Sleep- Essentials of Health and Wellness for Truck Drivers

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

Why Is Sleep Important?

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

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

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

Sleep Disorders- Do You Have One?

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

Tools for Better Sleep

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

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

The 5 Essentials of Health and Wellness for Truck Drivers

Are you taking time for your health? When working long hours on the road and rushing to that next drop it is easy to let the little things, like healthy eating and exercise, slide. Perhaps this is the reason (or at least a contributing factor) that truckers have an average life expectancy several years shorter than the general population. Healthy habits are possible, even on the road and taking the time for your health will pay off with better productivity, better health, and a longer life expectancy.

What can you do to make positive changes for better health? We’ve got 5 essentials for health and wellness just for truckers. Today, we’ll give you a quick overview of the 5 essentials. In coming weeks, we’ll dive into each one a little deeper, giving you actionable changes you can make. A healthier you awaits!

Health Essentials on the Road

We’re not going to tell you to spend hours at the gym or to stock your fridge with veggies… we know that those regular health tips just don’t cut it when you’re living in a sleeper, crisscrossing the country, and driving all day long. These essentials are designed for truckers… things you can actually do to make positive changes for yourself, even on the road. We’ll introduce them here, but come back… we will be delving into each one in depth in the coming weeks.

  • Sleep… Sleep… Sleep- Fatigue is a big problem for drivers and a major cause of accidents. After being awake for 17 hours you’re twice as likely to have an accident. After 24 hours you’re 7 times more likely. The FMCSA is making efforts to reduce fatigue with their HOS rules, but there are many things you can do on your own as well. Hours on the road certainly impact your ability to sleep, but there are many factors that contribute to fatigue which are under your control. Getting the sleep you need will have positive impacts for your safety on the road and your overall health.
  • Eat Right (Even on the Road)- Fast food can seem like the only option (and let’s face it… some days it is), but you can eat right even on the road. Making little changes to your diet can have a big impact on your health. Learn how much food you need, how to make healthier choices when eating out, and strategies for maximizing your diet. You might drive a truck, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly.
  • Driving Is Not a Form of Exercise- Get up and move. I know this is easier said than done when you spend 10+ hours a day behind the wheel, but daily exercise is important for everyone. Staying active can lower your chance of getting heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes, all big problems for truck drivers. Get up and move. Even a little exercise is better than none.
  • Stop Smoking- Smoking is a notorious bad habit for those in the trucking industry. One study found that 67% of long haul drivers smoked. This can have serious negative health consequences. What can you do? How do you stop smoking while on the road? We’ve got some ideas for you.
  • Foster Healthy Relationships- The road can be lonely. How do you foster relationships with family and friends when you never see them? We often think of our physical needs when we talk about health and wellness, but those emotional and mental needs are important too.

Join us as we explore the 5 Essentials of Health and Wellness for Truck Drivers. You might drive a truck, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy. Commit to a healthier lifestyle today.

Teens and Big Trucks: Should They Be Allowed to Drive?

Should teens be able to drive big trucks? Right now you can’t drive a rental car until 25, but you can start driving 80,000 pound trucks at 21 interstate and intrastate(in most states) at 18. If a new law passes, younger drivers may soon be able to drive heavy trucks across state borders. Proposed regulation wants to change the age limit for interstate trucking to 18, with some provisional conditions. What do you think? Will this new regulation help get more drivers on the road or is the safety risk much too great?

The Risks of Younger Drivers

Younger drivers are notorious for getting into accidents. Drivers aged 16-19 have the highest annual crash rate and that’s just behind the wheel of a car, not a heavy truck. In states where 18 year olds are allowed to drive 80,000 pound trucks, younger drivers are 4-6 times more likely then 21+ drivers to get in an accident. Safety experts worry this plan could lead to disaster on the road.

While younger drivers are more likely to get in an accident, they are already on road and driving big trucks. In most states current regulation only keeps them from crossing borders, not from driving. Proponents of the law argue that the regulation changes make sense. Right now teens can drive hundreds of miles around a state, but can’t drive 10 miles across a border.

