Thursday, January 29, 2015

How to Prevent a Jackknife

One of the biggest nightmares for truck drivers is causing their vehicle to jackknife. This is a position which can put the driver in serious peril if they are still travelling at considerable speed. To prevent a jackknife at all possible is the goal of drivers who find themselves facing this particular situation.

By definition, a jackknife happens when the angle between the tractor a trailer reach a point where the driver is unable to straighten it out. Angles of up to 15 degrees can be rectified by the driver if they act quickly enough. Once past that point, preventing a jackknife may not be possible.

What Causes a Jackknife?

There are two basic ways that a jackknife can occur, either when the trailer of the rig starts swinging outwards or when the tractor starts skidding in a sideways manner. A tractor skid may happen when the drive wheels are spinning from too much power being applied or from over-breaking and the engine cutting back. Other reasons include turning at too fast a rate of speed or if the tires cannot keep the tractor on its proper course.

While a jackknife can occur on any road condition, they most often happen when the roads are slick with rain, slush, snow or ice. The trailer for example can swing out from over-braking with other road conditions contributing to the effect, including rough roads, sharp turns or if the crown of the road is quite high.

How to Prevent a Jackknife

The best way to keep a jackknife from happening is by not creating the conditions in the first place. If you follow these tips, then preventing a jackknife is much easier.

  •        Brake before you begin the turn
  •         Decelerate slowly and try not to hit the brakes hard
  •        Apply the proper power to the drive axle in a smooth fashion
  •         Keep the gear shifting smooth and engage the clutch in the proper fashion as well.

The trolley valves are there for a reason, but you can lock up the trailer wheels if you are not careful. Plus, if you are travelling on a slick road and start to brake, keep an eye on your mirrors to see if the trailer starts to swing out. If it does, release the brakes until the trailer is straight again, then try the brakes again.

If the jackknife starts under conditions other than braking, then you will need to steer your way out of the situation. The sooner you can start the correction, the easier it will be. Therefore in preventing a jackknife the key is being alert so that you can bring everything into line faster and with fewer issues.

It is possible to drive for many years without ever experiencing a jackknife because they take a little time to plan and prepare so that they are ready when it the situation arises. While a jackknife will happen to the best drivers, the frequency of the situations when it might occur can be significantly reduced if you take the time to learn how to prevent a jackknife

Monday, January 26, 2015

Night Driving Tips for Truck Drivers

Night Driving Tips
For many truck drivers, night time is the magic hour, where commuter traffic has gone away and the rumble of the road sounds it’s sweetest. But these can also be dangerous hours, as darkness and glare from oncoming traffic create hazards not present during day light. Taking a few moments to resettle your thinking when driving at night, as well as being conscious of the added dangers, can help keep you on the road and delivering that load safely and on time.

Start with the inspection

For night drivers, it all comes down to the windshield and the lights. Every chance you get, clean the windshield of any road grime as it can magnify the glare of oncoming traffic and increase the dangers of not seeing a hazard in the road. Inspect all your lights to ensure they’re functioning, and repair any lens cracks before they become a bigger problem.

Though you don’t need to do it often, make sure your headlights are properly centered and aimed – if you’re not seeing where you’re going, you know you will miss something. This could be a deer or a sharp turn. Either way be sure to check your lamps when you can.

Night driving tips

A great many truck driver accidents occur at night due to a loss of attention, so combat road fatigue by using your radio and keeping your window down for fresh air. The more aware you are during a drive the less likely you’ll slip into hypnosis-mode. Take your rest stops serious and catch up on sleep- you’ll still drop your load on time, and will do it in one piece.

When facing oncoming traffic, avoid looking directly at oncoming headlights and overheads. These bright lights strain the eyes and cause temporary distortion of the retina – time you might need to swerve out of the way of a wandering armadillo. Also, be courteous to the other drivers by avoiding your high beams as much as possible. When passing, keep this rule in mind as high beams in a rear view mirror obstruct nearly 90% of a driver’s field of vision.

