Tag Archives: Truck Driver Safety Tips

The Safest Way to Unload Your Truck

Truckers are most prone to musculoskeletal injuries while loading and unloading their truck; this is due to the strain that bending, lifting, and heavy items put on the body. Sprains, hernias, and even fractures can occur due to improper body mechanics. Other accidents can occur in and around the truck to bystanders and workers. Securing both the truck and the unloading area is crucial for safety reasons. Here are several ways you can improve your working body form and safely unload your truck each time:

  • Before unloading, perform a load risk assessment using your judgment. Check for items that aren’t secured or may be broken. Look for spillage or hazardous materials. Ensure the truck is parked in a safe place, and that you aren’t unloading in inclement weather.
  • Ensure the truck is on a level surface, parked, with the engine off. Keys should be out of the ignition.
  • Don your personal protective equipment, if necessary. These may include gloves, helmets, UV glasses, high visibility garments, wrist guards, steel-toed boots, long-sleeved shirts and pants, earplugs, and sunscreen.
  • Restrict personnel on foot from the loading zone to prevent accidents and confusion.
  • Ensure appropriate forklift and machinery equipment licensing and experience.
  • Check for adequate lighting and complete visibility. If possible, only work during daylight hours.
  • Use wheel chocks and other vehicle restraint devices.
  • Never lift anything heavier than 50 pounds without some kind of support or help. When lifting loads heavier than 50 pounds, use two or more people to lift the load.
  • Materials that must be manually lifted should be placed at “power zone” height, about mid-thigh to mid-chest.
  • Maintain neutral and straight spine alignment whenever possible. Usually, bending at the knees, not the waist, will help maintain proper spine alignment.
  • Move items close to your body and use your legs when lifting an item from a low location.
  • Avoid twisting, especially when bending forward while lifting. Turn by moving the feet, rather than twisting the torso.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body and keep the load as close to your body as possible.
  • Keep the vertical distance of lifts between mid-thigh and shoulder height. Do not start a lift below mid-thigh height nor end the lift above shoulder height. Lifting from below waist height puts stress on legs, knees, and back. Lifting above shoulder height puts stress on the upper back, shoulders, and arms.
  • Utilize proper handholds, including handles, slots, or holes, with enough room to accommodate gloved hands.
  • Break down loads into smaller units and carry one in each hand to equalize loads. Use buckets with handles, or similar devices, to carry loose items.
  • Use pallet jacks and hand trucks to transport heavy items.
  • Utilize load bars, vertical supports, and load straps to secure loads.
  • Take regular breaks and break tasks into shorter segments. This will give muscles adequate time to rest.

What are some tips that you have for unloading your truck safely? Let us know in the comments!

Top Five Health Concerns Truckers Should Know About

We all want to live long into our golden years to enjoy watching our kids and friends grow older. Longevity depends a little bit on genetics and a lot on several important factors, including diet, exercise, stress and disease prevention and management. To get a better handle on your health and understand the importance of regular checkups, we’ve listed five critical health concerns that all truckers should be concerned about now:

  1. Skin cancer. More than 90% of skin cancer is found on body parts that get too much sun exposure. Sunburns and prolonged exposure to the sun, moles, and a history of skin cancer in the female are all factors that predispose you to skin cancer. Because truck drivers get a lot of sun on one side of their face and arm, it’s important to be vigilant about applying sunscreen and wearing long-sleeved shirts. When riding in your truck or spending any amount of time under the sun, always apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more and get abnormal moles checked out about twice a year.
  2. Obesity. You are considered obese if you have a body mass index over 30, according to the CDC. Your heart has to work extremely hard to pump blood to all your organs if you are obese. Consuming a big meal means even more work, as the heart struggles to pump enough blood to the gut to break down such a heavy load. Obesity causes every household disease in the book – high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, joint problems, cancer, and depression. Truckers are at high risk for obesity because of a sedentary lifestyle and lack of healthy food options on the road. Doctors at Stanford Hospital recommend eating a low-calorie diet (1,500-1,800 calories per day) that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, along with a diet low in saturated fats. They also recommend exercising 30 minutes a day and joining a support group to provide encouragement and reinforcement.
  3. Sleep apnea. This deadly problem is often called a silent killer, because you may not even be aware that it’s happening. Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder that occurs when your throat muscles relax and block your airway during your sleep, leading to several seconds of oxygen deprivation. Sleep apnea can cause sleep deprivation, chest pain, high blood pressure, headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness, according to the Mayo Clinic. Obesity and age are both high risk factors for developing the disorder. Smoking only makes this condition even more deadly. Treatments for sleep apnea may involve lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or losing weight, or they can include being fitted for an oral mouthpiece or breathing device. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) fits over your mouth and nose and gently blows air into your airway to keep it open at night.
  4. High blood pressure. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is also called a silent killer because many people aren’t even aware they have it. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. As it rises, it can turn into hypertension, which is blood pressure measuring 140/90 and above. High BP can lead to coronary artery disease, where the vessels around the heart can’t get enough blood to the most important organ in our body – the ticker. High blood pressure can also seriously damage kidneys, leading eventually to kidney failure, and if pressures get high enough, the risk of stroke climbs as well. If you have high blood pressure, you should take your blood pressure at least once a day using a manual device. Compliance with medication is essential, because even if you feel better, you should never stop taking your blood pressure pills. Many truckers report they have high blood pressure because of the quality of food they consume and a lack of areas to exercise. Get out of your truck and get your heart pumping for at least 30 minutes a day. Limit salt, alcohol, and caffeine in your diet, along with saturated fats. And always keep up with doctors’ appointments.
  5. Heart attacks. More than one million Americans have a heart attack each year. Their survival depends on how much damage to the heart has been done and if they were able to reach help in time. A heart attack occurs when clots or plaque block blood flow to the coronary arteries, which oxygenate your heart muscle. Symptoms of a heart attack include squeezing pain or pressure felt in the chest or arms, pain or discomfort radiating from the jaw down to the arms, sweating, nausea, shortness of breath, and pain that isn’t relieved by rest. You must keep your heart healthy to prevent heart attacks. That means eating fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water. Always drink a full glass of water before bed and never go to bed after eating a full, rich meal. Stay away from saturated fats and alcohol, quit smoking, and manage your high blood pressure with medication, if you have this. Maintaining an ideal body weight and managing stress are two more ways you can help prevent heart attacks.

What are some ways you manage your health on the road? Let us know in the comments!

Preventing Rollovers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that 78% of rollovers are caused by driver error. Drivers are ten times

more likely to be the cause of the rollover than any other factor. The key to prevention is educating drivers on what to look for to keep this dangerous incident from occurring.

Excessive speed is the number on cause of rollovers, according to SafetyMovement.org. Speed limit signs on highways are meant for cars and are not safe for larger vehicles such as semi trucks. SafetyMovement.org says the two types of rollovers are tripped, where the vehicle leaves the roadway and slides sideways digging its tires into soft soil, or where it hits an object such as a guardrail or curb. The high tripping force causes a rollover.

The other type of rollover is untripped, where the vehicle does not hit an object, but rolls over due to centrifugal force, usually during high
speed turns or sudden steering maneuvers. Tankers with a high center of gravity are more prone than passenger cars to untripped rollovers.

