make sure everyone knows where it’s stored and that it’s there for their use.
  • Make sure you have a list of client and employee contact information somewhere other than your computer, phone or electronic device. If the power goes down, you may not have access to that information.
  • Consider leaving a trickle of water running to keep constant movement in the pipes to prevent freezing. Know where the water shutoff to the building is. Turn off the water if the pipes do freeze, to prevent a leak when the water comes back on.
  • If the building does remain empty for a long period of time, have someone assigned who can check indoor temperatures and other issues.

Keeping Your Heating System Operating Efficiently

The heating system not only keeps your employees comfortable during the cold, but it also protects your inventory, equipment and plumbing from freezing. While some of these ideas need to be in place before a cold snap, preparing for winter season will keep your building from being affected in the cold:

  • Insulate all pipes. Inspect the sprinkler system and plumbing annually. Replace damaged insulation when necessary.
  • Inspect outside dampers. Clear all vents from snow and ice accumulation quickly.
  • Your heating unit requires power to operate. Have generators on standby to keep equipment operating through any conditions. At the very least, have non-electrical portable heaters for outages.
  • Be prepared to supply back-up power to heat tracing systems, if you have it.

An ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure, in this case. Protecting your pipes before extreme cold temperatures will prevent many problems, saving you the cost of repairs and downtime.

Protect Electrical Equipment

Cold, freezing conditions can cause power outages and downed wires. When electricity is restored, the sudden surge of power can destroy modern technology that is sensitive to power surges.  When cold weather is coming in:

  • Unplug equipment, isolating it from the source of power, protecting it from power surges. If the equipment must stay running, have a backup plan. Install surge protectors, batteries or another power source.
  • If you plan on relying on generators during a power outage, test them before you need them. Have a plan to refuel generators if the outage is extended.
  • When power is restored, plug in devices and turn them on one at a time.

Reminders for Good Measure

  • Check your business insurance policies to know what is covered and what isn’t. Know your biggest risks and find ways to minimize loss instead of relying on insurance. Keep the policy number and claim information handy, to know who to call when damage occurs.
  • Take pictures of the building before the storm. This will help you identify damage that occurs during a storm.
  • Have a procedure for handling damaged equipment and inventory.
  • Take pictures of damage. Call the insurance adjuster ASAP.

Have a contingency plan in place if the worse happens. Know who to call for restoration. Have a place to set up temporary shop if a disaster strikes your building. Although you may be limited if your business is a restaurant or retail shop, you should at least stay in touch with customers and clients to limit the impact.

Keep Truck Brakes Working in the Winter | Trucking Safety

The winter temperatures and elements are hard on any vehicle. The extra moisture in the air and on the roads wreaks havoc on every system in your rig. When water gets into the air brake system, it can cause corrosion and freezing, taking your rig out of commission for hours, maybe even days. The salt and chemicals used to keep roads free of ice and snow can get into the air brakes and cause corrosion and damage.

Frozen truck brakes and winter damage are preventable, though. How can you keep air brakes working in winter? You’ll need to take steps to winterize your rig and watch for damage. Preventative maintenance is key.

A Clean Air Supply

Whether you have foundation drum or air disc brakes, you should drain the air tanks of moisture and contaminants. When the air temperature shifts 30 degrees Fahrenheit or more, moisture can accumulate. If you experience this shift in a 24-hour period, you should check the air system after driving for another week.

Winterizing Drum Brake Components

Check the chamber housings for damage and corrosion. Corrosion attracts corrosive materials, leading to failure of the housing. Check that the chamber’s dust plug is correctly installed. Lubrication is an enemy of corrosion. All components in the drum brake need to be properly lubricated, the automatic slack adjusters, clevis pin connection points, cam tubes, shafts and bushings.

Any worn rubber seals can cause air to escape and moisture to invade the system. Get your rig checked before you drive in the colder months. Remember that it gets much colder in the mountains as early as September and can stay colder until May or even June, depending on the elevation. Always consider your route and the conditions under which you be driving.

Air Disc Brakes Winterization

Visually inspect the ADBs. Look for cuts and tears in the boots. A small tear allows moisture and contaminants to enter the caliper, causing it to corrode. Replace if necessary. Make sure the pads move freely in the carrier. If not, you’ll need to remove them, clean the carrier surface with a wire brush and then replace the pads. Check the thickness of the pads and rotors. Minimum rotor thickness is 37mm; friction thickness is 2mm or greater.

Replace Cartridges

If you drive in harsh or cold climates, replace the air dryer cartridge before the season. This prevents moisture from getting into the system and causing frozen truck brakes. Make sure to replace it with the right cartridge. An oil-coalescing cartridge needs to be replaced with a similar product to maintain the quality of the air.