Plan your night driving time with a good amount of rest stops along the way. They needn’t be for long, but a five or ten minute break where you can get out of the cab, walk a few laps around your rig and stretch will do you a world of good. At the same time, stop multi-tasking while behind the wheel. These little distractions can mean big accidents if you’re not careful. Invest in a hands-free set up, and keep both hands on the wheel just like your truck driver instructor taught you.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

History of the Interstate Highway System

By the time the Federal Aid Highway Act was signed in 1956, Americans were well under way with their love affair with motor vehicles. Cross country truck routes had already been established back in the 1920s, but were hardly well thought out or efficient. Routes wound through a confusing series of Class B highways and back roads making a standard coast to coast delivery take up to two weeks.

World War II had done much to increase the production of manufactured goods at home, and agricultural developments post-war had more produce being grown by industrialized farms than could conceivably be shipped through the current routes. The trains were overloaded, and a solution needed to found. It was President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his federal transportation department who came up with the solution - a government funded program to align the major arteries of the country under one engineered banner. This was the Interstate Highways System, which broke ground in 1957 and was later renamed the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense System in 1990 in Ike’s honor.

Interstate highway system

The initial interstate system worked from a two-pronged approach, with the first being the commercial movement of goods over state lines. The second was to relieve a growing debt on individual state budgets that previously had to develop their own systems of road-top transportation. By coordinating a nation-wide project, arteries were formalized between major cities along supply and production corridors, allowing for raw materials and final products to be moved to and from points of processing and manufacture. Construction material and design were also coordinated, making for vast improvements.

No longer would it take an orange grown in Florida two weeks to hit the shelf in Pasadena, and with this time factor removed, prices dropped to more reasonable levels for consumers, increasing demand for supply. The subsidies of the interstate system provided to individual states created a standard for travel, allowing more trucks on the road with vastly decreased travel time.

Before the Interstate system was placed into effect, states were required through necessity to construct and pay for their own highway systems, hopefully working with neighboring states in the process to ‘meet up’ somewhere along the shared border. As can be imagined, this didn’t always go as planned. State highways projects were often abandoned in the middle of nowhere due to budgetary mismanagement and related constraints, and miscommunication with partnering states wreaked havoc from a coordination point of view. Local government budgets were being decimated, and these pockets of loss were affecting the commerce of the nation as a whole.

Interstate highways of tomorrow

Smart driving technology aside, the federal government has turned its attention to repairing and improving existing stretches of highway through fiscal recovery acts, both in 2006 and again in 2011. These channels of funds are earmarked for road top repair and additions to increase efficiencies in the interstate system. This forward thinking dedicates the federal government’s focus on a connected nation, while maintaining the legacy of Ike’s vision for a nation built on commerce.

This article sponsored by The Clermont County Historical Society 

Monday, January 19, 2015

BJ and the Bear

BJ and the Bear
Leading television viewers out of the 1970s and into the 1980s, NBC’s popular road comedy, “B.J. and the Bear” aired from 1979 to 1981. As an independent trucker, Billie Joe ‘B.J.’ McKay, played by Greg Evigan, crossed the country with his best friend ‘Bear’, a chimpanzee named after Bear
Bryant. The show’s concept was like many of its time, a traveling do-gooder with a knack for finding trouble. Knight Rider, the A-Team, and similar shows let audiences travel about the country exploring a new destination each week.

With the American highways drawing more and more family vacationers to find their own ways rather than fly from destination to destination, the nation’s freeways were packing up, and viewers wanted to imagine what else might be happening out there. NBC’s initial formula for ‘B.J. and the Bear’ had the buddies pulling into a new conflict each week, usually with the help of a local pretty girl who had no one else to turn to. Comedy, thrills, and romance would most usually follow…
Hitting the road with Bear

Thanks in part to the success of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Every Which Way but Loose,’ and the movie’s illogical introduction of an orangutan as a driving partner, along with the Snowman’s (Jerry Reed) basset hound ‘Fred’ from ‘Smokey and the Bandit,’ it seemed American audiences expected long haul drivers to always have an animal companion for the trip. With this in mind, it made perfect sense in TV land to have Bear be a chimpanzee. With the suspension of belief that a wild animal could sit still for long stretches on cross country trips didn’t seem to matter much.