Other causes of rollovers include:

1. Entering a curve at too high a speed

2. Swerving to avoid an obstacle

3. Fatigue, falling asleep, driving off the road

4. Stopping or parking on a soft surface

5. Truck improperly loaded

6. Sudden maneuvers due to inattention to the road

7. Driver distracted, drifted off the road.

Preventing these rollovers is critical. SafetyMovement.org and FMCSA recommend these tips:

  • Slow down on turns and curves, at least 5 miles below the posted advisory speed.
  • Get sufficient rest before you commence driving.
  • Observe the Hours of Service rules.
  • Take your on-road rest breaks.
  • Plan where you pull off the road to stop. Look for paved or other hard surfaces.
  • Always leave yourself plenty of clear vision ahead.
  • Ensure your load is properly centered and loaded.
  • Avoid partially filled loads; if you can’t do so, reduce your speed substantially before entering a turn.
  • Watch for high-risk areas on the highway.
  • Maintain proper speed cushions.
  • Leave with a balanced load, and if doing multiple drops, plan the discharges so that the truck axle loadings remain balanced.
  • If you do leave the paved surface, don’t swing back sharply. Reduce speed, and when slowed, turn gradually back onto the road.

New Hours of Service Rule in Limbo

The Senate Appropriations Committee has thrown a wrench into the 34-hour restart rule provision of the hours of service (HOS) rule by voting to suspend it last week. 

The Committee passed an amendment on June 9 suspending the rule while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration examines if the rule is truly beneficial to all parties involved.

The rule required truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights’ rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most – from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. This rest requirement is part of the rule’s “34-hour restart” provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their workweek by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.

The rule stated that drivers can take a 30-minute break whenever they need rest during an eight-hour window. It retained the current 11-hour daily driving limit. It reduced by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week. Under the old rule, truck drivers could work on average up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new HOS final rule limits a driver’s workweek to 70 hours. In addition, truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes.

The rule limits the use of the “34-hour restart” to once a week, or 168 hours. If restarts are taken every 6 days, alternating 14 hours on-duty and 10 hours off, a driver would reach 70 hours in less than 5 full days. After a 34-hour break, the driver could then begin this same cycle again, totaling 70 hours on duty every 6 calendar days, for an average of almost 82 hours per calendar week. The purpose of the restart rule would be to limit excessive buildup of on-duty hours.

While the amendment is suspended, the old restart provision stands. Drivers are NOT required to be off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. on two straight nights during their restart.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) applauded the move. “Truckers have long pointed out the negative impacts of the 2013 changes on their ability to get rest, stay out of busy city traffic, spend time at home, and make a family-supporting income,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.

In addition, the amendment sets a deadline for the FMSCA to publish its electronic logging device mandate by the end of January 2015. The mandate requires drivers who use paper logs to now switch to electronic logs.

Tools to Make Trucking Easier

The life of a trucker is hard work. Days and sometimes nights on the road, always keeping vigil, remaining cognizant of erratic weather, distracted drivers, and unforgiving road conditions. Truckers must also be ready to perform heavy lifting, loading and unloading hauls at the end of a long day in extreme heat and cold. The best tools of a trucker are their hands, but there are other implements that can make this job easier and kinder on the body. Here are some of the necessities every trucker should carry:

  • Leather and rubber gloves. A good pair of work gloves will help you in many situations, including fueling, pulling tandems, opening the trailer, and unloading goods.
  • Tire pressure gauge. Check your tires daily to prevent flat tires and increase fuel efficiency.
  • Radiator or small engine belt. These will come in handy when pulling tandems and fifth wheels.
  • Kneepads. These are wonderful to cushion knees on hard surfaces if you need to crawl under the truck or adjust slack adjusters.
  • First aid kit. This should include bandaids, gauze, gloves, tape, ointment, eye care products, scissors, and cold packs.
  • Wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen. The combination of these two will help you buffer the sun’s harmful effects.
  • Screwdriver and hammer. These are excellent tools for a variety of jobs around the truck.
  • Wipes. Baby wipes or wet naps are essential for cleaning up spills or wiping your face and hands for refreshment.
  • Solid pair of work boots. A heavy-duty pair of boots, the expensive and comfortable kind, are well worth the investment. At the end of a long day, your feet will thank you.
  • Crescent wrenches, sockets, allen wrenches, channel locks, pliers – all of these make small maintenance jobs easier.
  • Caulk and caulking gun to patch small holes.
  • Spare light bulbs to change burnt out bulbs in a pinch.
  • WD-40, zip ties, electrical wire, spare fuses.
  • A good flashlight with spare batteries.
  • A utility knife to measure tread depth.
  • An adjustable spanner and socket set.
  • A breaker bar to loosen the toughest nuts.