Examine the air dryer’s purge valve. Look for signs of corrosion or an accumulation of grit. Clean it or replace it if necessary. This simple maintenance item can prevent malfunction during the harsher winter weather and save you time and headaches down the road.

What About Using Alcohol?

A traditional solution to treating frozen brakes is to add alcohol. Most experts agree that while this may solve your immediate problem, it will lead to long-term issues. It can damage the seals. Some air brake systems have an alcohol evaporator, which does keep air lines and reservoirs free of ice. However, you should only use approved products in this component. Check with your mechanic before trying to unfreeze air brakes using an alcohol product. It will be frustrating to be stuck, but if your vehicle is down for maintenance later, you haven’t saved that much time.

Driving Tips for Winter Safety

If you’re driving with air brakes in the winter, you have to keep the system dry and the pressure up. Make sure to allow even more stopping distance on wet and slippery roads than you would on dry roads. If your system doesn’t have antilock brakes, pump lightly on the brakes to maintain steering control.

Always check your truck before heading out on the road. Make sure the minimum operating pressure is no less than 100 psi for a truck with an air-brake system. It should not take longer than 2 minutes for air pressure to rise from 85 psi to 100 psi.

If you’re inexperienced in driving under winter conditions, check with your company to see if they have some training or another driver who can work with you to let you gain confidence in handling the rig in snow, ice, sleet and/extreme cold. It’s important to know how to handle mountains, country roads and city byways under wet and cold conditions. While it can be humbling to ask for help, if it saves your life, your truck and the lives of others on the road, that should be your concern.

Check all the components of the air brake system regularly throughout the winter to ensure proper performance. Poor maintenance can result in senseless deaths and injuries. It’s important to stay on top of brake maintenance all year long, but even more important in winter months. Take good care of your truck, and it will take care of you.

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 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.

Prepare Your Fleet for Winter Driving

Though each season of the year will task a fleet in different ways, winter is the one that sends owners scurrying to make sure each truck is ready to ride out the storms. Even semi’s that spend the majority of their miles in warmer states can be unpleasantly surprised by weather that is not common. For instance, in Atlanta, Georgia, a January storm in 2014 turned roads into sheets of ice, causing thousands of people to be stranded at work, on the roads and even at school.

Prepare for the Unexpected

The rule of thumb, when you are responsible for the safety of your drivers, the delivery of goods and the overall expenses of the fleet is to prepare for the unexpected. This means getting those vehicles ready for the winter truck driving before they are caught in the cold. Failing to do so means leaving your entire fleet vulnerable during the most damaging weather season. Taking time to make sure each vehicle in the fleet is winterized can make all the difference to your drivers, customers and especially to your bottom line.

Fleet Winterizing Checklist

Keeping a winterizing checklist on hand is a great way to make sure you do not miss any steps when making sure your vehicles are prepared for whatever winter might bring. Here are 7 checklist Items that should be performed on every fleet vehicle.

  1. Winter fuel – Diesel fuel and cold are typically not mentioned in the same sentence without some frustration. This is because diesel fuel is known to gel in very cold weather due to the hydrocarbon, Paraffin, found in the fuel. Educating drivers about the need to use a winter-blend fuel and having them add anti-gel additives when they are fueling can go a long way to ensuring the semi truck winter start, even in the cold winter weather.
  2. Battery testing–Because batteries drain more quickly in cold weather, each vehicle in the fleet should be tested to make sure the battery is strong. This should not be a one-time test, but should be done periodically throughout the winter to ensure that the battery is still able to maintain its charge level. Any battery that is more than 3 years old should be tested more frequently or replaced.
  3. Don’t forget the coolant – A truck’s cooling system is not just for the summer months. This system, containing coolant, controls the boiling and freezing points as well as offering some protection from corrosion. Checking the inhibitor levels and coolant concentration is a must before cold weather sets in. Older style coolants were known to drop in level pretty quickly, but there are newer coolants available today that can stay in the truck’s system for up to 600,000 miles.
  4. Check the engine heater – Weather the vehicles in your fleet use external, internal or coolant engine heaters, they should be checked as part of a winterization routine as well. This type of heater makes starting a diesel engine in the winter much easier, as they preheat either the coolant or the engine block. Easier starting saves wear on the engine, lowers emissions, and can even increase fuel economy, not to mention the fact that some also provide heat to your driver more quickly.
  5. What about the trailer – Drivers know that winter is as hard on the trailer as it is on the tractor. One frequent trailer problem is frozen brakes that simply refuse to release. Making sure to properly lubricate moving parts during the winter is one of the ways to make sure those brakes work properly when needed. Another way is to make sure all of the air is released from the brakes before stopping for an extended period of time.
  6. Check the electrical system for corrosion – Both tractors and trailers have a 7-terminal receptacle for the electrical trailer cable plug. These are standard throughout North America. This plug is critical as it controls all the lights, signals and antilock devices on the trailer. As such, keeping them clean is always important. It may take a bit more time and effort in the winter, as many chemicals such as magnesium chloride and salt are coming off the road. Prolonged exposure to such chemicals can corrode the contacts and cause the loss of lights, ABS equipment and power. Even more unsettling is the fact that any moisture that makes it into a plug or socket can slowly make its way into the wiring system causing expensive problems later on.
  7. Protect your drivers – Every fleet owner knows that trucks only make money when paired with good drivers. Making sure your valuable drivers have all the equipment they need for winter trucking safety. Such items include emergency flares, a tool kit, bottled water and non-perishable emergency food, waterproof gloves and a working cell phone.

