Thursday, May 28, 2015

Truck Driver Proves Technology Has Its Limits

Technology is a wonderful thing. At the same time, it does have its limits, as evidenced by a truck driver in Wisconsin who got his 16-ton rig stuck on a footbridge after allegedly being led astray by his GPS device. Fortunately, there were no injuries or reports of substantial damage due to the incident, which occurred on November 11 (2014) in Milwaukee.

Official news reports say the 53-year-old truck driver from Indiana drove his rig across a pedestrian bridge and onto a walking path before being stopped at the entrance of a second bridge by concrete barriers. In order to get to the first bridge he had to traverse several service roads and gravel roadways. Along the way, he damaged several trees, railings, and cosmetic portions of both bridges. Structurally however, the bridges remained sound.

When asked what happened, the driver said his GPS device led him to take the route he chose. He was cited for reckless driving and a failure to obey traffic signs. As for his rig, officials had to bring in a crane because there was not enough space to safely back it out.

Technology and Carelessness

Truck drivers all over the U.S. use GPS devices to help them find their way. It is important technology that has greatly improved efficiency and productivity. However, there comes a point when a driver must ignore GPS information and use common sense. Especially when it comes to road signs.

We can laugh about what happened in Milwaukee because there were no serious injuries or damage. Nevertheless, the story does underscore the fact that technology can make us careless. When we rely on technology as a replacement for common sense, it can often lead us down the wrong road – both literally and figuratively! In light of this, the trucking industry and government policy makers should tread very lightly where technology is concerned.

Treading lightly is especially important with safety technologies. Where the GPS device is more a matter of convenience, other types of equipment have everything to do with life and death. For example, the trucking industry in Great Britain is now in the midst of a debate over whether or not to fit trucks with technology designed to reduce collisions between truck and cyclists. The equipment in question utilizes a series of sensors and alarms intended to reduce accidents.

Here in the U.S., we are looking at technology that would help prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. It involves a set of cameras, facial recognition software and alarm systems that can monitor whether or not a driver's eyes are open. An alarm sounds if they are closed for over a specific amount of time.

In both cases, the technology has very valid uses that could help to reduce accidents. Yet neither should be implemented without addressing the drivers themselves. Think of it in terms of the arms race of the 1980s.

During this period in world history, the U.S. and Soviet Union were continually increasing and upgrading warfare capabilities. The idea was to never have to use the weapons they were developing by deterring one another from instigating war. We should view some of these new driver technologies the same way – they should be deployed in the hope that they will never be needed. In order to achieve that goal, driver carelessness needs to be addressed.

Ongoing Driver Training

One of the best ways to address driver carelessness is through training. This includes the initial training needed to acquire a CDL license as well as ongoing, remedial training at the fleet level. It is the latter form of training that is likely to have the most positive effect.

Human nature is such that we tend to be careless in our routine activities if not constantly reminded of the need to stay focused. This is true whether you are talking about a truck driver or someone working at a manufacturing line. So constant reminders through remedial training help to keep drivers focused on how to perform their duties safely. This kind of training can be effective even if it amounts to just a monthly safety meeting called to remind drivers of best practices.

In the case of the Milwaukee driver, the substantial fines he faces will likely be a sufficient deterrent to prevent him from making the same mistake. However, as an industry, let us work toward preventing carelessness before things like this happen.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

What is the cost of texting in a truck?

Most of us have picked up the cell to look at a text while we are driving. This can be very costly for a truck driver. Here is what the FMCSA has to say on this issue:

FMCSA has published new rules that restrict texting and the use of hand-held mobile phones by truck and bus drivers while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

Research commissioned by FMCSA shows the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) are 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who text while driving than for those who do not. Texting drivers took their eyes off the forward roadway for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, this equates to a driver traveling 371 feet, or the approximate length of a football field (including the end zones)—without looking at the roadway!

What exactly is “Texting”?

Texting means manually entering text into, or reading text from, an electronic device.

Texting includes (but is not limited to), short message services, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a Web page, pressing more than a single button to initiate or terminate a call using a mobile telephone, or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or entry, for present or future communication.

What does this rule mean to you?

Fines and Penalties - Texting while driving can result in driver disqualification. Penalties can be up to $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers who allow or require drivers to use a hand-held communications device for texting while driving.

Disqualification - Multiple convictions for texting while driving a CMV can result in a driver disqualification by FMCSA. Multiple violations of State law prohibiting texting while driving a CMV that requires a CDL is a serious traffic violation that could result in a CDL driver being disqualified for up to 120 days. 

What are the risks? - Texting is risky because it causes the driver to take his/her eyes off the roadway. Dispatching devices that are part of a fleet management system can be used for other purposes, but texting on a dispatching device is indistinguishable from texting on another text-capable device, and is therefore prohibited.

Impact on Safety Measurement System (SMS) Results - Violations negatively impact SMS results, and they carry the maximum severity weight.


Simply do not type or read a text message while driving a CMV!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Can I fit under this bridge?