The Benefits of Younger Drivers

There is a need for more drivers and allowing younger drivers to drive interstate could lower recruiting costs and increase the number of applicants available. With transportation costs on the rise, some hope that younger drivers could help slow the rising prices in transportation (contract costs increased 3-5% this year). The law would potentially give fresh out high school graduates more job opportunities.

The Proposed Regulation

The proposed regulation would allow the FMCSA to create a 6 year pilot program allowing younger drivers to cross state lines. The regulation would allow states to enter into agreements with each other allowing the younger drivers. States would be free to place limits on these drivers (like limiting types of cargo, limiting routes, creating hours they can drive, etc.).

The regulation has passed the Senate, but still needs approval from the House of Representatives.

What do you think about this proposed regulation? Should we allow more teen drivers on the road?

 

Hours-of-Service and Safety- Are the New Rules Working?

Those HOS (hours-of-service) rules can certainly get in the way, but the good news is, they seem to be working. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report examining the most recent round of HOS changes (implemented in 2013) and the FMCSA responded to the report and agreed to move forward with the changes.

Positive Impact of HOS Changes

The GAO examined data from the first 18 months of the new HOS regulations. Here’s what they found:

  • Reduction in Drivers Working 65+ Weekly Hours– Drivers in the sample were 24-29% less likely to work more than 65 hours per 8 day week. The number of drivers working over 65 hours was 12% before the rule and decreased to 6% afterwards.
  • Fewer Hours Worked Per Week– The GAO found that the drivers in their study worked about 1.1 to 2.5 fewer hours each 8 day week after the new HOS rule was implemented. This ranges from 2-4.8% fewer hours.
  • Fewer Restarts- Drivers in the sample took fewer restarts per 8 day week (approximately 6.1-6.5% fewer).
  • Less Fatigue– Drivers that comply with the HOS requirements should experience a lower peak fatigue level, especially in the earlier days in their work cycle.
  • No Increase in Early Morning Crashes– They also found no increase in crashes during the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. window, a worry that many critics of the regulation originally had.

There was little change in the number of crashes reported (and a possible decrease in the number of fatalities).

Other Ways to Stay Safe on the Road

Hours of Service rules are the law and they may help you to be safer on the road, but they aren’t the only way to increase your safety on the road. Here are a few other simple changes you can make based on recommendations and statistics from the GAO report.

Drive During the Day- The study found that drivers driving a nighttime schedule were on average much more fatigued than drivers working during daylight hours. To reduce fatigue, drive during the day if you can. If you must drive at night, here’s a great presentation from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) about drowsy driving.

Be Aware of Danger Times- The report found that crashes were more likely to occur when the roads were icy rather than dry, foggy rather than clear, and during dawn rather than daylight hours. Although you should be vigilant at all times, difficult road conditions do increase your risk of an accident. Be extra careful if you must drive during these times.

Don’t Speed– The most commonly cited reason for driver-caused crashes in 2012 was speeding. If you’re guilty of driving too fast, slow down.

It looks like the new HOS rules are here to stay. Have you noticed any changes (positive or negative) due to the changes in the HOS rules?

The Latest Stats in Trucking

Have you taken the chance to review the Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics for 2015? This handy guide is released yearly by the FMCSA and gives those working the transportation industry an insightful look into the state of the industry. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to check it out, we’ve pulled out a few of the statistics we found most interesting.

Trucks Carry a Big Majority of Our Nation’s Freight

It’s no secret to those working in the transportation industry, but without trucks, nothing would move. In 2012 trucks carried 70.2% of the total weight of freight moved across the U.S. Air (0.03%) and rail (11.1%) can’t even come close to competing with those numbers.

Large trucks accounted for 9.2% of all the 2,988.3 billion vehicle miles traveled in 2013 for a total of 275 billion miles traveled. There are more than 10.5 million large trucks registered in the U.S. (8,126,007 straight trucks and 2,471,349 tractor-trailers).

Seat Belt Use on the Rise

Seat belt use by large truck drivers is on the increase. In 2012, 74% of flatbed drivers wore seatbelts, but in 2013 that number increased to 82%. These increases are exciting, but we hope to see even higher numbers in the next report. If your truck is rolling, you should be wearing your seat belt. The percentage of drivers involved in fatality crashes without a seatbelt has been dropping considerably, down from 14.9% in 2005 to 9% in 2013.