The show used a classic Kenworth K-100 cab over semi in red for the truck for the show’s entire run, with various other models being driven by supporting truckers in the series. For classic truck aficionados, the show is a great way to travel down memory lane and is available on

Nearing the end

As the show began to lose steam toward the end of its televised run, the writers had B.J and Bear settle down and start their own trucking company, trying out the catchy twist of hiring only young, pretty female drivers. The gimmick wouldn’t last and the show would go off the air in 1981. One lasting legacy of the show was it spun off the mildly successful ‘The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo’ starring Claude Akins, no stranger to trucker programs after his own mid-70’s run in ‘Movin’ On.’

Read more trucking history in The Trucker's Library.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Choosing a Team Truck Driving Partner

Team Truck Driving
There are plenty of reasons for a long haul trucker to look to team up with a driving partner, but the most significant is the increase in pay. Team trucks can stay on the road nearly 24 hours a day, minus gas ups and inspections, making them a much sought after asset for shipping companies. Teams ‘hot seat’ behind the wheel, taking regulated down time while their partner is doing the driving. It can be a great way to boost income, but before choosing this style of driving, there’s a few things you should concern yourself with before shaking on a partnership.

A good driving team is on the road for long stretches of time together, kept close by the confines of the cab. Before picking a partner for the road, make sure you are compatible with them. Driving with someone who shares the same interests and you can get along with is a must, as conflicts between drivers can cause more headaches than just being late with a load.

Try out a run or two with a potential partner before forming a long term partnership to get a feel for how your other half acts on the road. It may be completely different than when they’re not driving, so don’t rely on having known them before a partnership begins.


It goes a long way toward building a steady team partnership. Keeping to schedules, agreeing on meal times, and even driving style speaks volumes when it comes to being an equal partner and having consideration for them. When driving, good partners understand that their other half is sleeping in the back, and that sharp turns, hard breaking, and distracting personal behavior can cause a bad night’s sleep. Take time to learn your potential partner’s driving habits and get a feel for whether they are considerate of you and your needs.


A cab is about as close as you can get to someone, and a good driving partner will keep good hygiene. Showers, eating habits, and smoking are all factors to consider. If you’re a non-smoker, you might not want to be in a cab with a smoker. If body odor bothers you from other people, make sure your partner keeps clean and fresh. Eating in the cab is a necessity at times, and a partner who liters the floor with wrappers and food tidbits won’t easily change their habits.
If team driving sounds like a good plan for you, be sure to consider you partner wisely. Making the wrong choice could make the aggravation not worth the extra pay.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Keeping Truck Driver Back Pain in Check

Truck Driver Back Pain
There’s no way to get around it – the job requires sitting for hours on end, and the human body simply wasn’t designed to do that. However, there are several steps you can take to reduce and even eliminate back pain while working those long hauls and it just takes a little fore though on your part. Paying close attention to diet, in-cab comfort, and rest area habits, you can keep that pain in your back (and your ass) from keeping you off the road.

Eat right for healthy muscles

This could be the hardest one to stick to, but stay away from high sodium and fatty foods. It may taste incredible, but there’s nothing like good fried chicken to draw moisture away from your muscles and cause cramps and back pain. If you can’t stomach the idea of reducing fats and salts, at least increase your pure water intake. Fruit juices are a close second, but straight water without the additives and flavors can go a long way to flushing your muscles and keeping you limber.

You may also want to add a multi-vitamin or at least a magnesium supplement to your diet, which will promote good blow flow and muscle elasticity.

Proper cab settings

It’s the sitting still for hours on end that’s doing your back wrong, so making sure your cab is as comfortable as possible should be your focus. The steering wheel should be adjusted in conjunction with the wheel so your arms rest comfortably on it without having to hunch over, so pull the seat forward if you have to. Keep the seat at a level where your calves just barely overhang to reduce pressure on them, and you are sitting up straight with less stress on your spine. Don’t set and forget your seat adjustments- fine tune them to get the right feel.

Mirrors are part of your walk around check, and you want them working so you don’t have to lean forward or at odd angles to see what you need to see. Your mirrors should be set so you can simply turn your head (from an upright posture) to eliminate undue stress on your neck.

