Thursday, December 26, 2013

Winter Weather Advisory

An advisory from our local ambulance service:

Winter Weather Advisory

This time of year, we want to remind you that, should you slide off the road, if it's at all possible, stay in your vehicle.

If, for some reason, you can't stay in your vehicle, whatever you do, don't follow your tracks back to the highway.

We see it every year: if it's slippery enough that you slid off, then the next person coming along will probably slide off as well and run right into you.
We also implore you to use other common sense measures when traveling in this weather.

  • Keep blankets in your car
  • Make sure your cell phone is charged.
  • Flares if you can deploy them safely

Be careful, be safe.  

We don't want to meet you by accident.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Following Distance

Trucks, because of their weight, require more time and distance to stop than cars. Therefore, establishing and maintaining a proper following distance is important to your safety.

To avoid being involved in a following distance accident, always remain seven seconds behind the vehicle you are following. To do this, use a mark on the side of the road. When the vehicle in front of you passes the mark, count "one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three" until you reach one thousand seven. Do not pass the mark before you have counted to one thousand seven.

Once this distance is established, maintain it.

Other simple following rules are:

Slow down when using your low beams and increase your following distance.

Use the seven-second following distance cushion (count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005, 1006, 1007).

Pay attention! Know what is going on around you.

When you see traffic slowing ahead of you, slow down.

When you are driving in heavy traffic, the safest speed is the speed of the other vehicles.

Be alert! Expect unexpected slowdowns. Be prepared to stop.

Keep your eyes moving! Know what the traffic is doing on all sides of you.

Because of the size of your truck, it takes longer for you to come to a complete stop.

Keep a safe following distance!



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Getting Ready for Winter

Dear Driver,

Winter means different things depending upon where you are driving. In the South it may bring rain and fog, while in the Northeast, Midwest, and mountainous regions it means snow, ice, and slippery roads. Wherever you go, it means reduced visibility and reduced traction.

What a lot of people don't know is that a majority of the accidents do not happen during the winter months, they happen in favorable conditions. Drivers often don't associate as many risks with pleasant conditions, even though the risks are still there. As risk increases, drivers become more alert and are all-around better drivers. Here are some simple tips to help you on your winter trips.

Begin with a "walk around", checking your tires, wipers, fluids, radiator, and heating system. Also try to keep your handholds and steps as dry as possible to prevent a potential slip or fall.

SLOW DOWN! Increase your following distance by seven to nine seconds to aid in braking time and visibility problems of flying snow, ice, or slush. Excessive speed for conditions is the most common cause of accidents in bad weather.

Place as much weight over the drive axle as legally possible to help reduce spinning of drive wheels.

Make sure to take extra care shifting on inclines and declines so you don't lock-up or spin your wheels.

Always expect the unexpected. Look further ahead in traffic to help avoid a situation where you have to make a quick move.

Use your low beams to minimize the glare and hypnotic effect of the falling snow.

Finally, remember to dress warm or have extra clothes with you. If you have a cell phone, make sure that the cell phone is fully charged.

Winter is usually a family time for all of us. It's well worth it for all us to take that extra safety step so we can make it home safely.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Getting Top MPGs in the Winter

As we are all aware, winter is getting closer and closer each day, if it has not already found you. You can never be too ready for it. Here are some of the top tips for fleets and drivers to manage the changes that winter will bring.


Maintenance – Ensure your vehicles are up to date on their preventative maintenance. Oil changes, fluid checks, brake checks, tire checks and ensuring your batteries are supplying the proper amount of power in the cold. Performing the maintenance ahead of time will ensure your vehicles stay operational on the road.


Fuel – Diesel tends to gel when it gets really cold. Take the time to treat your fuel with an anti-gel additive, and/or minimize the water vapor that collects at the bottom of the fuel tank by keeping your tanks at least half full.


Plan and be Prepared – Plan your trips and stops ahead of time. Stay informed about what the weather might do on your trip. Also ensure you have supplies with you in case of an unexpected situation.


