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cvsa safe driver week

Safe Driver Week is almost here! Coronavirus can’t keep trucks off the road, and it isn’t stopping the CVSA Safe Driver Week either. Mark your calendar for July 12-18, 2020. During the second full week of July, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance is hosting a week to turn a spotlight to safe driving practices. Each year, the CVSA picks an area of focus. This year, it’s speeding. Clearly, CMV safety is important every week of the year, but CVSA is using this week to nationally highlight safety in trucking.

Why is there a CVSA Safe Driver Week?

If you’re a truck driver hauling essential goods, you may be on the roads almost non-stop. You also might have noticed that most people aren’t driving as frequently. During COVID-19, roads have seen a lot less traffic than usual. It might seem like the roads should be safer during stay-at-home orders, but studies have shown that isn’t the case. There are fewer vehicles on the road, but unfortunately, some drivers are getting too relaxed with safety regulations on the open highways. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA), many regions are seeing a big spike in speeding. 

Here are just a few of the numbers from the GHSA:

  • Colorado, Indiana, Utah, and Nebraska have all recorded highway speeds over 100 mph
  • In Minnesota, motor vehicle crashes and fatalities are up more than 2X from a similar period last year. Half of those deaths were related to speeding or negligence
  • New York City has nearly doubled its number of speeding tickets issued in March compared to February of this year

It’s tempting to meet the open roads with an open throttle. Especially when the pressure to meet deadlines is high, a few extra miles per hour might not seem like a problem. But we also know that you care about your safety and your loved ones. The most important thing is to get home safely to them.

During safe driver week as well as the rest of the year, stay safe by practicing defensive driving. That includes regulating your speed and being proactive in poor weather conditions. Similarly, staying alert and well-rested, especially in work zones and other high activity areas helps keep you on the road. 

What Safe Driver Week Means for You

Throughout the week of July 12-18, law enforcement officials will be particularly watchful for drivers engaging in unsafe behavior.

The focus is on speeding, but there will be an increased awareness of other unsafe habits as well.

If officials identify a driver as engaging in unsafe behavior, they may issue a citation. Safe driver week is a national effort, so truckers should be aware whether you’re local, regional, or OTR. Pay close attention to changing speed limits as you drive between states or in and out of cities. 

How to Avoid Citations

The CVSA Safe driver week is focused on speeding this year, but enforcement officers will also have a sharp eye for other violations. Avoid following other vehicles too closely, improper lane changes, and follow traffic signs carefully.

Some of the most obvious reasons to pull someone over are visual ones.

Keep your smartphone away and your eyes on the road. It’s easy to notice when someone is texting or talking on a handheld phone while driving. Both are illegal in many states. Another easily spotted violation? Seatbelt use. Belt up while you’re on the road and you’ll be safer and less likely to get pulled over. 

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Night Driving

Most drivers will put in their fair share of night truck driving at some point in their careers. Depending on what you drive, night shifts might be your normal routine, or you might drive them only once in a while.

There are several perks to night driving, but it also can be more dangerous. Three times more crashes happen at night than during the day. If you’re headed out for a late shift, here are 7 things you need to know about night truck driving.

1. Your body’s natural rhythms are at a lull in the middle of the night.

Typically, your energy and alertness will drop in the early morning hours. This is particularly true for drivers who don’t typically drive at night.

Consistency along with a good diet and exercise helps your body adjust to a night driving schedule and helps you get the good sleep you need during the day.

If you need a good audiobook to keep you alert on the road, check out our top 10 list.

2. Your visibility is weakened at night.

Unfortunately, humans just don’t have amazing night vision. At night, your peripheral vision will not be as good, and you can’t see as far ahead of you on the road. That makes it hard to see animals who jump out at the last minute. It also means your response time to other drivers and events on the road is likely to be a little slower. Leave yourself extra space whenever possible.