Rest stop exercises

You don’t have to make a fool of yourself by doing a Jane Fonda workout every time you stop, but even walking around the rig a few times to loosen muscles and get your blood flowing will do you a world of good. Stretch out your arms and legs, and use the grips on your cab to stay steady when stretching your back. A few minutes of this at each and every pull over will do you a world of good and keep you comfortable and healthy when you climb back in the cab.

Back pain may always be a consideration of truck driving, but if you keep it in mind, you can keep on the road longer without long terms health effects. Do yourself a favor and do right by your back.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Truck-Stop Accommodations

Truckers look forward to locating truck stops to purchase fuel and to get necessary repairs made. Drivers especially look forward to finding available parking spaces at the end of their shift. They know that they can look forward to getting rest or a good night’s sleep. A commercial driver's quality of life on the road often depends upon truck stops and their amenities. Truckers depend upon them for fuel, repairs, food, rest and safety.

Many drivers have pulled into them late at night only to find that there were no available parking spaces. This has forced them to continue driving in search of suitable places to park even though they may have been totally exhausted. Currently, there is a shortage of suitable safe places for drivers to park. Many drivers have been forced to park in unsafe places after being unable to find available parking space at truck stops. As a result some of these drivers have been robbed, injured or even killed.

Truck Stops are vital to the trucking industry and provide a vast array of comforts for commercial drivers. Truckers know they can eat, shower and relax and enjoy other amenities. Drivers often have favorite facilities which they frequent and they often try to get there early enough to get an overnight parking space. Initially, truck stops were small operations which replaced local filling stations on highways. However, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 which established an interstate highway system in the United States. The interstate system has affected every citizen if not directly as motorists, then indirectly because every item we purchase has been on the Interstate System at some point.

Looking for trucker accommodation or truck stops is one of the important things on your to-do list when you set off on a long road trip. While some travelers are content with fast food and retail outlets along the way with the occasional pit stop, trucker's accommodation in the form of a motel is always the more comfortable option. These are open to even those who are not driving a truck.

What you can expect from trucker accommodation:

A trucker accommodation or  truck stop caters to professional truck drivers offering a spacious parking area and comfortable, reasonably priced accommodation and hot food after a tiring stint on the road. Many of them also offer an onsite gas station to make it easy to refuel, entertainment facilities, convenient locations on the highway so that one can easily spend some time in the nearby town and special pricing for guests. Truck stops also offer ATMs, high speed internet facilities, laundry, maintenance in the form of a truck wash and truck scales.

 Affordable facilities:

At most trucker accommodation hotels, the fuel costs less than in the area. The convenience store on site usually has everything that a traveler might look for. One of the things most truckers love about truck stops is the interesting conversation with other truckers who stop there.

Sources of information for trucker accommodation:

One of the best sources for finding trucker accommodation is via the internet, besides the obvious one of asking fellow travelers and other friends who may have traveled the route before for recommendations. Truckers usually receive discounts on various facilities like showers, complimentary breakfasts, free parking and more depending on the hotel. But these truck stops also welcome other travelers to enjoy their hospitality.

Proximity to the highway:

Whether you are looking for trucker accommodation or a truck stop, you will probably prefer the hotel to be close to the highway. The last thing you want to do is navigate a large vehicle through busy city traffic especially after driving all day. Most truckers avoid driving inside the city unless they have goods to deliver. They would rather find a safe place to park their vehicle and find a warm bed and food enabling them get a good night's rest before they set off again the next day.
Almost every major highway has truck shops that are affordable and offer clean trucker accommodation with other facilities that give truckers a welcome break from their eighteen wheelers.

Monday, January 5, 2015

National Road History

The construction of the National Road took place majorly between 1811 and 1834 in other to extent to the settlements in the west. It was the first federally funded road in U.S. history. Land investors understood the importance of road network in the west and as such a group which George Washington was a key figure pushed for the building of roads to unify the country. By 1806, President Jefferson signed into law an act that would bring this dream to reality. This road was expected to unify Cumberland, Maryland till the Ohio River.

