Safety Tips for Trucking in Traffic

Trucking professionals have enough to worry about when it comes to transporting their shipment from location to location. Schedules need to be strict and time is of the essence, but safety shouldn’t be compromised because of a hurried driver. Besides being hasty, there are a number of things to consider when it comes to keeping safety the focal point when driving around regular traffic on streets and highways.

A recent study showed that 2016 saw a 2% increase in fatal crashes involving trucks and buses, and the trend points to a continued gradual increase year-over-year. While truck drivers can’t do anything to make other drivers around them more responsible behind the wheel, they can take certain tips to heart when making sure they’re doing their part to keep things safe.

Investing in Truck Insurance

Truck insurance is a safeguard for trucking professionals who wants to ensure their protection for injuries or property damage sustained. Just like regular auto insurance, this kind of insurance is specifically designed to keep trucking professionals safe as well as the truck they’re driving, and can cover the cargo they’re hauling. This should be the first step for truck drivers looking to be more responsible on the road.

Keeping a Space Cushion

Professional drivers hauling big rigs should monitor something called the space cushion between their trucks and other vehicles around them. Where smaller vehicles on the road are able to shift in and out of traffic more freely, trucks with great size can’t. Drivers need to make sure they are not too close to objects, whether stationary or in motion. Consider tight turns, low bridges and small streets as well as other vehicles.

Trip Planning

Just like you’re prepping to set out on a family trip, it pays to plan ahead and look for things like weather conditions and terrain. This will help to anticipate flow of traffic along your route before you leave to make sure you are traveling down the safest and most efficient roads. Always make sure to plan for and add extra travel time for things like construction, detours, traffic congestion and inclement weather.

Safe Speed

Speed always place a factor for drivers looking to be safe on the road. A couple things large truck drivers have to consider is the fact that it takes longer to accelerate their truck and longer to slow their truck down to a stop. Always be sure to slow down in work zones, but don’t hang back so much that will bring traffic behind you to a screeching halt.

Turns and Road Curves

Tight turns become even tighter for truck drivers. Entrance and exit ramps, and turning down city streets always pose a high level of difficulty and risk of bumping into an object, including cars, pedestrians, and street lights. When you’re entering a curve in the road or negotiating a turn, a good rule of thumb is to slow down. This will help to avoid bumping into anything or anyone as well as turning the truck over on its side. Always allow for distance and speed of other vehicles when making a turn across traffic or into oncoming traffic path.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates and coverage changes.

Brake Safety Week: How to Make Sure Your Brakes are Maintained and Working

Braking systems are one of the most important components of any semi vehicle on the road. A matter of safety and security for not only the truck’s driver and the cargo they’re carrying, having a well-maintained brake system should keep everyone else on the road safe.

Brake failure is a common cause for accidents and fatalities that involve semi trucks, which will ultimately lead to lawsuits. Having truck insurance, like regular auto insurance, in place will help to provide legal help and liability protection in the event of an accident, but there should be a focus on overall preemptive safety beforehand. Here are some tips to keep in mind when evaluating and providing maintenance to your semi truck:

Replace Pads

Like everyday vehicles on the road, semi trucks have plenty of parts that need to be taken care of and, in time, replaced to uphold integrity on the road. Brake shoes have indicators built into the pads that display when replacement is a need. When a truck is taken in to have the pads replaced, make sure to replace the springs, pins and bushings for the brakes. Essentially, look at this maintenance as a full service job, making sure all components are new.

Slack Adjusters

These work to keep the brakes in alignment when they are in use. Trucks on the road have either manual or automatic slack adjusters, but both need to be greased to work efficiently and effectively. Automatic slack adjusters will keep the brakes in adjustment automatically, whereas manual adjusters require the driver to make the adjustments on their own.

Many operators regretfully forget to grease the slack adjusters, mostly because they are not regularly used. What happens when they go without maintenance for long enough is that they seize up and stop working, which can cause brake failure over time.

S Cams

The S cam is turned by a shaft that’s operated by the slack adjusters mentioned above. The S cams do their work by pushing the brake shoe into the drum to stop the truck. Obviously, they are extremely important given their nature. Make sure to check the bushings when getting maintenance done; bushings are part of the S cam, and need to be greased just like the slack adjusters.

Air Compressions

Check the application pressure and ensure that the gauge reads greater than 60 psi before getting the truck moving. The pressure should run between 100 psi and 125 psi, all working to stop the truck at a reasonable rate. The brakes should be serviced when the application pressure is consistently falling low and a truck should not be used if the pressure drops below 60 psi.

