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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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2019 brought several proposed changes to Hours of Service Rules for truckers. Since then, those proposed HOS changes have been in a long review process with community input. Some of those same rules have already been modified under March’s Emergency Declaration to meet changing demands during COVID-19. Whether you love the changes or hate them, most of the updates from the end of last year are here to stay. 

The Final Rulings

There are four main changes that were added to the new HOS rules. Ultimately, the goal of each update is to improve safety and offer drivers more flexibility. On June 1, 2020, the final Hours of Service rule updates were released. The new HOS Ruling will officially take effect on September 29, 2020. Until then, the current HOS regulations from the Emergency Declaration will stay in place. 

“30-minute break” Flexibility

Before

The 30-minute break has been hotly debated among drivers since it was first issued. The FMCSA added the rule to improve safety, but it can force drivers to stop at inconvenient times. The old rules stated that drivers had to take a 30-minute break after 8 hours on duty. That time had to be logged as sleeper berth or off-duty. Many drivers don’t love the 30-minute break, but the new rules do bring some improvements.

Now

Under the updated Hours of Service Rule, drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving time. You can also now take your break as any combination of Off-Duty, Sleeper Berth, or On-Duty, Not Driving. It still has to be a continuous 30-minute break, but now there are more choices for how you can spend that time.

Split-Sleeper Berth

Before

We’ve voted this rule “Most Likely to Wish You Paid More Attention in Math Class.” The old version of the split-sleeper berth was pretty complicated. About Trucking does a good job explaining the details if you want the full picture. In a nutshell, drivers could split their sleeping time and were able to log driving time either before or after the break. Drivers then had to track how much time they had for the next shift and compare it to the 14-hour work shift clock. That might leave a driver with 5 hours of drive time available, but only 3 hours before hitting their maximum 14 hours. Ouch.

Now

Drivers can split their 10 off-duty hours into one period of 7+ hours in the sleeper berth and 2+ hours either off-duty or in the sleeper berth.

You can use that time for sleep or take advantage of the time to destress in other ways. Importantly, all breaks extend the 14-hour clock.

Whew. The mental math for hours just got easier. 

You may have seen the proposal for the “split-duty provision” aka the “14-hour pause” that was initially proposed. After hearing arguments on both sides, this update was ultimately not included in the final ruling due to safety concerns. 

Adverse Driving Conditions 

Before

Prior to the new Hours of Service rule, drivers were getting mixed messages about the policy for adverse driving conditions. Drivers could extend their drive time by up to 2 hours. That said, the 14-hour threshold was still a limiting factor. For example, even if your shipment got delayed due to unforeseen weather conditions and you were 30 minutes from delivering when you hit 14 hours, that’s where you had to stop. 

Now

Under the updated HOS rules, drivers can extend their drive time AND their 14-hour workday if needed. The extension can be no more than 2 hours but it gives drivers more flexibility in keeping their intended schedule. Even with the added time, pay close attention to road conditions and safety. If the weather gets really bad, make sure you know your rights as a driver.

Short Haul Exception

The Short Haul Exception applies only to CDL holders who run close to their home terminal AND do not run logbooks. If you don’t fit that description, this last update won’t affect you.

Before

The previous short haul rule stated that drivers who meet those criteria could drive a maximum of a 12-hour work shift and were limited to a radius of 100 miles from their terminal.

Now

The basic ideas behind the short haul exception have not changed. Instead, the time and radius maximums have been expanded. Drivers who meet the criteria of the short haul exception can now work 14 hours on-duty and with a radius of 150 miles. This rule won’t impact all drivers, but it may increase miles for anyone in this category.

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face masks

Cleaning supplies are hard to come by these days. Go to most grocery stores, and you’ll have a hard time finding disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, or protective face masks. For Americans staying home, that’s inconvenient, but soap, water, and some good old’ fashioned elbow grease will do the trick. For essential workers like truck drivers, going without these supplies is a significant health concern. Now, in some states, it’s also illegal. 

There is a lot of conflicting information being shared among the trucking community about face masks for truck drivers. When in doubt, the best thing you can do is to ask your company about their policies and what resources they offer. However, especially if you are driving OTR, it may be helpful to be familiar with the policies in multiple states. Here’s what you should know about face masks for truck drivers during COVID-19.

When to Wear a Face Mask

gas station

COVID-19 spreads most dramatically through person to person contact. Any time you are near other people, try to put 6 feet of distance between yourself and the other person. In any situation where it is difficult to maintain socially distancing practices, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends wearing a face mask.

For most truck drivers, that means that your risk when you’re alone in your cab is low, but a mask may still be required. Whenever you make contact with others, a mask is a must. That includes pumping fuel, going into a truck stop or gas station, picking up food, and being at a shipper/receiver.