Roadside Inspections… Everything You Need to Know

Make sure you read the section on inspections. There’s a great map that highlights the number of inspections performed by county (hint… California is a big state for inspections) and valuable information about the most common violations (log violations topped the chart). The information in this section can help you ensure that you’re not making common mistakes so you’re ready for your next inspection.

Fatal Crashes Statistics from 1975 to Now

Although fatal crashes involving large trucks have been on the rise the last couple of years, they are still much lower than they were in the 1970s and even in the 1980s. In 2013 there were 3,541 fatal crashes involving large trucks, fewer than the number of fatal crashes in 1975 with almost double the number of registered trucks. Clearly the changes that have been made from then until now have brought about positive change in trucking safety. What changes can we still make to ensure the roads are a safer place for all of us?

Take some time and orient yourself with this valuable information today.

All of these items, and more, can save you valuable money on your insurance. If you have questions on how you can apply this information to your risk management practices, give us a call and remember… Travel with Care!

CARB Compliance Issues- A Deeper Look at Low Rolling Resistance Tires

If you drive a box type trailer in California (including dry van and refrigerated van trailers) you likely are aware of the low rolling resistance tire regulations that are currently being phased in. What you might not know however is how these tires work and how using them impacts you. Keep reading for all the details, including tips for maximizing your tire investment.

What Are Low Rolling Resistance Tires?

Low rolling resistance (LRR) tires are a special type of tire designed to improve fuel efficiency by reducing the rolling resistance. They are required for certain trailers and tractors as part of California’s Heavy Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Regulation. As tires move on the road, this resistance turns energy exerted by a vehicle into heat, not forward movement, and can result in a great deal of energy waste. For heavy trucks it is estimated that up to 15-30% of fuel consumption is used to overcoming rolling resistance. LRR tires cut down on this resistance saving money in fuel costs and cutting down on greenhouse gasses.

While required for some tractors and trailers in California, LRR tires can be used anywhere in the country to cut down on fuel expenses.

How Much of an Impact Do LRR Tires Make?

LRR tires can make a big impact on your fuel efficiency. Some studies indicate that making the change to LRR tires could save (each year):

  • 500 Gallons in Fuel
  • 08 metric tons of CO2
  • $1,900 in Fuel Costs
  • 3% Reduction in Fuel Costs

LRR tires may wear out more quickly than standard tires. The full impact you’ll experience will vary depending on the type of tire you choose, whether you have single wide or double tires, and even how your tires are inflated. LRR tires may be more expensive (between $0 and $50 per tire), but most estimates suggest that the increase in fuel efficiency will offset the increase in tire price.

Other Methods for Improving Your Fuel Efficiency

Do you want to get the most bang for your fuel investment? LRR tires can cut down on your fuel bill, but there are other steps you can take to maximize your tire investment and to increase your fuel efficiency when using LRR tires. Here are a few tips:

  • Inflate Properly- Making sure your tires are properly inflated can make a big difference in your fuel efficiency. For example if your recommended inflation is 35 psi, but your actual inflation is only 28 psi, your rolling resistance will be increased by 12.5%.
  • Use LRR Tires for All Tires- Although incremental fuel efficiency increases can be obtained by using LRR tires on just the tractor or trailer, you’ll see the best results when you use LRR tires for all tire positions.
  • Choose SmartWay Approved Tires- SmartWay approved tires are verified by the EPA to meet specific fuel efficiency requirements. See a list of approved LRR tires here.

Are you using LRR tires? Have you noticed an impact on your fuel bill?

 

A Safer Tomorrow Starts Today- 3 Changes Every Trucker Should Make

Here at Western Truck Insurance Services, we want you to “Travel with Care”. We all know that transportation is a risky industry (truck drivers are 5x more likely to die in a work related accident than the average worker), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to reduce your risks and increase your safety. Today we’re sharing 3 doable changes you can make for a safer experience on the road.

Buckle Up

More than 1/3 of truck drivers that die in accidents weren’t wearing a seatbelt. The number should be 0. Hooking your seatbelt before you hit the road is an easy change to make if you aren’t doing it already (and 1 in 6 truckers aren’t). Accidents are a leading cause of death for truck drivers; 2012 saw 700 fatalities of large truck drivers and their passengers and another 26,000 injuries.