3. Traffic is usually lighter.

Much of the world works a 9-5 job, so if you’re night driving, you will rarely have a problem with traffic. Even congested urban areas are often not a problem when you’re night driving. That said, the other drivers who are out are also at a low point of alertness. Keep your distance and drive defensively. You never know what other kinds of drivers are on the road.

4. Deliveries can be more dangerous.

At night, there are fewer people around, and you’re more likely to run into bad characters. Some drivers say this is especially true in urban areas when you’re making a delivery. Use your street smarts and if you’re traveling to a new area, try to learn what you can about the drop before you go. 

5. You’re on your own when night truck driving.

Most dispatchers and customers aren’t operating 24/7. Typically, that means less after-hours assistance if you run into trouble or need last minute directions to your client.

If you’re an independent driver who loves being self-reliant, you’ll love the self-sufficiency.

It’s on you to solve your own problems and get the job done. Keep a few essential tools in your cab, and you’ll be good to go.

6. Parking options are better.

Night drivers aren’t competing for parking in the same way that other drivers have to in the day. Most of the time, you won’t need to dock early or plan your route around the places you know you can stop. That can be a huge time saver (not to mention the headache you avoid!). If you do need to look for parking or gas, try TruckerPath or GasBuddy to get you where you need to go.

7. Keep your windshield, headlights, and mirrors clean.

Glare can be a big problem for night truck driving. Luckily, a little glass cleaner and elbow grease usually does the trick.

Reducing glare from your mirrors and windshield will go a long way toward keeping your night vision.

Similarly, try not to look closely at oncoming traffic. The bright white lights will temporarily impair your vision. Look slightly down and to the right (or at the white road line) to avoid the negative effects.

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Dangers of being a Truck Driver

Truck driving, like any profession, has risks. There are steps you can take to reduce the dangers of being a truck driver. The best rule of thumb? Think it through before you take action. Sounds simple, but taking an extra moment to slow down often makes a big difference. Even pausing for a few seconds can be enough to clear your head and really think through your choices. Here are the top 8 dangers of being a truck driver.

1. Driving tired or distracted

In 2007, the FMCSA did a study to determine causation of CDL Accidents. The number one cause? Driving tired or distracted. These two categories made up 40% of accidents that were labeled with a critical reason. Nearly half of the large truck accidents may have been preventable by extra sleep or improved focus. Need more convincing to get your sleep? As you’ve likely experienced, driving tired often leads to more distracted driving. Even 1 extra hour or a few 20 minute power naps can have a big impact on your ability to calmly make decisions on the road or to notice all the details of the road conditions

The FMCSA is exploring changes to HOS rules that would allow drivers flexibility to split their 10 hours in the sleeping berth however they want (within reason). The FMCSA is expected to share additional information as soon as the next six months.

As a driver, the best thing you can do is prioritize your sleep. Know your limits, and pull off when you need to. If you’re feeling sleepy, drink water and take a short break if you can. A short slow down will let you keep driving safely in the long run and reduce one of the biggest dangers of being a truck driver.

2. Driving too fast for conditions

All professional drivers know that the weather and road conditions can have a big impact on your route. There is a lot of pressure to meet drop times and make the most of your miles. It’s easy to tell yourself that going a little faster won’t be a problem. It’s much harder to convince yourself to slow down and carefully evaluate the conditions.

Road conditions are one of the dangers of being a truck driver that you can’t control. But, you can control how you react.

More experience and time on the road will sharpen your ability to assess the roads and traffic to make safe driving decisions. 

3. Avoid unsafe areas at bad times and stay alert in truck yards and loading docks

As any seasoned driver knows, there are some places you just don’t want to visit outside of daylight hours. Of course, as a seasoned driver also knows, you don’t always know where those areas are, especially when you’re driving new routes. As a general rule, spending nights at the shipper or consignees lots is safer than most truck stops. If you are driving somewhere new or you don’t know the area, call ahead by a few hours. The receivers can tell you if it’s safe to park and sleep there or if it’s a “daylight only” situation. If the area isn’t safe enough for a sleep stop, calling ahead should give you enough time to find somewhere nearby that is safe to rest.