Geographies with Specific Rules

There are some situations where you are required by law to wear a face mask. International border crossings are one of those times. If you are traveling between the United States and Canada or between the United States and Mexico, you are required to wear a mask for border crossings and while in transit. If you do not show any symptoms, you will typically be able to continue your route. However, if you display any symptoms, you may be required to stay in quarantine for 14 days. 

Similarly, in many of the states in hard-hit regions, truck drivers are required to wear a non-medical face mask. The penalties for failing to wear protective face equipment range from large fines to imprisonment.

As of April 24, the states that legally require truckers to wear a face mask include Connecticut, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. In addition, several states have cities or regions that require a face mask. 

States with at least one region requiring a face mask include North Carolina, California, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts.

As we understand more about COVID-19 and ways to reduce spread, mask regulations are becoming stricter. The list of states who legally require a face mask is likely to grow. To be confident that you are always within regulations, follow the CDC recommendation to wear a mask at all times when you are in public. 

Types of Face Masks

When face mask regulations are passed for truckers, you don’t need a medical-grade face mask. In fact, you’re expected not to. The best types of face masks are N95 respirators and surgical masks. Both of these types of masks are currently in short supply and are reserved for medical professionals. As a driver, you have a few other options that will help keep you safe and healthy. 

Bandanna or Similar Face Coverings

This is a great quick-fix option for drivers. A bandanna is easily folded and tied to cover your mouth and nose. It’s not medical quality, but it’s better than nothing and will slow the virus transmission. 

DIY Masks

You’ve probably already seen people wearing DIY face masks in everything from plain colors to crazy patterns. The beauty of a DIY version is that there are many effective ways to make one, and most people already have the materials needed. 

Cotton is the recommended material for face masks because it is a tight-knit fabric that reduces virus transmission. You can get cotton fabric squares, but an old t-shirt will also do the trick. The key to a good mask is multiple layers. The face mask should fit snugly but allow breathability. You can make a no-sew mask following this video from the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams. The CDC also has recommendations and instructions for a sewn version of the mask.

Get the most out of your face mask

When used correctly, a cloth face mask can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. In order to make sure you get the maximum benefit, wash your mask regularly. A washing machine is effective in sterilizing the fabric. Wash your hands before and after you put on or take off a mask, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth in the process.

The Bottom Line

The regulations for face mask requirements are changing rapidly. At a minimum, the CDC recommends that all Americans wear a mask in public. As a truck driver who travels between several locations, it’s best to be prepared. Keep a mask in your cab and plan to wear it when you go outside.

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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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rush hour traffic

Rush hour is dreaded by anyone who commutes on the road. Office workers will do anything to try and leave work early to beat the traffic. Since traffic is heavier, everything takes longer, and passenger vehicle drivers can get antsy. Truck drivers are all too aware that rush hour driving can get maddening. Unlike passenger vehicle drivers, CDL drivers are paid professionals who need to keep their wits about them to survive in rush hour traffic. Here are 3 tips for truck drivers to navigate rush hour traffic.

1. Remember following distance

Rush hour can be extremely frustrating with its pace of movement being so slow. Many drivers may be tempted to ride another vehicle’s rear in an effort to speed them along! Remember that this is probably not going to be effective. They’re in the same boat as you, and if they could move faster, they probably would. Maintaining close distance to the vehicle in front of you won’t speed things along, but it can be dangerous. Remember that trucks require a greater stopping distance between vehicles. It takes longer for trucks to stop and this can be dangerous for surrounding vehicles.

lambyWe talked to Lamby, an experienced truck driver, and she shared some great tips for navigating rush hour traffic. She said, “Give yourself at least two or three lines in between you and the car in front of you. Remember we’re bigger than them, so one wrong move and they’re toast.”

2. Take your time

Sure, it’s called rush hour, but that doesn’t mean you should have to rush. In fact, it will help truckers to take their time more. Truckers need to maintain a Zen-like calm, especially if everyone else on the road is feeling rushed. One wrong move by anyone could cause a crash.

Lamby shared, “Even though it’s named rush hour does not mean you rush. Take your time. Other people are stupid out there. You’re supposed to be the professional and paid for it, so you have a higher standard and license requirements. So just take your time, make sure before you make the turn that you double check, and you’ll be fine.”

Take your time to check your surroundings and anticipate where vehicles are moving. Use your turn signals, anticipate traffic patterns, and drive defensively. Don’t forget that trucks will have larger blind spots, or “no zones”. Other vehicles can be practically invisible to you if caught in your no-zone, so you need to know they exist before they get there.

3. Rush hour or rush hours?!

Just like the Jackie Chan movies, perhaps there are too many rush hours. Different regions or areas will have different start and end times to their rush hours.

Lamby shared, “Rush hour in any state always starts at 3:30 to 6:30 PM for night time in the morning we’ll always be from 4:30 to 7:30 AM. That’s what I’ve noticed out on the road, and I always try to either beat it by getting up earlier or parking it earlier if the load allows it.”

Anticipating the timing of rush hour traffic will help you be prepared for it, or help you avoid it.

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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

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Image from Zonar.