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.

 

 

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.

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?

 

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?