4. Always do a circle check

Circle checks are a small step that can save a lot of time and energy later. Sure, spending 20 minutes on a walk around every time might seem like a pain, but it’s saving you much larger headaches down the road. A circle check is meant to inspect your rig for any damage or issues that need attention before departure. Want to make sure you’re covering all the steps? Smart Trucking has a good basic guide to the D.O.T. pre-trip inspection to make sure you get where you need to go without any surprise maintenance issues. 

5. Use the buddy system for some repairs

Getting pinned under a rig is enough to give any cdl driver second thoughts about the job. Luckily, it’s preventable.

If you have repairs to make under the trailer, bring a partner. They can immediately assist if something goes wrong.

Be particularly careful when pinning up. Now, there are some repairs you may feel comfortable taking on by yourself. A word to the wise. Unless you’re a properly trained mechanic, don’t mess with the brake chambers. Let a professional mechanic take care of any problems with the brake chambers, and you’ll thank yourself later. 

6. Use caution on trailer decks and loads

It’s tempting to climb up the back of your rig. You might just be going up for a quick fix after all. It’s easy to use that logic, but the consequences can be terrible. One slip or fall from your rig can lead to serious injuries.

Instead, carry a ladder with you when possible or wait to climb until you have the proper equipment. Use extra caution on trailer decks and if you’re standing on a load, especially for with a flatbed truck. 

7. Open your doors one at a time in case your load has shifted

moving truck with white boxes in a garage

Even when you have checked your load before departure, things may shift while you’re driving. The vast majority of the time, you could open both doors of your trailer at once and there would be no problem. But, Murphy’s law says that the one time your load will shift is when you have the heaviest haul.

Save yourself the problem. Open doors one door at a time. That guarantees that your load won’t fall out if things have shifted in transit.

8. Other drivers

In a perfect world, we would all be responsible for our own safe driving. Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect and we all share the road with a lot of other drivers.

Other drivers are one of the big dangers of being a truck driver. Be alert to your surroundings and the other vehicles around you.

As a professional driver, you’re much more aware of passenger vehicles than most of them are of you. That said, these drivers (and other cdl drivers) can be a danger to you on the road. While there are likely more than a few driving tips you’d like to give to passenger vehicles on sharing the road, you have to watch out for yourself. Pay attention to your surroundings and leave plenty of space between vehicles. 

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daylight savings time tips

There are only a few things you can count on to happen every single spring. Changing weather, taxes, and Daylight Savings Time. We can’t do much for the weather, and hopefully your taxes are already in progress (or will be soon!). As for Daylight Savings Time, mark your calendar for Sunday, March 8. The official change happens at 2:00 AM on March 8. This time of year we’re all “springing forward,” so we lose one hour during the night. 

Daylight Savings Time impacts all drivers on the road and it’s more important than ever to be alert. Start planning now so you’re ready to handle the HOS difference if you’re driving at night or to hit the road refreshed when you wake up on Sunday. Here are the places where Daylight Savings Time has the biggest impact and some Daylight Savings Time tips.

1. Sleep

sleeping puppy

As a driver, you may already feel tired and road weary, especially near the end of a shift. And that’s not to mention that your hours may not exactly fit within a “9-5 job.” With this in mind, even a one hour difference can seriously throw off your natural body rhythms. 

To help yourself adjust, consider eating your last meal an hour earlier and trying to fit in an “extra” hour of sleep. Be particularly careful about phone time on March 8. Turning off that screen at least an hour before you plan to go to bed will help your body go to sleep more easily. And when you wake up in the morning, try not to drink too much extra caffeine. It might temporarily boost that alert feeling, but it will be harder for your body to adjust in the long run. Instead, boost your energy by drinking extra water and adding a quick workout or stretch when you stop. 