Taking time to properly inspect and prepare each vehicle in your fleet can help to ensure that the wheels keep turning, no matter what mother nature surprises you with.

Commercial Trucking Tips: Avoiding Common Parking Lot Accidents

When you drive trucks for a living, you are constantly aware of the ways that other drivers on the road contribute to possible hazards that you will have to cope with. It’s just part of the territory, and developing a good sense of the pitfalls that come with the open road is just part of the job. What many truck drivers lose sight of, even the experienced ones, is how common parking lot accidents can be and how much extra time and trouble they can cause. It’s easy to overlook the dangers of parking lots, too, because the speeds are lower and traffic tends to be lighter than it is on the road. That shouldn’t lull you into letting your guard down, though. Instead, follow through with these tips for avoiding common parking lot accidents so that you can make sure your vigilance on the road has total follow-through.

Parking Lot Accidents Are Widespread

The first step toward grappling with the dangers in parking lots is realizing just how common parking lot accidents can be. Recent research has found that two-thirds of all trucking accidents involve a collision with a stationary object in a parking lot. That is an incredible number, and it doesn’t even include the number of accidents that involve slow-moving vehicles, pedestrians, or slips and falls when the driver is loading and unloading. On the one hand, these numbers show just how important it is to maintain vigilance in parking lots. On the other hand, they also speak to what a great job most drivers do with vigilance on the roadways. To get a better idea about how to put a stop to parking lot accidents, it helps to look at common accident types.

Basic Types of Parking Lot Accidents

Once you understand the types of accidents, it becomes easier to understand how a few basic trucking tips can help you prevent them all. That’s because the various types of accidents you might encounter all have a few common root causes that you can address with time and patience. Here are the types of accidents you might encounter in a parking lot:

  • Collisions with stationary or even fixed objects
  • Vehicle collisions
  • Intersection crashes
  • Slipping and falling
  • Liftgate injuries
  • Entry and exit injuries

What’s important to realize is that while there are several kinds of parking lot accidents, they can be easily grouped into those involving the truck and those involving only the driver.

Avoiding Accidents Involving the Vehicle

When you are looking to make sure you are safer on the road, your attention and diligence are the main attributes you need to work on. Avoiding distractions is about more than just making sure you have a clear view, though. It also means making sure you have a clear mind. A large number of parking lot accidents happen because drivers are working on other pieces of their job while driving. Whether it’s calling ahead to provide your next 30-minute delivery notification, prepping paperwork, or attempting to rebalance your priorities as you consider the rest of the day’s deliveries, you need to make sure you are putting it aside until you are actually done driving the truck. Otherwise, you are engaging with distractions instead of focusing on the road.

It is not easy to avoid these distractions, because your schedule is likely to be tight and delivery times stacked on top of one another, but if you have an accident, it will do more than delay your next delivery. It could throw your entire schedule for the day off, and it could also lead to consequences with your employer if the accident is determined to be your fault; OR EVEN WORSE. That’s why it is important to make sure you focus on the drive through the ENTIRE drive, even in parking lots at the end of the trip.

Trucking Tips for Avoiding Injuries Outside the Vehicle

The other major accident type, accidents that involve the driver but not the truck, can be harder to prevent. That’s because sometimes, these accidents are due to mechanical failures or to the state of the facilities you are unloading at. In those cases, it is important to have a combination of diligence to avoid any foreseeable accidents and great insurance coverage for when you can’t possibly foresee the accident.

That means you will need to find a carrier who offers you all the coverage your trucking business needs. The coverage needs to include vehicle collision coverage, but they also need to include:

  • Cargo liability coverage
  • Workers compensation and other employee coverage
  • Vehicle damage coverage

Only by making sure you have complete protection from an insurance provider like Western Truck Insurance Services at  www.TruckInsure.com  can you be sure your business is protected in the case of accidents of any kind, from the loading dock to the open road and back again, and considering all the possible pitfalls in between.