Increased Idling Possibility – On cold winter days and nights you have the potential to see an increase in idle to provide heating or to ensure the truck won’t go into a state where it will not start. This is something to be aware of if you are not using an alternative power unit as a source to provide heat, or other alternative methods to keep the engine and fuel warm.

Tire Pressure – Extreme temperature changes can cause drastic tire pressure fluctuation. Remember to check your tire pressure several times a month. Improperly inflated tires can reduce critical gripping action when you need it the most.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

One Mile in Five: Debunking the Myth

by Richard F. Weingroff

Editor's Note: In the following article, we let the Federal Highway Administration's "unofficial historian" get something off his chest. He needed to vent.

I don't know if 10 percent of the Russian government's income comes from the sale of vodka. I don't know if a cow can go upstairs, but not downstairs. And I certainly don't know if a duck's quack doesn't echo.

But I do know the following statement is false: The Eisenhower Interstate Highway System requires that one mile in every five must be straight. These straight sections are usable as airstrips in times of war or other emergencies.

False though it is, this "fact" has become a fixture of Internet Web sites with names such as "You Probably Didn't Know That ..." and "Weird Fact Heaven."

For a historian, even an unofficial one, who believes that a fact should be, by definition, factual, what is particularly frustrating is that everyone seems to know this "fact." People — including those whose eyes glaze over if I even mention Gen. Roy Stone1 or the vitally important statewide highway surveys of the mid-1930s2 — get a twinkle in their eye when I mention the Interstate Highway System. "Did you know," they say to me cheerily as I grit my teeth, "that one in every five miles ..."

When that happens, I feel like the staffer at the information desk of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum who told me the most frequently asked question she receives is, "Where's the rest room?" Like her, I try to reply patiently without rolling my eyes or groaning, and I try not to give the impression I've heard this "fact" once or twice or maybe a hundred times before.

As with Dracula, it is very difficult to put a stake through the heart of this "fact." It's like the "urban myths" we have all heard — untrue things that people nevertheless believe. For example, that alligators thrive in our sewer systems. Now there are "Internet myths" — untrue claims that bounce around the Internet like juicy gossip with reality never having a hope of catching up with them. That's what happened with the one-out-of-five claim about airplane use of the Interstate Highway System. (Next, it will probably show up on the ABC game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?," where 20 million people will see it — maybe as the $200 question.)

I have no idea where the one-out-of-five claim originated. Perhaps it is giving too much credit to whoever originated this "fact" to suggest that it began with a misreading of history. Under a provision of the Defense Highway Act of 1941, the Army Air Force and the Public Roads Administration (PRA), now the Federal Highway Administration, operated a flight strip program. In a 1943 presentation to the American Association of State Highway Officials, Commissioner of Public Roads Thomas H. MacDonald explained how it worked.

"A flight strip consists of one runway, laid down in the direction of the prevailing wind, and a shelter with telephone for the custodians at the site and for itinerant flyers in an emergency. Fuel storage facilities are not provided unless airplanes are based there permanently. Instead, oil companies will keep stocks of aviation gasoline at gas stations along the highway and truck it to the flight strip as it is needed."

The flight strips were designed for easy access to public highways and to provide unmistakable landmarks that could be followed easily by a pilot. Flight strips varied in size. The smallest — 150 feet (46 meters) wide and 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) long with the length increased by 500 feet (152 meters) for each 1,000 feet (305 meters) of elevation — were designed for tactical aircraft such as medium bombers. A larger flight strip could accommodate heavy bombers such as the B-17 and B-24, while still larger strips were designed for heavier classes of aircraft.

The benefits weren't expected to be entirely military. As MacDonald explained, "The close coordination of our highways and airways is becoming a vital necessity to assist the economic growth of this country."

In that spirit, Congress considered including a flight strip program in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 — the law that authorized designation of a "National System of Interstate Highways." However, the 1944 act did not include the flight strip program.