When Brakes Should Be Serviced

Make sure to set out a routine plan and schedule for evaluating and servicing your truck’s brakes for premium safety on the road. Distance traveled between service may vary depending on the truck, but no matter the size and condition of the truck, as well as the model and year, it’s important to have a routine maintenance done.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and  transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates and coverage changes.

More Than Just Posture – 3 Tips for Better Driver Ergonomics

Did you know that proper ergonomics is just as important of an aspect of truck driver health and safety as it is for those who work in offices? Each year, thousands of drivers are plagued by neck, back, and spinal issues associated with poor posture. Truck drivers are among the top professions to be out of work due to injuries, and ergonomic injuries are wholly avoidable by making only a few small changes

Most people don’t consider it, but the simplest way truckers can help prevent these types of ailments is by taking the same proactive steps designed for improved posture that are recommended for desk dwellers. Here are three vital ergonomic ideas to consider.

#1: Make Seat Adjustments

Similar to choosing the right type of desk chair, one of the easiest ways to ensure your cab is as safe as possible is to pay attention to seat adjustments before you even start the engine. Begin by making sure your feet can comfortably reach the gas pedal, clutch, and brake. Then adjust the seat’s backrest so that your arms are at a slight angle while you are holding the steering wheel. You’ll also want to raise the seat as high as you can while still being comfortable and tilt the seat cushion so that your thighs are fully supported without putting too much pressure on your knees.

#2: Remember Your Posture

Another vital thing to remember is your overall posture inside the truck. No matter how fatigued you become, don’t ever slouch while driving which can cause strain on your muscles and joints. This may take a bit of practice at first, but remembering to sit up straight can help prevent neck and back pain. It is also important to change your position in the seat slightly every half hour. While it isn’t always possible, try to take breaks when you can to get out of the vehicle and stretch.

#3: Maintain Good Habits When Outside the Truck

Keeping up with good health habits when you are off the road is also important. Exercises such as yoga or Pilates are excellent for strengthening your core area, which can help support your neck, back, and spine more efficiently when you are driving. And remember to correct your posture while sitting in a chair in your living room, hotel, or even at restaurants. Practice really does make perfect.

While truck drivers don’t spend their days in an office per se, a healthy and safe working environment is just as important. Protect your body by implementing the above ergonomic tips as soon as possible.

However, in addition to having these best practices in place, all truck drivers, whether they are full-time employees or independent contractors, should have truck insurance that provides coverage for injuries incurred on the job, whether it is Workers’ Compensation for full-time employees or Occupational Accident for independent contractors and owner-operators.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is much more than a commercial truck insurance agency. Since 1954, we have provided our clients with unparalleled service for truck insurance quotes, customer service, coverage charges, insurance certificates, and more. We are committed to providing our clients with the service to keep their costs to the minimum and their opportunities to the maximum. For more information about our products and services, give us a call at (800) 937-8785 to speak with one of our experts.

How Truck Drivers Can Stay Safe in the Summer Heat

Now that the sweltering months of summer have arrived, many truck drivers find themselves facing some unique safety challenges behind-the-wheel. Fortunately, there are a few simple tips all truck drivers can follow to keep themselves and other motorists safer this summer.

Save Yourself From Sunburn

Exposure to UVA and UVB rays is a risk for truck drivers year-round, but this is especially true during the summer months, when truck drivers are less likely to be wearing protective layers that would otherwise limit their exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. While driving during daylight hours, make sure you apply (and re-apply) a quality sunscreen at least every few hours. Wearing sunglasses and/or a hat with a brim while driving can also protect your eyes from sun damage while allowing you to avoid dangerous glare and other obstructions.

Keep Your Truck Maintained

When was the last time you had the tire pressure checked on your truck? If it’s been more than a week or two, be sure to have this done; this is an important maintenance task year-round, but especially during the hotter months of summer, when truck tires are more susceptible to blow-outs. The same goes for checking and servicing your brakes, as hotter temperatures can make it easier for your brakes to overheat and create a major safety hazard while driving.

Load Up on Hydrating Fluids

Drinking plenty of water while behind the wheel is one of the best decisions you can make to avoid dehydration and the side effects (such as fatigue) that can come along with it. While it may be tempting to choose an iced coffee, soda, or other caffeinated beverage over plain water, it’s important to stay well hydrated during the sweltering months of summer. To make sure you’re drinking enough water, consider investing in a quality insulated water bottle that you make an effort to fill up at least a few times a day during your travels.

Be Alert on Crowded Roadways

Highways and roadways tend to be more crowded during the summer months, especially as children are out of school and families are taking more vacations and road trips. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to stay alert on the road, especially during times of heavy traffic. Above all else, try to maintain your patience and remember your safety training when navigating busy roads.

