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.

New Year’s Resolution: A Safety Checklist

Happy New Year!

Here is 2013, a new year, more daylight ahead, and winter driving to deal with. As you prepare for another year of trucking, now is a good time to assess the state of your preparations.

Maintenance checks and safety checks: now is the time to take stock and bring your work up to date. This also includes looking at the state of your insurance needs and coverage.

Have you added trucks to a fleet? Brought on kinds of business? Hired a driver? You’ll want to make sure that your insurance coverage is also up to speed.

Are your documents up to date? Make sure you have vehicle registrations, your current insurance policy declarations page (“dec page”), driver’s license numbers and basic driving histories of all drivers, including speeding tickets and VIN numbers (vehicle identification numbers) of each vehicle, and verify that your lines of authority are active and in good standing.

This is a good time to review your coverage with your insurance agent. Some issues to discuss could include:

  • Liability Insurance – this is the mandatory insurance which pays for any damage you cause with your truck. Driving without this insurance is an offense and could result in heavy penalties. Are all drivers and vehicles accurate on your policy?
  • Motor Truck General Liability Insurance – this coverage pays for injuries or property damage you cause through business activities when outside of your truck.
  • Bobtail/Deadhead Insurance – also known as non-trucking liability, this insurance is voluntary when you lease your truck to another carrier. It provides coverage for your truck when you’re not under a load and not under dispatch (i.e. when you’re having it serviced).
  • Motor Truck Cargo – this insurance covers the load you’re carrying. It isn’t mandatory but some shipping companies insist on it.
  • Physical Damage Coverage – also not a legal requirement, this insurance covers your truck against perils like collision, fire, theft, vandalism and flood damage. Are all of your units insured for the correct value? It is very important to review stated amounts (limits) for each truck insured.

Are you a long-haul driver? You’ll want to check with your insurance company about the radius of operation restriction for Primary Liability coverage and how they calculate it. An insurance agency may request copies of your IFTA statements to verify how far you are travelling. Keep current copies of the last four quarters in the event the company requests them.

Whether you need insurance as an owner-operator, motor carrier or private carrier, we can advise you and quickly get the coverage and the paperwork that you need.

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.

What you need to know about “distracted driving.”

By now, you have heard about the dangers of texting and driving. Even the simple task of dialing home while barreling down the highway has a level of risk. The dangers associated with cell phone use while driving have popularized a new warning: distracted driving.

If you have shrugged off cell phone warnings because you don’t send text messages, you might want to reconsider what AAA representatives are calling “the most dangerous of all distractions behind the wheel.”

Start with the facts and the penalties associated with driving while texting or driving distracted:

  • As of September 2012, texting while driving is illegal in Ohio. It is a secondary offense for adults, but minors can be pulled over for using any electronic device other than a GPS.
  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has formally banned texting as well as any use of a handheld phone while driving. Fines for texting while driving can reach $2,750, along with suspended licenses.
  • Carriers are not allowed to let their drivers use handheld cell phones while driving. Ignoring this can lead to fines up to $11,000.
  • Commercial motor vehicle drivers who text while driving have a 23% greater chance of a crash or near-crash.
  • Distracted driving now accounts for 16% of all traffic fatalities.

It would be untrue to say that cell phones are more dangerous than alcohol, which is still to blame for almost twice as many traffic deaths. However, unlike the risqué reputation that alcohol has earned over several decades, cell phones are seen as business and communication tools, and this underestimation is perhaps what makes them so dangerous.

When it comes to distracted driving, here is what you should be aware of:

Teenagers aren’t the only ones texting, contrary to what the media might make you believe. Yes, the population under 25 years of age send text messages more than their older counterparts. If you do not send text messages now, chances are that you will pick it up over the next five years. Just because you are not a teenager does not mean that you can ignore the warnings.

Know where to draw the line. Sending a quick message while at a red light is usually harmless, but this opens the door to sending a quick message while driving. Without knowing it, you can end up testing the limits of “safe texting” well beyond safe practices. It’s all about habits. Develop yours carefully.

Mobile phones are able to do more and more. Anything that draws your eyes away from the road is considered distracted driving. Checking sports scores. Reading emails. Watching YouTube videos. Checking Facebook. Playing Angry Birds. Plugging an address into your GPS app. Ever done any of these while driving? Don’t kid yourself. They’re all as distracting as texting.

What you can do. If you are a driver, set routines for yourself that help you avoid hefty fines and accidents on the roads. Set your GPS, check email and read your favorite Buckeyes blog before your truck is moving.

If you employ drivers, start by establishing guidelines and expectations. Consider investing in Bluetooth or headset units that allow a call to be answered verbally or with the push of a button. Make it clear to your drivers that illegal cell phone use may result in additional penalties from the company. Offer assistance, seminars or even something as simple as an open door to any drivers who ask for help in putting down the phone.

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.


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.