Re-commit today to better seatbelt practices. It could save you your life.

Stop Smoking

Truck drivers are much more likely to smoke than the general population. More than half of truck drivers (51%) currently smoke, compared with the U.S. average of 19%. We understand the urge to smoke on a long haul, but that doesn’t make the practice any less risky. Luckily, it is never too late to quit smoking. Quitting at any age has benefits and the sooner you quit, the sooner you can start to heal. Diabetics may notice an immediate improvement in blood sugar control and your risk of heart attack drops steeply after just one year.

Quitting isn’t going to be easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. Call 1-800-Quit-Now for phone help (a great option wherever your next load takes you) or visit SmokeFree.gov for resources (including a free chat with a live help information specialist).

Put Down Those Cellphones

Did you know that commercial drivers that text are 23 times more likely to experience a safety incident (like an accident, near accident, or inadvertent lane change) than those that don’t? Not 2 times, not 3 times, but 23 times. Isn’t that reason enough to put down that phone?

Texting is illegal for all commercial drivers. What exactly is texting? The rules might be stricter than you think. You are prohibited from manually entering text or reading text while driving. This includes sending a text, reading an email, IM’ing, visiting a web page, dialing a phone number (pressing more than a single button to initiate a call), etc. The penalties are hefty (up to $2,750 or driver disqualification for multiple offenses, not to mention the impact on your SMS score), but pale in comparison to the risk of accident or death. Put down those phones and drive safely.

Make the commitment today to make a few safety changes for a safer tomorrow. Trucking might be a dangerous industry, but there are things you can do to make it safer.

Do You Have an Accident Prevention Plan?

If you don’t have an Accident Prevention Plan, each day on the road is just an accident waiting to happen. This might sound extreme, but the truth is, trucking is an industry with a lot of safety risks and potential hazards; if you aren’t actively preventing accidents, the potential for injury, including serious injury and death, is exponentially increased. What can you do? Create a safety plan and use it. This can help you find and eliminate potential safety problems before an accident or injury occurs. If you don’t have a plan, you need one. Create one today.

Accident Prevention Plan- A Legal Obligation?

An accident prevention plan is a good idea for any trucking operation, no matter the size (owner operator, small fleet, large fleet, etc.), but for many companies, it is actually a legal obligation. A workplace injury and illness prevention program is encouraged/required by a majority of states (learn about the requirements for your state here)and OSHA recommends that every workplace have one.

If you don’t have a safety plan, not only are you putting yourself (and your employees) at risk for an injury, you’re also exposing yourself to unnecessary liability should an injury occur.

Starting an Accident Prevention Plan- First Steps

Creating your first accident prevention plan can seem overwhelming; we’ve broken the process into a few easy first steps to get you started.

·         Look for Risks– Spend a few days looking for hazards and make a list. What safety risks are you or your employees likely to encounter? Getting your employees in on the brainstorming process can help you to identify more potential hazards. Past records of accidents, injuries, safety inspection violations, etc.  can be a valuable resource in pinpointing specific problems you’re facing.

·         Create Solutions to Risks– Once you have a list of risks, work on creating policies to eliminate or reduce these risks. How can you reduce the safety hazards you face?

·         Consider Training– A written policy is important, but so is training. If you notice safety violations or unsafe practices, consider some training. Knowing how to properly tarp, chain up, use PPE, etc. are essential skills every driver should possess.

·         Choose a Safety Supervisor– Who is in charge of safety? While safety should be something on everyone’s mind, it is a good idea to have someone actively in charge of company safety to ensure that it remains a priority. This person can also be a point of contact should illness, accidents, or injuries occur.

Resources to Get You Started

The following resources will be helpful tools as you create your accident prevention plan.

·         Guide to Developing Workplace Injury Program (California)- The State of California has created a comprehensive guide for developing a workplace injury program. While the information isn’t specific to the transportation industry (the guide was written for all employers), you’ll find it is easily adapted. This is a great resource no matter what state you live in.

·         Sample Plan (Texas)- What should your plan look like? You’ll want to adapt things to the way your  company does business, but this sample guide from the State of Texas can give you a good jumping off point.