Some references to the one-out-of-five "law" attribute it to the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The 1956 act launched the Interstate Highway Program by creating the Highway Trust Fund as a funding mechanism and by committing the federal government to build what became the 42,800-mile (68,880-kilometer) Eisenhower Interstate Highway System (now essentially complete). President Dwight D. Eisenhower fully supported the Interstate Highway System as vital to our economy, safety, relief of congestion, and defense. However, he didn't propose a one-out-of-five-mile rule, and Congress didn't include such a requirement in the 1956 Act. The one-out-of-five rule was not part of any later legislation either.

OK, OK, I sense eyes glazing over again. Readers are probably thinking, "Brace yourself. He's going to mention Gen. Roy Stone again."

Don't panic. Here's the end of this article.

In the hope that this article will find its way into Public Roads and Public Roads Online and will be seen by Internet surfers, I will conclude by saying that, for all I know, there are 293 ways to make change for a dollar, snails can sleep for three years without eating, and an ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain. BUT NO LAW, REGULATION, POLICY, OR SLIVER OF RED TAPE REQUIRES THAT ONE OUT OF FIVE MILES OF THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM MUST BE STRAIGHT.

Trust me on that. Please!

Editor's Note: Mr. Weingroff reports that his blood pressure improved considerably shortly after writing this article.

Richard F. Weingroff, who works in the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Infrastructure, is an information liaison specialist who also doesn't like being asked, "So what the heck is an information liaison specialist anyway?"

1For those readers who don't know who Gen. Roy Stone is, don't worry. It never comes up in conversation.

2 These surveys were very important because they provided the ... oh, never mind.

Article reprinted from the Federal Highway Administration's January/February 2001 issue of Public Roads.

Monday, October 28, 2013

What is the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP)?

Have you ever heard of the Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP)? The PSP is a driver screening tool that allows motor carriers and individual drivers to purchase DOT roadside inspection records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS). Records are available 24 hours a day via the PSP website:
A record purchased through the PSP for an individual driver contains the most recent five years of DOT Recordable crash data regardless of driver fault (crash involving a human fatality; disabling damage to any motor vehicle requiring a tow away; or bodily injury with immediate medical treatment away from the scene) and the most recent three years of DOT roadside inspection data (citations and/or warnings for unsafe driving violations; hours-of-service violations; driver fitness violations; drug/alcohol violations; vehicle maintenance violations; hazardous materials violations).
Motor carriers are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to obtain each driver’s Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) prior to hire and are recommended to request PSP records for the purpose of conducting more thorough pre-employment screening. Motor carriers must receive an applicant’s written consent prior to obtaining the PSP.

Individual drivers may purchase their own PSP record at any time, for a fee of $10. You can do so by visiting

The FMCSA believes that making this driver data available to motor carriers will help them make more informed decisions when hiring commercial motor vehicle drivers. Motor carriers now have full access to a driver’s safety performance from roadside inspections and DOT Recordable accident involvement, holding drivers more accountable for their actions than ever before. In addition, motor carriers can verify if drivers are falsifying their employment applications by not listing previous employers that are listed on the PSP.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CVSA’s Operation Safe Driver Set for Oct 20-26

 During the week of Oct. 20-26, 2013, law enforcement agencies across North America will engage in stepped up traffic safety enforcement aimed at unsafe driving behaviors, particularly distracted driving by both commercial motor vehicle and passenger vehicle drivers, as part of Operation Safe Driver.

The program is sponsored by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, in partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and support from a number of other organizations.

Last year during this week-long mobilization effort, law enforcement officials engaged with more than 40,000 commercial and passenger vehicle drivers at 1,245 locations across the United States and Canada. This year’s enforcement blitz will be comparable.

Nearly 4,000 people are killed and 100,000 others are injured in large truck and bus crashes each year on the highways, according to CVSA. Many are the direct consequence of aggressive and unsafe driving by truck and bus drivers, as well as the passenger car drivers operating unsafely around them. This fatality figure equates to more deaths than a 737 airplane crashing every two weeks for a year.