After several bids for the contract, the construction of the National Road contract was first awarded in 1811 the first contract was awarded. Work began and construction was completed in stages in a space of over four decades. By 1818 the first section of the road was built from Cumberland to Wheeling. $6,000 was estimated as the initial cost of the road per mile. Around the years 1830s, the responsibility to run the roads was handed over to the states by the federal government which led to building of tollgates but the responsibility of road repairs was still in the neck of the federal government.

The construction of the National Road paved way for increase and development of settlements. As the traditional villages and town became opened to the world, some of these roads such as Cumberland Road became the Main Street in these settlements. The popularity of the National Road reached its peak in 1825 when song, story, poetry and painting were used to celebrate its emergence. As time went on, explorers, westward bound jam-packed the hotels and roadhouses along the road.

The introduction of railroads in the 1870s faded the popularity of National Road but this was soon reversed as Federal Aid became readily obtainable for maintenance and improvements of the road for automobiles to ply the route. This sprouted the development of the road as a coast-to-coast highway in 1926.

Some of the bridges on the National Road are historic. The Stone Bridge was so named due to its due to its design as a single structure of arch stone. The stone Casselman River Bridge which stands to the east of Grantsville, Maryland was built between 1813 and 1814. Its 80-foot span which connects Cumberland to Ohio River, is the largest of its kind in America.

Vandalia, Illinois was the stopping point for National Road in 1852. Though many wished it was extended to Mississippi River and beyond, the road became a victim of ‘power tussle’ over responsibility, maintenance, improvements, and legal clarification.

In general, the National Road was able to fulfill its dual role in aiding the economy by fast tracking the transportation of goods and also promoting trade nationwide. With ease, manufactures from the east were able to find their way to the west for closer business ties and expansion. The road helped the nation expand while drawing it closer together.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

History of the Teamsters

History of the Teamsters Union
The Teamsters Union goes back over a century as the largest private labor union in the US. Formally known as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, the union represents truck drivers and many workers in related industries as well. The reach of the Teamsters Union has been considerable over the years as it has helped to shape the history of the United States in terms of labor relations.

Before the turn of the 20th century there were a number of small unions in the US that were formed in regional locations. With the advent of modern industrialization, the emphasis quickly shifted to bringing together many of these unions in order to have more bargaining power.

In 1903, the newly formed Teamsters National Union merged with the Team Drivers International Union to form the first iteration of what would be known as the Teamsters Union. Interestingly enough, the center of the union would remain deliverymen who were using horse-drawn vehicles until the mid-1930s when truck drivers took over the union interests.

The first major leader of note for this union was Daniel J. Tobin who lead the Teamsters from 1907 until 1952 and increased their membership from roughly 40,000 when he took command to over 1 million by the time his left office. This remarkable growth made the union the largest in the country. Dave Beck took over the union until 1957 until James Hoffa took command and led it until 1971.

Under Beck and Hoffa, the Teamsters grew into a centralized union that negotiated freight-haul agreements that brought with it national power as well. It is the sheer size of the union that gave them considerable bargaining power. However, over the ensuing years the union has shifted its focus towards family concerns and job security for its members.

However, it was the size of the Teamsters Union that also gave it a considerable amount of trouble as well. From manipulation of pension funds to pressuring small employers to working with organized crime, the Teamsters have had a turbulent history which has brought it under investigation over the years. It was the ejection of the Teamsters from the AFL-CIO in 1957 brought about a thirty year period where Beck, Hoffa and Roy L. Williams were all convicted of different crimes. The disappearance of Hoffa in 1975 was suspected of being by organized crime as well.

The Teamsters Union was re-admitted to the AFL-CIO in 1987 and the union gained new membership through technology, clerical and service organizations as their numbers in terms of truck drivers dropped considerably. By 1997, the Teamsters had managed to gain world attention again by striking against the United Parcel Service in 1997. However, declining membership and not being satisfied with the status quo, the Teamsters Union left the AFL-CIO in 2005 to form the Change to Win coalition with several other unions in order to retain their power.

There is little doubt that the Teamsters remain a powerful force when it comes to union representation. It remains to see what the future holds as economic forces and developing technology change the employment landscape.