Most truck drivers consider themselves professional, yet we all run into those drivers that need to develop their skills a bit more. Here is a collection of videos of those needing some more experience.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Transportation funding set to expire on May 31

WASHINGTON With federal surface transportation funding set to expire on May 31, thousands of stakeholders will rally together for Infrastructure Week to urge Congress to say “no” to more short-term measures and “yes” to a long-term funding solution. In support of the third annual Infrastructure Week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is participating today in kick-off events in Washington and will then head out to meet with state and local leaders, business leaders, and academics in Tennessee, California, and Iowa.

“Our nation’s economy and the way we live both depend on having strong infrastructure,” Secretary Foxx said. “But the truth is that our current levels of investment are falling short of what is needed just to keep our existing system safe and in good condition. To make matters worse, over the past six years, Congress has passed 32 short-term measures that have stripped away the ability of state and local governments to complete big projects.”

Today, Secretary Foxx also sent letters to State Transportation leaders to notify them that all federal participation in highway transportation infrastructure construction will stop after May 31 if the current federal funding authorization is allowed to expire. Without authority to continue funding agency operations, States will not be reimbursed for construction costs or receive technical support and will have to shoulder the burden themselves. Click here to see a copy of the letters.

Throughout the week, Secretary Foxx will highlight an alternative to that funding shortage, which is the Obama Administration’s GROW AMERICA Act, a surface transportation bill that would provide six years of funding certainty and grow overall investment by 45 percent. The $478 billion proposal would increase funding in our roads, highways and transit systems, and for the first time would provide dedicated funding for passenger rail, rail safety, and a national freight program.

Secretary Foxx’s trip will begin in Tennessee, a state that has a $6 billion backlog in highway projects, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.  He will visit two projects that would improve safety for drivers and reduce traffic congestion, but both are delayed due to inadequate federal funding. On Tuesday, May 12, in Knoxville, Secretary Foxx will meet with Mayor Madeline Rogero and the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization to discuss the proposed Alcoa Highway project. Later in the morning, the Secretary will hold a media availability with Knoxville Mayor Rogero, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, and, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson at the Knoxville Convention Center. He will then travel to Memphis where he will be joined by Mayor AC Wharton, and the Memphis Urban Planning Organization to discuss the Lamar Avenue project.

On Wednesday, May 13, Secretary Foxx will visit Delphi Labs in California’s Silicon Valley to announce new connected automation safety initiatives. This visit will build on the national conversation he launched earlier this year with the release of Beyond Traffic, a report that examines how new technologies and public policy will shape U.S. transportation systems to enable new safety, mobility, growth, and economic benefits for our future.

The next day he will travel to Los Angeles to join Mayor Garcetti at the construction site of the soon-to-be-finished Division 13 Bus Maintenance and Operations Facility. The project was funded by the Federal Transit Administration and demonstrates the potential of increased transit investment to create jobs and greener infrastructure.

Secretary Foxx’s Infrastructure Week tour will conclude Friday, May 15, in Des Moines, Iowa, with a visit to the Southeast Connector Project, which is a crucial element in a series of infrastructure enhancements that will revitalize industrial areas, create jobs, and improve road safety.

“When you have had 32-short term measures in six years, any funding bill put forward that is actually big enough to meet the country’s challenges will be labeled by some as unrealistic,” Secretary Foxx said. “But I also think it is unrealistic to think that if we continue underinvesting in infrastructure that we will be able to meet the needs of 70 million more people in 30 years. We are in a big ditch, and we have to take some bold steps forward and solve it with a big solution.”

Infrastructure Week has nearly 80 affiliate organizations in business, labor, and advocacy, including the National Association of Manufacturers, American Society of Civil Engineers, AFL-CIO, Brookings Institution, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Building America’s Future. More than 40 events will be held to highlight the need and benefits of modernizing America’s infrastructure.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Getting Along with Your Dispatcher

When it comes to dispatchers, you will probably find a wide range of opinions about the performance of their job. From those who believe that they are the backbone of the office to believing their best friend and perhaps the worst enemy that a truck driver may have as well. The number of opinions about dispatchers is actually surprising considering that you may often find a wide range of opinions about the same dispatcher from every driver and employee of the firm.

So, when it comes to truck drivers who want to improve their hours on the road and perhaps get more weekends off from work, establishing a good relationship with dispatchers is a crucial part of the process. However, before you can start working on that relationship, it helps if you understand the view from the dispatcher who like the truck driver is trying to do what is best for their company.

How Dispatchers See Their Role 

Unlike the truck driver who is on the road, the dispatcher usually sits at a small workstation and is in contact with all the drivers who are out on the road. They have to balance not only your needs, but all the other drivers as well which means that there will be days when you will have to drive too many miles empty or some other unwanted situation will occur.

Dispatchers are typically bombarded with phone calls by drivers who ask them to do many different things. It can be very difficult for them to be dispassionate about their work especially when they get insulted or treated poorly for something that is beyond their control or worse, when they’ve made an honest error that is not well understood by the driver.

Admittedly, truck drivers are interested in getting to haul good loads over an appropriate distance so that they are well paid. It may seem strange, but both drivers and dispatchers are interested in the same thing, but all too often neither of them can see the other’s point of view.