Operation Safe Driver was launched in 2007 by CVSA, in partnership with the FMCSA, to address the problem of improving the behavior of all drivers operating in an unsafe manner—either by, or around, commercial vehicles—and to initiate educational and enforcement strategies to address those exhibiting high risk behaviors.

Friday, October 18, 2013


Approaching the truck, note it’s general appearance: does it lean to one side (suspension problems); is there any apparent body damage; are there any puddles of fluid on the ground underneath? If any of these things are seen, investigate more closely to find the cause of the problem.

A walkaround inspection of the following items is required to complete the inspection (a flashlight, gloves, and a rag or paper towel may be necessary to complete the walkaround inspection):

Front of the truck

  1. Lights-lenses clean and clear, no burned out bulbs
  2. Windshield-no cracks, clean, not obstructed
  3. Windshield wipers-good rubber, proper spring tension
  4. Grill opening not obstructed
  5. License plate on and current
  6. Engine compartment
  7. All fluid levels-oil, coolant, power steering fluid
  8. Drive belts
  9. No leaks of oil, coolant, or other fluids
  10. All hoses and air lines-no damage or leaks
  11. Frame and driveline
  12. Frame-no cracks, no missing bolts
  13. Driveshaft-not damaged, u-joints not loose
  14. Catwalk secure and safe
  15. Fuel tanks and lines-secure, no damage, no leaks, cap secure, water separator drained
  16. Air tanks-secure, not damaged, no air leaks, moisture drained


  1. Suspension-no broken or cracked springs, loose hangers, missing leaves
  2. Brakes-no air leaks, no damaged or leaking lines, proper adjustment, adequate lining, drum not damaged
  3. Wheels-not bent or cracked, lug nuts tight
  4. Tires-adequate tread depth in all major grooves, no cuts in tread or sidewalls, proper air pressure
  5. Hubs-no leaks of oil or grease, proper oil level in oil seals


  1. Fifth wheel-not loose or damaged, tightly mounted
  2. Locking lever-locked in position, will release properly
  3. Locking jaws-locked in place around kingpin
  4. Sliding fifth wheel-proper position, locked in place

Back of tractor

  1. Air lines-good connections, no damage to lines
  2. Electrical line-not damaged, tightly connected
  3. Reflectors in place, not damaged
  4. Lights-all working, lenses clear and clean


  1. Air lines-tightly hooked, glad hand rubbers in place, not dragging or rubbing
  2. Electrical line-tightly connected, no damage, not dragging or rubbing
  3. No body damage
  4. No frame or crossmember damage
  5. Axles and brakes checked as on tractor
  6. Lights in place and working
  7. Load-properly secured and protected
  8. ICC bumper secure and at right height
  9. Mud flaps in place and at right height
  10. Landing gear-secure, no damage, properly retracted, crank handle secured
  11. License plate on and secure

In Cab Checks

  1. Steps and grab handles-secure and clean
  2. Doors-secure and operate properly
  3. Emergency equipment-3 safety triangles, properly charged and secured fire extinguisher, spare fuses if truck is so equipped
  4. Mirrors-secure, clean, properly adjusted, not broken or clouded, mirror heat working
  5. Horns-working
  6. Engine Start Checks
  7. All gauges functioning properly
  8. Oil pressure and coolant temperature rise to normal pressures
  9. Air pressure rising, and low air warning on, if pressure is below normal range
  10. 4-point air brake check-air governor cutoff, air loss under full brake application, low air warning system, automatic spring brake activation
  11. Parking brake-holds truck when pulled against in first gear
  12. Steering play-no more than 10 degrees of movement at steering wheel rim before wheels start to turn
  13. Heater and defroster working properly
  14. Seat properly adjusted
  15. Seatbelt in working order, and on, when truck is in motion
  16. All gear in cab, and sleeper, secured and not blocking vision or controls

If any defective item is found, report it immediately so it can be repaired.