What tools do you absolutely have to carry in your truck at all times? Let us know in the comments!

Truckers, Listen Up: Here’s How to Save Money on the Road

Being frugal on the road isn’t easy. It involves careful planning and budgeting so those extra meals and gas don’t carve out too much space in your wallet. Some truckers have spent years perfecting the art of saving money, and here are some of their most valuable tips:

  • Pack a lunch, every single day. Eating out is one of the highest costs you will incur as a trucker. Packing a lunch takes about fifteen minutes and can save you hundreds of dollars a month. Remember to slice up and pack fresh fruit, such as pears, bananas, and apples. Cut up red and yellow peppers, cukes, and carrots for a healthy snack. A hearty sandwich, pasta salad, piece of cold chicken, or a big salad are great examples of what you can eat as a main dish. Purchase a small cooler to keep these items fresh and avoid contamination of bacteria.
  • Get the most out of your fuel mileage. Play around with different RPMs to see how your truck runs best. Always shift at low RPMs. Check your tires regularly to ensure they aren’t over or underinflated. Get tires aligned regularly. Tires can significantly reduce your fuel mileage. Look into purchasing low-rolling resistance tires and trailer skirts, which will help you reduce air resistance. Inspect your truck regularly and perform preventive maintenance. Finally, using a GPS can also reduce fuel consumption. A good GPS will detect heavy traffic and also map out the fastest route possible.
  • Make a budget and stick to it. This means writing out all your expenses and bills and adjusting them to maximize savings. Keep a log of all your expenses and save every single receipt for fuel, meals, and tolls.
  • Set all your bills to auto-pay. This will save you money in possible late and disconnection fee, especially if you are away from home a lot.
  • Get a library card for free audiobooks and paperbacks. Almost every library in America now has a database filled with free audiobooks that you can check out and listen to. Normally up to $40 each, these books can be found on an online app called Overdrive, which links to your local library.
  • Never take a cash advance or open a credit card with a high percentage rate. You’ll get in over your head with the interest and will end up paying back double what you owed initially.
  • Sign up for a fuel rewards card. The card will reward you for fuel and food purchases as well as truck maintenance.
  • Ask for a discount. While not always the case, some restaurants will give truckers who flash their CDL a small discount.
  • Participate in a coffee refill program. Even Starbucks has these nowadays. You can purchase a coffee mug and have it filled to the brim with steaming coffee for a reduced price. Plus, you don’t have all that extra waste.
  • Pack all necessary items you need for lengthy trips. Clean clothes, toothpaste, and toiletries from home will save you money at the Laundromat and pharmacy.
  • Schedule yearly preventative checkups at your physician, eye doctor, and dentist. Health promotion and prevention will save you a lot of money later by keeping you healthy now and addressing potential health problems.

How do you save money on the road? Let us know in the comments!

What You Need to Know About Roadcheck 2014

This June, all truckers need to be prepared for the annual inspection blitz of 2014. Across America, hundreds of truck inspections will take place at 1,500 locations, an event organized by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).

According to CVSA, the focus of this year’s inspections will be educating drivers about the new hours-of-service (HOS) regulations along with checking cargo securement. Inspection officials will hand out visor cards from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, describing the HOS rules.

The first roadcheck began in 1988. Since then, hundreds of thousands of federal, state, and local commercial vehicles have been inspected. Last year, over 48,000 North American Standard Level 1 inspections were performed. Out of those inspections, 22% of vehicles were deemed not safe for the road, and about 4% of drivers were placed out-of-service.

A Level 1 Inspection checks for brakes, coupling devices, fuel and exhaust systems, lighting, suspension, securement of cargo, steering, suspension, and tires, wheels, rims and hubs.