How to Work with a Dispatcher 

Once you understand their role, then it becomes a lot easier to work with them. Here are some pointers that will help you build a good relationship with your dispatcher.

Keep Calm: Your relationship should be strictly on a professional basis which means that you will need to stay calm and composed when speaking to them. Naturally, you will have some disagreements, but phrase your view in how it affects what you do instead of lashing out at them. This will at the very least keep things calm between both of you.

Be Proactive: The more efficiently you can do your job, the better the dispatcher can help you out. Of course, there will be times when you cannot complete your run because of conditions beyond your control, but the more efficiently you can driver your rig, the easier you make it for the dispatcher to work with you.

Of course, there will be times when you might want to scream at your dispatcher, but you should definitely refrain from taking that action. If there is a real problem or perhaps something that is not being worked out, then you should go higher up in the company to see if it can be resolved. Otherwise, it really pays to spend a little extra effort working with your dispatcher. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

How Do Air Brakes Work?

All the air brake systems are using the air pressure for the brakes every time the pedal is stepped on. The air is being stored on several reservoirs or pressure tanks in the truck. The stored air are pressurized using the air compressor that is located in the engine of the truck. The air pressure is being regulated by the air governor in the compressor and most of this works on the level of 120 psi pressure. The governor manipulates when air compressor pump an air in the pressure tanks. If the air reservoir pressure exceeds the cut out level, the governor halt the compressor in pumping air.

Some systems possess air dryer that dries all moisture so that the water condensation would not build in the pressure tank causing brake failures. This will also avoid freezing during winter season. The air dryer has cartridge that needs to be replaced once a year. The air is being pressured by the compressor that passes in the air dryer down to the tanks. And from the air tanks, it goes to different type of systems. The first one is the emergency or the supply system, which discharges parking brakes and keep the reserve air to halt whenever there is a leak.

The manner that the system of parking brakes works on the truck is through the use of springs in air chambers in rear axles of the truck which puts the parking brakes. If the parking brakes knob is pushed, it supplies air in the air chamber which pushes against its springs to discharge the parking brakes. When the air pressure in air system goes down below 60 psi, the parking brake knob would pop out and will set parking brakes.  This is a kind of safe feature to make the air truck stop because when the pressures fall down, the service brake might not work.

When driving in a semi-tractor that has trailer, the trailer knobs in the brakes works on the same manner. But if an air leak exist in the trailer, the protection valve in the tractor will create the trailer brake as protection to the air supply so that the truck would still stop. The other kind of system is called the service brake. It is a kind of system that stops you whenever pushing on the pedal break. When the brake pedal is pushed on, it goes to the pedal valve, which in return control the flow of the air in brake chambers.

Brake chambers also push the slack adjusters, a component that maintains the brake in adjustment. There are also the so-called disc air brakes which are unpopular. Most of brake shoes have the indicator that is built at the end of pads which needs to be replaced in a regular period. When changing the brake shoes, the hardware kits is also needed which includes the pins, busing, and springs for the brakes. The drums must also be replaced as the brake shoes are replaced. This is important because the drums might wear ridge on it that can trigger heat cracks. 

If you would like to take a practice test on air brakes please visit: CDL Learning Center

Monday, May 4, 2015

Smartphone Apps for Truck Divers

If you are a truck driver and you are looking for a smartphone application that can help you in your journey, below are some of the best and free downloadable applications that you can have:

IHeartRadio App

This smartphone app is available is available on Android and iOS wherein truck drivers can to listen to their favorite radio stations while they are delivering their loads.  They can choose a song from more than the 1,500 and more live radio stations wherein they can also create and customize their station based on their favorite artist and songs.

Budget Envelopes App

This smartphone app can be used by the truck drivers wherein they can add and schedule their upcoming transactions and create their income categories and reports of their income and expenses.

Audible-Audiobooks and More App

This app is best for those truck drivers who wants to enjoy a book but can’t purchase one. Through this app, they can download, a lot of classic and best seller stories, news and the like where they can listen intently while they are driving. This audiobooks can also be switch back and forth from listening to reading. Personal Finance App

This app allows truck drivers to manage and budget their money wherein they can view all their financial accounts in just one place. They can also track the cash that they have spent and view their upcoming bills that makes this app a best one to have for those on the go truck drivers.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock App

Truck drivers surely need a sound sleep after a long travel and they also need to wake up early for their next trip. This smartphone app will help them get a good sleep without getting jolt by the alarm clock because it analyzes the sleep cycle and wakes you up on your lightest phase of sleep that ensures you that you will begin your day relaxed and well-rested. 

Relax Melodies App

This app will help the truck drivers calm their mind and fall asleep easily. It will help the truckers refrain from hearing unnecessary noise but instead they will hear sounds of the oceans, tweeting of birds and a lot more. The Relax Melodies app also have multiple alarms wherein they can have their favorite sounds that sooths every time the truckers would wake up in the morning.

The Weather Channel App

This app provides the truck drivers with condition of the weather for the day. It also checks the weather in the area where they are going to travel so that they will be informed ahead of time, so that they will decide if they are still going to continue their journey or not.

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