Summer time can be a more dangerous time for truck drivers—and for a number of reasons. By following these practical safety tips and making sure you’re protected by the right commercial truck insurance, however, you can keep yourself and other motorists safe. Reach out to the Western Truck insurance team today for more information.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is much more than a commercial truck insurance agency. With roots dating back to 1954, we have provided our clients with unparalleled service for truck insurance quotes, customer service, coverage charges, insurance certificates, and more. We are committed to providing our clients with the service to keep their costs to the minimum and their opportunities to the maximum. For more information about our products and services, give us a call at (800) 937-8785 to speak with one of our experts.

Tips for Avoiding and Recovering from Skidding in a Big Rig

Though they are commonplace on the highways and byways of the United States, many drivers of non-commercial vehicles know little about the massive size, weight and power of 18-wheelers. Sadly, this lack of knowledge frequently means that these drivers make many mistakes around the big rigs, mistakes that may result in the loss of many lives.

Most of today’s semis have two drive axles and one steering axle. The trailer is attached fifth-wheel style and can move forward or backward over the back axles to help make sure weight is distributed evenly. Pulling only one trailer, a typical tractor-trailer weighs around 73,000 lbs. Due to the massive weight of the vehicle, normal driver reaction time and speed, a semi-truck can take up to 525 feet to fully stop. This comes as a surprise to many non-commercial drivers because normal cars and trucks can typically stop in less than 200 feet.

Knowing Your Rig

New truck drivers receive comprehensive training about driving, following distances, weather conditions and many other occurrences that may impact their driving. One of the most important parts of training is what drivers learn about skidding. In essence, a skid means that a semi’s wheels have lost grip of the road which means the driver has lost control of the semi.

Being familiar with your truck is critical to avoiding a skidding semi-truck. For instance, being familiar with the brake pedal in your vehicle can help you to apply the right amount of pressure instead of slamming on the breaks. Unfortunately, brakes that are hit with too much force frequently cause at least one set of tires to lock up and skid. And once the trailer enters a skid, it can be difficult, if not impossible to stop.

Knowing your vehicle also helps to understand stopping distances with reference to how much weight is on their trailer, what weather is doing and how heavy traffic is. One good rule of thumb for commercial drivers is that they should always overestimate how long it will take to stop. In cases where drivers underestimate this distance, a trailer may skid into a jackknife and may need to be towed back to safety.

Semi trucks today are built with an incredibly useful tool that is not available on cars.  The Jake Brake, also known as the engine brake, can help drivers slow an engine on a decline and even moderate slowing down to ensure the semi does not go into a skid.

Knowing Your Route

Making sure one is familiar with a route before starting the trip is another way to avoid a skid in a big rig. By taking time to review the types of roads along the route, the elevations of these roads and the times of day when traffic might be the heaviest, drivers can prepare in advance.

One recent news story told of a semi driver who was unfamiliar with a route and followed his GPS blindly up a remote mountain location. When the driver tried to turn around and descend the mountain, the truck began skidding toward a steep bank and got stuck in mud and snow.  Because the driver had no cell phone service, he left the truck and attempted to walk through the forest to find help. In the end, he ended up walking for three days before finding an interstate and flagging down help. Perhaps this situation could have been avoided had the driver taken time to familiarize himself with the route prior to starting his trip.

Prevention is Key

Keeping prevention at the forefront is key to overall trucker safety which then enhances the safety of all on the road. Unfortunately, part of prevention is that commercial drivers must always be vigilant and aware that other drivers on the road simply may not understand the perils that accompany big rig accidents. Many drivers today say their top complaint is that leaving a safe following distance in a semi is next to impossible.

Truckers also state that many drivers simply do not realize that they have a rather large blind spot behind the trailer and next to the driver’s door. Though a truck driver can use mirrors more effectively than most drivers on the road, they are not magic. If a car cannot see a trucker’s mirrors, then they should assume that a driver cannot see their car.

Have a Plan B

As with every well-laid plan, a commitment to avoid skidding does not always come to fruition. In the case drivers encounter a skidding semi-truck they should be prepared to take action quickly. Should the back wheel skid, drivers should be prepared to take their foot off the gas pedal and avoid breaking until the skidding has ceased. Should the front wheels skid, it is best to use the brake only lightly as drivers bring a truck to a full stop as soon as possible.  Finally, in the instance that a drive wheel skids due to slippery conditions a driver should engage the clutch and turn the steering wheel gently in the desired direction.

Though it is not possible to avoid all dangerous situations, semi drivers who are prepared and understand what might cause skidding can go a long way to avoid these situations.

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.

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.

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.