Preventing Rollovers- What Can You Do?

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

What Causes Rollovers?

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

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

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

 

 

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.