Security Tips for Trucking Companies

The trucking industry is a prime target for theft and criminal enterprise. Thieves look for vulnerable trucks where cargo can easily be stolen. Fortunately, drivers can take measures to protect valuable cargo. Low-tech measures, such as king pin locks, glad hand locks or fuel-line shut-offs might slow the bad guys down, but aren’t always enough to protect a truck.

Security Starts With Awareness

Tight security for truckers starts before drivers ever get into the cab. Training employees about security issues can help them be more aware and understand why certain procedures are so important. Here are some tips to help your company implement solutions to cargo theft

  1. Use technology to route shipments. GPS tracking systems can now send a security alarm to the company if a truck goes off its route. Factor in security when routing. Avoid hot spots where cargo theft is higher.
  2. Have drivers maintain regular contact with dispatch.
  3. Keep cargo moving, because it’s more likely that a load will be stolen when it’s unattended. Teams are recommended to help keep cargo on the road and to give drivers another person to lean on when tired or losing focus. If a team isn’t a possibility, drive in tandem with another truck.
  4. Never leave trucks unattended or allow drivers to take a load home. Emphasize that drivers should always stop in well-lit places or a secure yard.
  5. When parking, put trucks tail to tail to prevent rear trailers from being opened with goods on board. Alternatives to parking tail to tail include parking against a building or another object that doesn’t allow the door to be opened.
  6. Offer specialized training against cargo theft. Teach drivers what to look for and how to drive with increased awareness.
  7. Make sure drivers know to be careful about what they say. Don’t talk about the cargo in the truck or give out route information, especially on the CB.
  8. Ensure all drivers follow delivery and pickup protocols. Make sure drivers request ID from personnel who unload trucks. Audit protocols periodically.
  9. Check for dishonest employees. Run background checks on all employees who have access to shipping and routing information. Watch for employees who are loose with standards and don’t allow security breaches to go unnoticed.
  10. Use low-tech measures. Drivers should take the keys with them when the truck is unattended and doors need to be locked. Before walking away from a trailer, check locks. It’s easy to be talking to someone at a rest station and forget.
  11. Be suspicious of people who claim you hit their car. This is a ruse that thieves use to get people to stop.
  12. Work with other trucking companies to get information about potential issues in your community and industry. Alliances can really increase the safety of cargo and drivers because you work together to prevent theft.
  13. Many thefts occur close to pickup points and terminals. Be extra careful after picking up a load. Give drivers time to get away from the pickup point before stopping.

When All Else Fails

Fleet owners should have a plan in case a driver is hijacked. Giving the load over to a thief is generally preferred than getting hurt or worse to protect the freight. Instead of fighting, teach drivers to be a good witness to give law enforcement a better chance at apprehending the criminals.

Observe everything. Don’t just look at what is happening but pay attention to sounds and what is being said. Notice details. Keep a business card with company information and contact phone numbers in your wallet or on your person. Notify the authorities immediately.

Cybersecurity Issues

It doesn’t matter whether your company is small or large, cyber threats are a growing problem in today’s business industry. Hackers aren’t only trying to steal information or data. Some just want to create chaos by disrupting the infrastructure of an important industry. Cyber security for fleets has to be a priority. Here are some tips to help your company create and maintain a plan that prevents security issues:

  • Train employees to generate strong passwords and to recognize phishing emails
  • Have a way to encrypt emails which contain secure information
  • Use best practices for security protocol
  • Use comprehensive antivirus and malware programs
  • Update software and operating systems for security patches
  • Limit password attempts
  • Be proactive in maintaining your website and OS
  • Backup your software
  • Have a disaster recovery plan in place
  • Review your IT department and update as necessary

Audit Your Security Infrastructure

Don’t be afraid to check drivers and other employees to ensure that they are operating securely. You may find gaps in your plan by conducting audits. Talk to others in the trucking industry to find out how their businesses are operating safely. Make safety and security part of your regular risk management plan to prevent theft or hacking.

How Long Can Truckers Drive Before Taking a Break?

Regulations are in place for all commercial truck drivers to ensure they are not being overworked. A tired or worn out trucker is a danger to his or herself and everyone else on the road. The main restrictions on drivers are the hours they can drive and mandatory breaks. These rules are set by the United States Department of Transportation.

Duty Periods

The DOT breaks the time a driver is working into work and duty periods.  A work period is like a work week, whereas a duty period is like a work day. Because drivers do not always work conventional hours, DOT regulations are based on the actual hours worked and not specific hours during the day. So, for example, a work week could start at 5:00 pm on a Tuesday or 3:00 am on a Saturday and can be different for every trucker.

There is a seven-day work period for truck drivers. Drivers can work seven days in a row but must have a break of at least 34 hours in a row before starting a new seven day work period. To understand this better, consider this schedule:

  • Bert ends his seven day work period on Sunday at 6:00 pm. Following the 34 hour rule, his start up time would be 4:00 am on Tuesday.

The work period runs from the start time and date to that date and time the next week. For example:

  • If a driver begins the work period at 6:00 am on Sunday, then it ends at 6:00 am the next Sunday.