If you are not checking all of these items in your pre-trip inspection, you are writing yourself a ticket. More importantly, you are operating a vehicle that is not safe.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sideswipe/Lane Change Accidents

There are many types of hazards that a semi-driver must identify on a daily basis. Two of the most serious and severe driving hazards are those caused by drivers making abrupt lane changes or improper lane usage. There are many reasons why drivers enter into the wrong lane or make abrupt lane shifts but as a defensive driver, we must learn how to identify areas where increased risks for these types of accidents occur. In 88% of opposite direction sideswipe accidents, the passenger vehicle was the striking vehicle and in 72% of the same direction sideswipe accidents, the passenger vehicle was the striking vehicle. According to this information, we need to develop the skills to prevent ourselves from becoming involved in a lane change/sideswipe accident whether the other driver strikes you or you are found at fault.

Lane changing accidents happen when you are unable to see clearly around your vehicle and sideswipe other vehicles while changing lanes. As a rule, you should keep your vehicle in the far right lane of a multiple lane highway. But there are times when you may choose to change lanes -- to overtake extremely slow moving vehicles or to enter or exit the highway. When you do change lanes, it must be done safely. The risk of a sideswipe or lane change accident goes up every time it is necessary for you to change lanes.

Remember, if you are found to be at fault for a sideswipe or lane change accident, it will be considered a preventable accident.


What are some common reasons for a driver causing a lane change accident to occur?

  • Not checking and rechecking the mirrors to ensure that there is proper clearance.
  • Not properly using the turn signal.
  • Using the turn signal but the maneuver happens as the signal is turned on.
  • Not shifting lanes and allowing other drivers to enter the roadway (i.e. from on-ramp).
  • Having a blown or broken turn lamp on the vehicle.
  • Fatigue.
  • Inexperience or unfamiliarity with roadway.
  • Distraction.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
What are some common reasons for drivers to drift or enter into the opposite lane?

  • Poor visibility – accidents occur when a driver cannot see the markings on the roadway due to adverse weather conditions such as fog, rain, snow, sun in eyes, or ice.
  • Roadway obstruction – accidents occur when a driver must shift lanes due to an obstruction such as a parked vehicle or construction equipment.
  • Traveling too fast – accidents are caused by poor judgment and improper speed control (not following posted limits) usually around tight curves or corners.
  • Narrow lanes – accidents occur because drivers have minimal room for error/control in these areas.
  • Driver distraction – accidents occur because of the reduced visualization when taking one’s eyes off of the road. Example: Dropping an item on the floorboard and reaching to pick it up, typing a satellite message, talking on a cellular phone, lighting a cigarette, turning the channel on the radio, etc.
  • Improper passing – when a driver must enter into the opposite lane in order to pass a slower moving vehicle without ensuring adequate passing power and sufficient distancing.

 Here are some points to remember when using the Interstate System or any multi-lane roadway with  limited access.
1.       Properly adjust your mirrors during your pre-trip inspection. Use a mirror check station if possible.

2.       When entering a multi-lane highway, blend in, MERGE, don't use your size and weight to "bully" your way into traffic.

3.       When driving on multi-lane roads ALWAYS use your turn signals before you change lanes. Flash your turn signal at least three times before moving the steering wheel to change lanes.

4.       Whenever possible drive in the right-hand lane except when passing. After completing a passing move, make certain that you see the vehicle you just passed in your right mirror and to the rear of your vehicle before returning to the right lane.

5.       Be especially alert when passing the entrance to a controlled access highway. A vehicle entering the highway on your right may not be seen and if you attempt a lane change an accident could result.

