Getting Enough Sleep?

Sleep-deprivation and fatigue-related accidents unfortunately are common among truckers. Long hours on the road, lack of exercise, and frequent eating contribute to tiredness, while the demands of the trucking life can make it hard to schedule a decent rest. The trucking business runs 24/7, every day of the year, with pressures and regulations that require you to maximize driving time. Good sleep habits can take a back seat to all this.

Yet even a moderate lack of sleep can slow reaction times, affect vision, and reduce your ability to be sharp on the road. It’s crucial to be as fully rested as you can be for your own safety, the safety of others, and the stability of your rig and cargo.

What can you do about it?

  1. Work out a sleep schedule that takes into account your routes, typical customers, sleep habits and log requirements. Yes, it can be a challenge, what with loads and deliveries and crowded rest stops. Your rest may have to be divided into multiple segments.
  2. Learn to sleep at any time of the day or night. For times when your schedule is just too crazy, this may be your best bet.
  3. Keep fit and eat healthily, to maximize your bunk time. Being in better physical shape will help you sleep deeper, fall asleep more easily and be more rested.
  4. Take cat naps when you can. A half-hour nap can jumpstart your day, and even closing your eyes briefly, while waiting for loading or unloading, can conserve energy.

Sleep Apnea Adds Danger to the Road

Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which people experience pauses in breathing while sleeping, resulting in fragmentary sleeping.

Untreated sleep apnea and the resulting excessive sleepiness is common among truck drivers and has lead to serious accidents. The first lawsuit for a highway death related to sleep apnea resulted in a $3 million settlement. A truck crashed into the back of a car in May 2010, and it turned out that the trucker had been diagnosed for sleep apnea but failed to get treatment.

Being obese or overweight is one of the leading causes of sleep apnea. A recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that transportation workers have the highest obesity rate—37.8 percent—of any U.S. industry. Life on the road is tough, and truck drivers face an uphill battle when it comes to health.

You can help prevent obstructive sleep apnea if you:

  • Avoid alcohol and medicines such as sleeping pills and sedatives right before bed. These can relax your throat muscles and slow your breathing.
  • Eat sensibly, exercise, and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking. Nicotine relaxes the muscles that keep airways open. If you don’t smoke, those muscles are less likely to collapse at night and narrow the airways.
  • If you have sleep apnea, make use of prescribed treatments such as special mouthpieces.

Drowsy driving can be almost as dangerous as getting behind the wheel after too many beers. While most commercial truck drivers are professionals who would never drink on the job, they can easily overlook factors that put them at increased risk of a “sleepy” accident.

Your Company Safety Policy: Get It In Writing

You take good care of your trucks. You are an experienced, safe and efficient driver. Your customers are happy. So maybe it seems like a chore for you to develop a written safety policy. But the truth is that a good safety policy is not hard to establish and will solve a number of challenges.

Many states require a policy for approval of intrastate carriage. For example, the  Public Utilities Commission of Ohio requires motor carriers operating intrastate in Ohio to provide proof of compliance with Federal Motor Safety Regulations, and a complete safety policy is the best way to do that.

Also, you need insurance, and a good safety policy can result in lower truck liability insurance premiums. Insurance companies want to reduce risk and they like truck operators who make the effort to develop a written policy, because those employees are more likely to be aware of and practice good safety principles. Even if you are an independent owner/operator, this holds true.

Besides being required by state regulations and helping to reduce your insurance rates, having a policy in place improves behavior overall. It signals to your drivers that safety is a priority and you won’t tolerate unsafe actions. Having something in writing makes it easier for you to enforce these rules.

A Few Helpful Tips

There is more to a safety policy than safe driving. Include proactive precautions such as pre- and post-trip inspections, checking weight and using designated fueling stops. Also, keep it simple: the best way for drivers to obey the policy is for it to be stated in clear, simple language.

Your Written Policy Should Contain These Sections

  1. General policies: a statement of the importance of safe behaviors and your intolerance of any unsafe actions. Clearly state standard procedures such as background checks or drug testing.
  2. Accident procedures: how to secure the site, who to call, immediate actions to take.
  3. Controlled substance or alcohol abuse, dishonesty, any other immediate grounds for dismissal.
  4. Hours of service, logging: what information is required and how frequently should it be recorded.
  5. Safety rules and requirements: specific rules for driving, speed limits, cell phone use, parking, overnights, truck maintenance.
  6. General information, such as paperwork requirements, fueling stops and inspections.
  7. Signature page, for the employee to acknowledge having read the policy.

Steps Toward a Safety-Focused Company

A great first step in writing your policy is to consult the federal and state departments of transportation, in particular the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Program for regulations, guides for program topics, and other relevant trucking issues.

A safety policy extends to more than rules of the road for your drivers. You need to perform background checks on all prospective drivers, including their states’ department of motor vehicles for a report of their driving record—both on and off the clock.

Provide training to make sure your employees are trained in safety, courtesy and responsible road behavior.

Develop a safety checklist of actions that drivers are required to perform, as well as a documented truck checklist of safety inspections on the vehicle, including a place to record required repairs or adjustments.

On today’s crowded highways, keeping safety top of mind pays off.