·         OSHA Information for Transportation– The transportation industry has some unique hazards. This guide from OSHA will help you identify some of the risks, hazards, and training requirements you should address in your plan.

Do you have a safety plan? Create one today for a safer tomorrow.

 

What Insurance, Permits, Etc. Do I Need to Get Started?

One of the biggest questions we encounter from new drivers is, “What do I need?” Interstate truckers need a variety of permits, registrations, insurance policies, etc. to ensure they are in compliance with various state and federal laws. We can help you with the specifics for your situation (just give us a call), but this will give you a good idea of where to start.

Permits, Authority, and More… What Do I Need?

The various regulatory permits and registrations needed can vary quite a bit depending on which states you’ll be running through, but there are a few basics you’ll most likely need. Let’s take a look:

·         DOT Number

·         FMCSA MC Authority

·         Truck Registration

o   IRP

o   Unified Carrier Registration or UCR (formerly Single State Registration or SSRS)

o   IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement)

·         Individual State Permits- Some states require additional permits and fees. Things like oversize and overweight permits only apply if your specific load requires it, but some fees apply to even standard sized loads. For example you may encounter Weight Distance Taxes, fuel taxes that are paid to the state directly (and not charged with fuel), property taxes, and other required permits and fees.

Insurance… How Much Coverage Is Enough?

Although you may need higher limits, depending on your circumstances, the following coverages are most common for trucking and transportation:

·         $1 Million Commercial Auto Liability

o   $1,000 Deductible  for Physical Damage Coverage

·         $100,000 Motor Truck Cargo

o   $1,000 Deductible Non-Owned Trailer Coverage

The best way to determine how much insurance you need specifically is to talk with one of our agents. We aren’t just here to sell a policy, but to educate, inform, and help you in your journey. We want you to have access to the highest quality insurance products at highly competitive rates. We can help you determine what coverage you need and which insurer can best provide it.

Getting started in the transportation industry can be confusing, but don’t let that stop you. We’re here  to help you figure out what you need so you can… Travel with Care.

Navigating CA CARB Regulations- 6 Essential Resources

If you drive a tractor-trailer in California, you’ve likely heard about the new regulations from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The new environmental regulations have been slowly taking effect over the last several years and are now starting to impact small fleets and solo drivers. If you aren’t yet impacted by CARB regulations, you soon will be.

These regulations are complex and varied. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of your vehicle, the size of your fleet, the type of trailer you haul, and even where you drive (like ports and intermodel rail yards) impact which regulations apply to you and when they start applying.

To help you wade through the confusion, we’ve prepared a list of helpful resources to help you better understand the CA CARB rules. Keep checking back on our blog as well. We’ve got posts in the works to help you understand the changes so you can… Travel with Care.

·         Which Regulations Apply to You?– Are you confused about which regulations apply to you? This helpful questionnaire from the CA Air Resources Board will prepare an easy list of regulations based on your answers to 3 simple questions. If you have 5 minutes, you can quickly check out which regulations apply to you.

·         Take a Class– If you learn better in person, take a class. There are several classroom training courses available. Many of the courses (all of the ARB Compliance Training Courses) are free to take. Some are offered as webinars; if you have a computer and internet, you can attend wherever your next load takes you and you can even find archived webinar recordings for some of the courses. Checkout the complete list of available courses (click on the course title to see dates, times, and other registration information).

·         Watch a Video– While you’re waiting for that next load (provided you’re in a safe location of course), take a few minutes out to watch a short video on the CARB regulations. You’ll find a variety of informative videos on the ARB TruckStop official YouTube page.

·         Read a Summary– One of the best summaries of the regulations can be found here. It doesn’t cover everything, but it’s a great place to start.

·         Learn the Penalties– Do these new rules really matter? Check out the list of penalties if you don’t comply.

·         Get Help– Sometimes you just can’t find all the answers you need online. If you need personalized assistance, complete the Diesel Assistance Form and you can receive a reply by phone or email. You can also call in yourself at 1-866-6Diesel. Calls are answered between 8 and 5 Pacific Time Monday-Friday and a 24 hour voicemail system is available.

The CA CARB rules are confusing, but if you drive in California, you do need to learn them. Take a few minutes today and start looking at these resources so you can be in compliance.