To begin a new work period, a trucker must have ten hours off work. The total number of hours that can be worked in a work period is 60.

Each duty period lasts 14 hours, which is known as the 14-hour rule. Drivers can drive for up to 11 hours during the duty period. However, after driving for eight hours, the driver must take a break of at least 30 minutes. Breaks of any kind count against the 14 hours duty period time. Here’s an example of a daily schedule that follows this rule:

  • Bert starts his work day at 6:00 am.
  • Bert takes a 30 minute break after eight hours at 2:00 pm.
  • He then drives from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
  • He takes another break to eat dinner from 4:00 pm until 5:30 pm.
  • Bert only has one more hour that he can drive, so he drives from 5:30 pm until 6:30 pm, at which time he reaches his destination.
  • Bert may then work unloading the truck or doing other non-driving duties until 8:00 pm when his 14 hour period is over.

So, the driver can drive for 11 of the 14 hours and do other things, such as getting fuel, for the other three hours. At the 14 hour limit, though, the driver can no longer drive and must take 10 hours off before starting a new duty period.

Exceptions

As with most things, there are exceptions to the basic rules. If a driver is starting and ending at the same location for a one day assignment, then the driver may work 16 hours. The actually driving time, though, is still limited to 11 hours. If there is a lay-over, then this exception cannot be used. This can only be used once in a period and requires a 34 hour break before it can be used again.

Bad weather can slow a truck down, so this can also cause an exception to be allowed. If road conditions are bad, a driver can take up to two extra driving hours during his or her duty period. The 14-hour duty period limit, though, still stands. This exception can only be taken when the extra driving hours are needed to reach a safe place to stop and get off the road.

Penalties

If a driver does not comply with DOT rules on breaks and work hours, there are penalties that will be assessed. These include:

  • Revocation of driving privileges until a rest break is complete
  • Fines at the state and federal levels
  • Reduction in carrier’s safety rating

A carrier may face even stiffer penalties at the federal level, especially if it is found to have knowingly made drivers break the law.

Possible Changes

It can be tough for drivers to maintain the hour and break requirements, especially when under pressure to get loads to their destinations on time. Many find the 14-hour rule to be especially difficult when break times are included against it.

Because of this, some lawmakers think there is a need for changes in the DOT hours of service. A bill, called the REST Act, is currently being proposed to change the ruling on breaks counting against the 14-hour limit. The act seeks to give drivers up to a three consecutive hour break period that does not count towards their 14 hours. The Act also aims to use this new three hour break to eliminate the 30 minute break requirement.

Regardless of whether changes occur or not, DOT is strict about the hours a trucker can drive. This is to help prevent them from driving when tired or otherwise unable to pay proper attention to the roadway, thus keeping everyone on the road safer.

How Truck Drivers Can Avoid Rush Hour Traffic

Ask any truck driver how they manage to avoid rush hour traffic and you’ll likely get a sarcastic answer or a chuckle in response.  This may be due to the fact that rush hour, in some locations, never really ends. Instead, the heavy flow of traffic continues night and day without really ever ceasing.  A few examples of cities like this include Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Dallas.

Meet the 14-Hour Clock

While some truckers respond to the humor that there is never an end to rush hour, others may react with a surprising level of frustration. Instead of talking about frustrating traffic, you may find yourself in a bizarre conversation about a 14-hour clock and forced bedtimes. Those not familiar with the ever-tightening driving laws in the trucking industry need only ask a driver to understand the startling level of frustration many professional drivers are experiencing.

Basically, the 14-hour “On Duty Shift” law was put into effect in July of 2013. Groups lobbying for safer highways and roadways frequently come up with ideas to help ensure drivers get enough sleep and are not a danger to other motorists because they are driving drowsy. This law states that a driver cannot legally work more than 14 hours out of 24 and no more than 11 of those hours can be spent driving.

Unfortunately, work, in this law, is defined as being on duty. And for a trucker, being on duty can mean being stopped in a traffic jam, waiting to have your trailer loaded, completing a pre-trip inspection, even taking time off to use the restroom. This ungainly law creates some truly bizarre timeframes as drivers are completely controlled by a button that starts the clock and a different button that says when their day must be complete.

The 14-Hour Clock and Rush Hour

Before drivers were forced to comply with a clock that was seemingly counting down the minutes before they must stop for the day, many drivers chose to avoid rush hour like the plague. Today, drivers with only a certain amount of time remaining on that clock no longer have the option of pulling into a rest area and sleeping or resting for a few hours while they wait for traffic to lighten. Instead, they must contribute to the traffic problem hoping that commuters in a hurry will leave enough room in front of them and behind them that they will not be involved in an accident.