2. Safety

Daylight Savings Time affects everyone on the road. Sleeping one hour less means that everyone is also less alert. It takes most of us about a week to adjust to the time change, not just one day. Accidents increase by just over 6% for the week following the start of Daylight Savings Time in the Spring. Even if you’re a very safe driver with a clean record, leave a little extra space on the road during that second week of March and practice good driving habits

3. Plan Ahead

These Daylight Savings Time tips are all about preparation. Make a point of marking the date on a calendar. Before you go to sleep before the time change:

  • Make sure you set your clock ahead. Cell phones will typically do this automatically, but manually reset your other clocks. 
  • Double check your route. Not all states observe Daylight Savings, so look at your whole route if you’re driving OTR.
  • Review your pickup times, delivery times, and ETA.

A little planning ahead of time will make sure that you’re up and driving without any slowdowns on Sunday morning. 

4. ELDs

Most ELDs now automatically take care of DST, but you may find that you need to work an “extra” hour. Or, if you’re on your break when the clocks change, you’ll resume an hour “later” than you would. Remember, hours of service rules still apply. 

For example, if you have a night shift from 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM, your log will show that you worked a 7 hour shift. If you start a 10 hour break at 8:00 PM on Saturday, you will have to finish your break at 7:00 AM on Sunday morning because of Daylight Savings Time.

If you are exempt from using an ELD, make sure you understand your employer’s expectation on logging hours ahead of time.

 

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great truck driver

Whether you’ve recently begun your CDL trucking journey, or you’ve been driving for 20 years, you probably have the goal of being a great truck driver. Truckers enjoy the freedom and independence that the road brings, and along with it the opportunity to really succeed at the job and strive for improvement. Drivers know that nothing beats the pride and dignity that comes from a job well done, and the knowledge that you’re doing honest work to provide for themselves and their families. Whether you’re a rookie driver or a veteran, there’s always room for improvement. Here are five secrets to becoming a great truck driver.

1. Safety

Veteran drivers all keep coming back to this point: safety is a driver’s number one priority. Truck driving can be a dangerous job considering freight and road safety. Drivers are responsible for maintaining the safety of their freight, themselves, and other motorists on the road. Remember that other drivers may not be familiar with the challenges and differences in driving a truck, so you may have to go out of your way to ensure their safety as well. Safety also involves having a good mechanical aptitude in case you need to troubleshoot equipment issues while on the road.

Truly great drivers take their safety department’s concerns seriously and do the due diligence to maintain safety.

Pre- and post-trip inspections form the backbone of safety, but it can and should go much beyond that. Maintaining a safe and accident-free record will also clear the path for continued professional success with that carrier. If you’re hoping to switch to another carrier or become an owner-operator one day, a strong safety record will be essential.

2. Build relationships

Truck driving is often considered to be a solo gig- it’s just you and the open road. But drivers are actually in constant communication with others, whether it is dispatchers, fleet managers, or other drivers. You’ll also interact with shippers and receivers, and other reps from your own carrier or others.

The secret is that you need all these people in your corner to be successful.

So, a truly great truck driver seeks to build relationships with all these colleagues.

No man is an island, and no one does it alone, so seek to build a network of people you can communicate and work well with. Always strive to be courteous and respectful to everyone and try to be easy to work with. While trucking can be challenging, avoid projecting your negativity on colleagues since it may come back to bite you. In addition, great drivers need to avoid negativity from others impacting them, since the job is too important to be affected by someone’s bad attitude.

health3. Prioritize health

Great drivers are the ones who don’t let the challenges of the job negatively impact their health and lifestyle. It’s no secret that truck driving is considered an unhealthy profession. Between the schedule challenges and sitting behind the wheel for hours at a time, it can take a toll on the mind and body.

Great truck drivers know that these aren’t excuses to neglect their mental and physical health.

Truck drivers can take simple measures to improve their diet and find time to exercise regularly. Some drivers cook in their cabins, or find small snacks to continually munch on, instead of relying on the greasy truck stop food. Similarly, finding about 15 minutes to exercise everyday can make a big difference in a truck driver’s lifestyle. Not having access to a gym shouldn’t be a problem since many exercises can be done in or around your truck, or in parking lots. While a trucker’s schedule is rarely regular, making sure you get proper sleep will help keep you alert and allow the body to rest and mind to feel fresh. Great truck drivers are the ones who are happier because they found a way to prioritize health despite the obstacles.