Dump Truck Safety: Important Tips

Last month in Maine, a routine job of dumping asphalt for a new driveway quickly turned tragic with one simple mistake. When the truck’s bed rose and came in contact with an overhead electrical wire, a worker who was touching the truck was electrocuted, leaving him dead and the truck, still charged, on fire.

On average, at least one person dies in the US every day from trucking accidents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dump trucks account for a significant amount of trucking fatalities, with an average of one dump truck-related fatality occurring every week.

In 2010, 416 deaths were connected with trucking & transportation related accidents. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Work can get intense, but don’t let that keep you from observing important safety tips. Along with all the other reasons to stay safe, it will help reduce your insurance claims and costs.

Perform Your Daily Truck Check

Taking the time to make some basic checks will save you hassle and possibly danger. First, perform a 360-degree walk-around to look for damage. Then, perform these specific safety checks: tire inflation and lug nuts; windshield cleanliness (but DO NOT stand on tires to clean the glass); headlights, tail lights, backup lights, flood lights; functionality in the lifting and lowering of the dump bed; tail gate and restraint chains; backup alarm; brakes and brake air pressure; and seat belt.

At the Work Site

On the job, wear proper protective gear—hard hat, reflective vest, the right footwear—and make sure you have safety equipment such as an aid kit, fire extinguisher and traffic cones.

Speaking of traffic, don’t get careless when driving in it. Provide good back-up lights, a back-up alarm and amber warning lights. Never back up the dump without verifying the area first. The GOAL method (Get Out And Look) is tried and true.

Don’t back the truck faster than a walking speed, and driver and backer should always agree on the “Stop” signal. Never raise the bed on uneven ground, and clear workers from the area before dumping.

Block a raised dump bed with a prop rod or heavy block before working beneath it, but don’t misuse props. Contact the prop manufacturer for an alternate prop if a higher angle is needed to access the rear of the truck.

Tipping

Due to dump trucks being larger and longer these days, tipping accidents, injuries and even deaths have increased. Instability causes dump trucks to tip: for example, with the box in the raised position and the box’s center of gravity and load of the machine not balanced between the frame rails of the unit box.

Other causes of instability: the unit needs to be level when dumping, the upper portion of the raised box is overloaded, material does not flow evenly, tire pressure is uneven, or the truck has an inadequate rear suspension system on any one side of the vehicle.

Electrical Wires

Always check for overhead wires before raising the bed, and do not let it touch the wires. A truck can act as a conductor and someone touching the truck and the ground can become a path for electrical current.

Dump trucks are used at nearly every construction site. Bystanders and operators both can be at risk, but maintaining your truck, securing the area and watching your step are all ways to stay safe.

What kind of trucking insurance do you need?

Coverage options for truckers can be extremely complex. But if you start with the basics, trucking insurance comes down to four simple ideas.

  1. Some types of insurance are required for all.
  2. Some are required based on cargo or company.
  3. Some are recommended based on location or circumstances.
  4. Some meet a need for peace of mind.

Every trucker should understand how he is insured before leaving the driveway. Here are the top types of insurance that you are likely to need or want.

Primary liability insurance: This insurance covers damages created by you with your truck. It is required for all commercial truckers and is the responsibility of the company.

Should I have it? Yes.

How much do I need? The FMCSA requires a limit of $750,000, but check with your company or contract first. Many require a $1,000,000 limit.

What happens if I don’t have it? Expect significant fines and possibly a revoked license.

Physical damage coverage: This is coverage for damage that occurs to your truck while moving or sitting. Typically, it covers events like fire, glass breakage, theft and vandalism. This coverage is the responsibility of the trucker and is not required.

Should I have it? It depends on your situation and the value of your tractor and trailer. Ask your insurance agent for a recommendation.

What happens if I don’t have it? If damage occurs that makes your truck unable to run, your career may be at serious risk.

Bobtail (or deadhead, non-trucking) insurance: When you are not working, or under dispatch, and your truck is being maintained or repaired in the shop, parked in your driveway or at the car wash, bobtail insurance provides liability and sometimes physical damages (insured’s discretion). This coverage is the responsibility of the trucker and is not always required.

Should I have it? Answer these questions: Whether in your driveway or a garage, is the truck in a space safe from falling objects? Will you lose sleep if it is not insured against not-work-related accidents?

What happens if I don’t have it? Like physical damage coverage, bobtail insurance keeps you on the road. Anyone leased onto another company should carry thing and normally is required to do so.

Motor truck cargo insurance: This covers your vehicle’s cargo if it is damaged in a collision, fire or other on-the-job accident. If your freight is accidentally dumped on a road or waterway, motor truck cargo insurance covers the cleanup of areas as needed.

Should I have it? Often times a shipper will require this insurance.

How much do I need? Your limit depends on the cargo and the shipper.

What happens if I don’t have it? If your shipment does not require cargo insurance and damage happens to your cargo without this insurance, you are responsible for covering the damaged freight.

Whether you are a rookie trucker or have logged many miles on the road, being equipped with solid advice about your insurance is one of the most important keys to a safe and protected career. Because of the complexities of trucking insurance and frequently changing regulations, working with insurance companies that specialize in commercial trucks, like Jones & Wenner Insurance, is your best bet for selecting the right coverage options.