Methods for Coping with Rush Hour

There are a few tips for professional drivers who simply cannot avoid driving in rush hour. They certainly do not take the stress out of the drive but may help to lighten the load just a little.  A few of these tips include:

  • Know when rush hour hits – Each major city seems to have a life ad traffic pattern of its own. Keep a record of what the typical times of day rush hour occurs and do your best to avoid them.
  • Take a break beforehand – In cases where rush hour cannot be avoided, try to take a quick break beforehand. Even a 10-minute stop to walk around and eat a high-protein snack may help a driver to be at his or her best.
  • Complete focus on the road – Make sure your truck is well organized and things are put away correctly. This way you can make sure nothing starts rolling around in the cab of your truck and your entire focus can be on the road. Also, avoid snacking, changing the radio stations or using the CB radio in rush hour traffic as any distraction can lead to an unfortunate accident.
  • Check Google Maps – Before entering a city where there is sure to be rush hour traffic, take a break and check Google Maps. Quite frequently it will show where the worst traffic spots are and even show different routes that may save time and frustration.
  • Maintain recommended spacing – Maintaining the correct spacing between your rig and the cars around you is easier said than done, especially as some drivers see a truck as the perfect opportunity for a lane change. Be ready for automobiles to pull in front of you, or to pull to close to the back of your trailer and respond appropriately.
  • Pay attention to blind spots – It can be difficult to pay attention to where each car is in relation to your semi, especially in rush hour traffic, but practice can make perfect. Some drivers talk to themselves about which cars are where. This helps them notice when one vehicle disappears into one of their many blind spots.

A New House Bill

A new bill has been proposed in the House of Representatives that many drivers are rooting for. This bill would let truck drivers take a break of up to 3 hours that would not count as part of their 14-hour limit. Should this new bill pass, drivers would once again be able to stop and rest before hitting (and contributing to) rush hour traffic.

What to Discuss During a Trucking Safety Meeting

Letting your drivers know that safety is key to success is imperative when running a large or small fleet. One of the most common ways to do this is to hold regular safety meetings where instruction, safety talks, innovative ideas, discussion and policies may all be reviewed

Professional drivers are, in actuality, some of the safest on the roads when compared mile for mile to drivers of automobiles. Not only do they know how to evaluate traffic, control their speed and yield repeatedly, they know that their safety, and that of other drivers on the road may depend on how well they can do their job. Introducing safety videos and holding regular driver safety meetings can reinforce policy, provide new and innovative ideas and remind drivers of required industry standards.

Fleet Policy

Without a stated fleet policy, it is impossible to have a continued company commitment to that policy. A fleet policy should be more than just a set of rules. Instead, it should be written to encourage drivers to engage in a safer driving culture.  Some items in many fleet policies include:

  • Company commitment to safe driver training
  • Driver seat belt policy
  • Definition of driver personal use allowance
  • Expectations for MVR reviews
  • Committee set up to review accidents

Having such safety policies such as these in place is only a small part of making it part of your fleet culture. To do this, management must communicate frequently and positively about each facet of the policy being sure to follow the policy when drivers face both negative and positive consequences.

Ongoing Communication

Driving a semi can be a long and lonely job. Communicating with your drivers can help them feel as if they are truly part of your team. These communications can include tips on getting enough sleep or drinking enough water, a truck related joke of the day, a shout-out to drivers who have exceeded expectations and reminders about safety.  Attaching a safety-related email signature can also ensure that the drivers get the safety message without feeling overwhelmed by it.

Conference calls are another way to communicate with over the road drivers about safety items. Though drivers are not legally allowed to manipulate a cell phone while operating a vehicle, a good Bluetooth headset can make such conference calls easy to attend while on the road.

Many drivers thrive on competition, so company-wide contests that recognize a driver’s commitment to safety are a great idea. The fact that they might increase a driver’s awareness of safety is even better.

Safe Trucks

Let your truck drivers know that the vehicles they are driving are safe. For instance, letting each driver in the fleet know about the tire review and replacement policy may help to put their minds at ease. Nothing is worse for a professional driver as having to wonder when a tire will blow on the freeway, and how far the pieces will fly. By letting your drivers know that you understand their safety concerns about tire wear and tear, you will help your drivers feel safer.

Along with tires, each vehicle in the fleet should undergo routine maintenance, and each driver should be familiar with the schedule. By updating your drivers on this type of maintenance, they will know that they need not worry about the next safety inspection or oil change because you have their vehicle covered.

Insistence on Safe Habits

A fleet policy should always include a discussion about the importance of safe trucking habits. Not only do these fleet safety talks show that managers value the truck and the load, but also the safety of each and every driver. One habit that many drivers forgo is wearing a seatbelt. Managers can use many different reminders, safe driving videos, incentives and tabulations to help drivers remember the real importance of seatbelts in a truck and in a personal vehicle. Managers may also want to remind drivers that seatbelts help everyone on the road, not just the truck driver.

Recognize Safety

Making sure to recognize safe drivers and reward their efforts publicly can help to increase the overall safety of the fleet. Such rewards might include having no traffic violations, no accidents or now insurance claims. Ongoing records of safety such as many years with no accidents or violations should be recognized and rewarded with larger rewards such as paid time off or short paid vacations.

Having a stated safety policy is the most important item on the list for encouraging safety. Making time for regular truck safety meetings runs a close second. Let your drivers know that it is worth the time to learn about how all can be safer as they cross the byways and highways of the United States.

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.