Free Resource: Guide to Maintaining a Diet

Tips and recipes that are easy for truck drivers to make on the road.

 

4. Professional attitude

The difference between a good truck driver and a great truck driver probably boils down just to attitude. Companies are looking to hire drivers who have certain characteristics. They want to make sure drivers can be reliable, responsible, honest, and work hard.

However good a driver’s record, credentials, or skills are, there’s no substitute for good character.

Keeping this in mind, make sure you’re always on time. Being reliable shows everyone that you take the scheduling seriously and can be depended on to make deliveries on time. Timeliness will also shine through when you’re looking to get promotions or raises or looking for a better driving job elsewhere.

A professional attitude also means not complaining too much, or at least too loudly and to the wrong people. While trucking can be frustrating, complaining to your colleagues only reflects poorly on yourself instead of anyone else. Find a different outlet for complaining about work and maintain a professional attitude to distinguish yourself from other drivers. Working hard means sometimes taking the appealing runs or working extra when no one else can. Yes, it’s a sacrifice and you can’t do it every time. But whenever you do take that extra step, it will be noticed and will probably help in the future. Truck driving has become a more professional job, whether the general public realizes it or not. Treat yourself with respect and dignity, and maintain a professional attitude through all the troubles, and others will probably do the same.

parenting tips5. Don’t forget life outside of trucking

Here’s a big secret to becoming a great truck driver: don’t think of trucking all the time. Work-life balance is important in any profession, and it’s no different for truck drivers.

In fact, there’s more of a risk that trucking can become all-consuming, so it’s important to know when to hit the metaphorical brakes and rest.

Great truck drivers make sure that they find enough time to spend with their families. Even while away from home, you can Skype with the kids or enjoy a virtual date night with your partner. Finding a job with good home time will allow you to take a break from trucking, refuel and energize, and then return.

Even while on the road, great truckers will find hobbies to engage in. Some truckers like photography or cooking. Others have gotten into reading or audiobooks. Some others are passionate about travel or exercise.

Whatever your passion is, don’t leave it by the wayside just because you’re a truck driver.

Engaging in hobbies and leisure will help ensure a sound body and mind for work-life balance. Not only will you reset and forget the stresses of the job, but you’ll be better prepared for them when you get back to work. Remember: trucking isn’t everything!

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Now that the holiday season is here, more and more vehicles are clogging the nation’s roadways, presenting an even tougher job for truck drivers on the road.  Zonar, a producer of smart fleet management technology, has compiled a list of the 10 most dangerous roads you should consider avoiding this time of year – and even the rest the year.

During the holiday season, there are about 36% more vehicles on the road, according to Zonar. Most of the increased traffic is made up of passenger cars (23%), delivery fleets (10%), and people-carriers, such as buses (3%), according to Zonar.  Winter weather and decreased daylight add to the stress of holiday travel. All this makes it even more dangerous for truck drivers.

Knowing which stretches of road are the most dangerous for trucks can help potentially decrease your chances of getting into an accident and help keep other drivers safe – by adjusting routes or schedules, varying driving times and loads, or increasing inspections and checkpoints.  And, you might be surprised to find that that there are roads list from every region of the country

According to the DOT, here’s a list based on total accident volume between 2013 -2016:

  1. I-10 in Alabama
  2. I-95 in Florida
  3. HWY-75 in Idaho
  4. I-40 in Arkansas
  5. US-1 in Florida
  6. M-20 in Michigan
  7. I-80 Nebraska
  8. HWY-5 in Colorado
  9. I-70 in Maryland
  10. SC-35 South Carolina

For more great articles like this and to get matched with jobs that fit your lifestyle, create a free driver profile on our site.

Image from Zonar.