6.       Keep your eyes moving from the front, to the right mirror, back to the front, to the left mirror, back to the front, and so on. If there was a vehicle behind you in the right lane and it's no longer there, find our where it went before attempting any lane change. If you are in the left lane, chances are that vehicle is attempting to pass you to the right and is now sitting at your passenger door.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Weighing Your Load and Overweight Loads

Overweight loads cause many problems:
  • They are hard on equipment.
  • They cost money in the form of fines and extra maintenance.
  • They cost time that it takes to get the problems they cause straightened out.
Bill of Lading weights cannot be depended on to give you the actual shipping weight of the load. Your company cannot afford overweight tickets and fines, and neither can you. The solution is simple: Weigh your load!
 Follow these steps to insure that you won’t have to pay overweight fines:
1. Scale your load. You are responsible for making sure that any load you pull is legal weight and size. As soon as you have loaded or picked up a pre-loaded trailer, weigh the load.
2. If there isn’t a scale where you pick up the load, call or send a Qualcomm message to your Driver Manager before you move the load. Your Driver Manager will direct you to the nearest scale, and will take responsibility for any overweight fines incurred from your pick-up location to the scale. NOTE: If you are going to arrive at your pick-up location after office hours, ask your Driver Manager for weighing instructions when you are dispatched, so you will know what to do when you get the load.
3. If you scale your load at the shipper or pick-up location, and you are overweight, call or send a Qualcomm message to your Driver Manager immediately for instructions on what to do. DO NOT GET INTO AN ARGUMENT WITH SHIPPER PERSONNEL ABOUT WHAT TO DO TO TAKE CARE OF THE SITUATION. They may not be authorized to do anything to solve the problem. Your Driver Manager will help you get the problem resolved.
4. If your load is overweight when you scale, call or send a Qualcomm message to your Driver Manager for further instructions. IF YOU ARE OVERWEIGHT, DO NOT LEAVE THE SHIPPER OR SCALE LOCATION UNTIL YOU HAVE GOTTEN INSTRUCTIONS FROM YOUR DRIVER MANAGER.
5. If you leave the shipper without weighing or getting authorization from your Driver Manager to go to another location to weigh, you will be held responsible for any fines for being overweight on gross or axle weights. It doesn’t matter whether you drive 10 miles or 10 feet, if you don’t weigh or get authorization to go to a scale location, you will pay any fines that result.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Emergency Maneuvers - Evasive Steering

Most driving emergencies are caused by driver error. 

Emergencies happen when one or more drivers fail to observe safe operating practices.  Professional drivers reduce the likelihood of emergencies by using all of their knowledge and skill, while remembering that all road users need to be treated as equals.  It’s also fair to note that common courtesy can prevent the majority of emergency situations.
A tractor-trailer can generally be turned more quickly than it can be stopped.  If an escape path is available, evasive steering provides a better chance of avoiding a collision than attempting to stop. Head-on and rear-end crashes are often fatal.  Evasive steering can often reduce damages to a sideswipe accident.  Constantly scanning the roadway in front of you provides you with the information to make a quick decision.

The two most common escape routes are another lane of traffic and the shoulder of the road.  If your lane is entered by another motor vehicle, a quick lane-change may be your best escape route.  If a lane-change is impossible or dangerous, the shoulder of the road provides an alternate escape route.

Evasive steering, when handled properly, is generally safe.  Quick, evasive maneuvers usually won’t cause a rollover for the experienced driver.  The safest conditions for evasive steering are when you have stable cargo with a low center of gravity and a firm footing, such as an adjacent lane of highway or a paved shoulder of the road.

A few general procedures to consider if evasive steering should become necessary include:
  1. Minimize the amount of turning necessary by starting evasive steering as early as possible.
  2. Turn only as much as is needed to avoid a collision. The larger the turn, the greater the chance of a jackknife or rollover.
  3. Turn as quickly as possible using hand-over-hand steering.
  4. Avoid braking while making the evasive maneuver turn. Braking could cause the tractor and trailer wheels to lock-up. Locked wheels during turning could easily result in a loss of control.
  5. Brake before turning. If distance permits, apply the brakes hard before beginning a turn.
  6. Be prepared to counter-steer quickly. Counter-steering is the act of turning back toward your original path of travel. Quick counter-steering is required to keep your vehicle from traveling outside of its escape path and off the shoulder or into traffic.
When it becomes necessary for a driver to utilize emergency evasive steering, the importance of wearing your seatbelt becomes critical. It’s difficult to turn the steering wheel quickly unless you’re firmly rooted in your seat.