Here is a summary of what the CVSA recommends to take care of on your truck to be safe on the road (and ready for inspection).

Check that all external lights and reflective equipment are clean and functional. Light and reflector checks include:

  •          Clearance lights (red on rear, amber elsewhere).
  •          Headlights (high and low beams).
  •          Taillights.
  •          Turn signals.
  •          4-way flashers.
  •          Brake lights.
  •          Red reflectors (on rear) and amber reflectors (elsewhere).

Lighting Indicators (Pre-Trip Inspection)
Test that dash indicators work when the corresponding lights are turned on:

  •                   Left turn signal.
  •                   Right turn signal.
  •                   4-way emergency flashers.
  •                   High beam headlight.

Clutch/Gearshift (Pre-Trip Inspection)

  •          Depress the clutch.
  •          Place the gearshift lever in neutral (or park, for automatic transmissions).
  •          Start the engine, then release the clutch slowly.

Oil Pressure Gauge (Pre-Trip Inspection)

  •          Make sure the oil pressure gauge is working.
  •          Check that the pressure gauge shows increasing or normal oil pressure, or that the warning light goes off .
  •          If equipped, the oil temperature gauge should begin a gradual rise to the normal operating range.

Temperature Gauge (Pre-Trip Inspection)

  •          Make sure the temperature gauge is working.
  •          The temperature should begin to climb to the normal operating rang or the temperature light should be off.

Ammeter/Voltmeter (Pre-Trip Inspection)

  •          Check that gauges show the alternator and/or generator is charging or that the warning light is off.

“We want to encourage understanding by drivers and carrier managers of the driver and vehicle regulations, to conduct inspections, and issue violations where necessary,” says William P. Schaefer, Director, Vehicle Programs, CVSA. “We collect vehicle, driver, and hazardous materials inspection violation data for comparison to previous years.”

Roadcheck 2014 will take place June 4, 5, and 6.

Fun Trucking Gear

For many, spring means new items for your wardrobe and some cool accessories. Truckers love getting new gear, too. We looked all over the web for the best clothing, boots, hats, and jewelry for truckers, and here’s the best of what we found:

  1. Peterbilt shirt with logo. Every trucker needs a shirt with a Peterbilt logo, right? This classic shirt is 100% cotton and comes pre-shrunk. It’s a steal at $16.95.
  2. ….and a Peterbilt hat to go with it. This cool red and black hat features a honeycomb mesh, precurved visor, and an adjustable Velcro backstrap.
  3. CAT premium work gloves. These comfortable brown or black real leather gloves have a wing thumb and a shirred elastic wrist for a snug fit.
  4. Hanes white tee. Sometimes the best accessory is a comfy white cotton shirt. And Hanes is always your best bet. Find ‘em here on Amazon for only $13.
  5. Maverick sunglasses. These polarized sunglasses come in amber and smoke. They eliminate glare, reduce eye fatigue, and are scratch-resistant.
  6. Frye boots. If you’ve got some extra money to splurge this spring, Frye boots are the best investment you can make. These 100% leather classic boots are a favorite among truckers and come in a variety of rich colors. The Harness boot has shock-absorbing soles and nickel hardware.
  7. American Hero keychain. For only $1.50, this beautiful keychain featuring a truck and an American flag is perfect for any trucker.
  8. North Star leather trucker wallet. This large leather wallet is a favorite of many truckers. It comes with five pockets, heavy-duty snaps, and a sturdy 12-inch chain.
  9. Trucking travel mug. This mug from Zazzle.com is spill-proof, stainless steel, and features a hand-rendered truck design.
  10.  Denim trucking jacket. Jean jackets are back in style, and Levi’s is known to have the best. Check out various styles here.

What is your favorite trucking accessory? Let us know in the comments!

Worst Highways in America

Ask any trucker and they can immediately name their least favorite highway. Whether it’s crushing traffic, giant potholes, accidents, poorly lit roads, small lanes, or a minimum number of road signs, these highways can cause even the most seasoned truck driver’s blood pressure to rise. We asked around and came up with ten of the worst highways in America:

  • Interstate 4, Florida. This interstate is constantly under massive construction, making it one of the worst and most dangerous highways in America. A section between Daytona Beach and Orlando is rumored to be haunted because of the big number of fatalities that occur there every year.
  • New Jersey Turnpike. Lots and lots of tolls, but very few exits make this highway one of the most hated. If you miss your exit, you may need to go all the way to Pennsylvania to turn around. The only good part about the road – it’s well-maintained, mainly due to all the heavy tolls.
  • Interstate 55, Chicago. People claim this highway has so much debris that you’re practically guaranteed to blow a tire or get in an accident. The smells are pretty foul, too.
  • Kennedy Expressway, Chicago. Chicago has many memorable roads, but this is one of the worst. A twenty minute drive can take up to three hours as you sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
  • Interstate 35, Texas. This interstate cuts a sweeping arc through Texas, leaving a trail of immolated cars and debris in its wake. Torn up roads and cross winds make this trek especially dangerous and loathsome.
  • Interstate 55, Louisiana. Most highways in Louisiana are poorly maintained, but I-55 takes the cake. Your semi is liable to blow a tire or suffer severe damage as it rolls and rattles over giant potholes and debris.
  • Interstate 15, California. From Barstow to the Nevada state line, this road is just a string of brake lights. Its heavy traffic is mostly due to gamblers or foodies wanting to get a jump on the Vegas night. Don’t expect to go more than a snail’s pace here.
  • Pennsylvania Turnpike. Narrow lanes and sharp curves make this highway extremely dangerous. To boot, it’s been under construction for decades.
  • Interstate 44, Oklahoma. Usually, one or two lanes are always closed, forcing drivers to merge at high speeds.
  • Interstate 10, Arizona. The 150-mile stretch from Phoenix to the California border is the worst part of this lengthy highway. Up to 85 people a year lose their lives through this lightly populated section in the desert.

Which highway do you hate the most? Leave it in the comments!

Should E-Log Devices Be Mandatory?

A new proposal issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states that electronic log devices should be mandatory. The proposal covers all drivers who prepare hours-of-service records of duty status.

The proposal was green-lighted by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which spent seven months reviewing the terms.

According to the FMCSA, within two years all drivers need to be using Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). The only exception is for those drivers using devices that meet the current automatic onboard recording device standard. These drivers will be able to use those devices another two years.

The FMCSA’s reasoning behind the requirements includes a reduction of a massive amount of paperwork that is involved with traditional methods. The industry will save about $1.4 billion a year in paperwork alone.

Another $400 million will also be saved in annualized safety benefits from preventing fatalities and injuries each year.

“By implementing Electronic Logging Devices, we will advance our mission to increase safety and prevent fatigued drivers from getting behind the wheel,” said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “With broad support from safety advocates, carriers and members of Congress, we are committed to achieving this important step in the commercial bus and truck industries.”

Impaired driving was a factor in more than 12 percent of the 129,120 total crashes that involved large trucks or buses in 2012.

The proposal also included a provision to protect drivers from harassment by motor carriers using information from an ELD. It establishes a procedure for filing a harassment complaint and creates a maximum civil penalty of up to $11,000 for a motor carrier that engages in harassment of a driver that leads to an hours-of-service violation or the driver operating a vehicle when they are so fatigued or ill it compromises safety. The proposal ensures that drivers continue to have access to their own records and require ELDs to include a mute function to protect against disruptions during sleeper berth periods.

For those concerned about privacy, the FMCSA said that ELD records will continue to reside with the motor carriers and drivers. Electronic logs will be made available to FMCSA personnel or law enforcement during roadside inspections, compliance reviews and post-crash investigations.

What do you think about the new proposal? Are you using an ELD, and if so, do you like it? Let us know your thoughts below!