Category: Semi Truck

Don’t Be a Drowsy Driver

don't-be-a-drowsy-driver

Imagine you’ve been driving since 6 a.m.  It’s after 4 and the sun is slowly drifting to the horizon…the radio d.j. is rambling on in a deep, soothing voice…the monotone hum of your tires on the highway begins to lull you…closing your eyes would feel so good…just for a second…

For truckers, getting enough sleep isn’t just a health issue, it’s a safety issue.  According to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Analysis, 7% of all crashes and 16.5% of all fatal crashes involve drowsy driving.  Driving after 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of a DUI as if you had a blood-alcohol count of 0.08% which is the legal limit.  Falling asleep behind the wheel is a real danger for truckers and the solution for fatigue isn’t as simple as drinking some coffee. Sure, a bit of caffeine might wake you up but the effects are short-lived.  When you have caffeine and are in need of sleep, you may actually experience “microsleeps” which is when you actually fall asleep for 3 or 4 seconds. If you think nodding off for a few seconds isn’t a big deal, the next time you’re driving on the highway, take note of the great distance your vehicle travels in 4 seconds when traveling at 55MPH.  It’s easily enough time to cause a serious accident.

The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) sets driving limits for truckers in order to avoid accidents due to fatigue.  The limits are on hours you can drive after the required number of off duty hours and how many hours you can drive per week. They can be found at the FMCSA’s website here.  

Even following the guidelines, it’s easy to become drowsy while driving.   There’s much talk about driverless trucks and their potential to take over the trucking industry but the technologies they’ve brought about can be used today to make driving a truck safer for current drivers.  Things like blind spot detection, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warnings are technologies that could solve or lessen the problem of driver inattention.

Without those, protecting yourself against drowsiness is the first line of defense.  Getting a good night’s sleep is the best place to start. For many drivers, sleeping on the road can be difficult.  Everything is different than the comforts of your own bed and things like lights, sounds, smells, or movement and vibrations that are foreign to you can keep you awake.  Eating unhealthy foods on the road can also inhibit sleep.

Here are some tips on getting a good night’s sleep on the road:

  • Sunshades, curtains, or blankets can be used to block any light that might interfere with sleep.
  • Reading a book before bed or listening to calming music can help relax you but you should avoid screen time.
  • Earplugs are a great way to block out the noises of a busy truck stop.
  • If you have to get up in the middle of the night, it’s helpful to keep things as dark as possible.
  • Parking away from other vehicles when you plan on sleeping can help reduce noise.  
  • If you turn down the volume on any electronic devices you may have, you won’t be awakened by alarms or notifications during the night.
  • A white noise machine is helpful in blocking out background sounds by emitting a consistent sound.
  • Fresh air is great for sleeping and by using window screens, you can let the fresh air in and keep the bugs out.
  • Smells can wake you up too so you should try to avoid parking next to dumpsters, portable toilets, or anything smelly.
  • Sleeping when it’s dark helps your body’s internal clock working properly.
  • Sleep apnea can keep you from getting a restful sleep.  If you suffer from it, you should see your doctor for help.
  • Natural sleep aids are a preferable choice to pharmaceutical ones.  
  • If you park where you shouldn’t, someone could wake you in the middle of the night to ask you to move.  
  • If you’re drowsy during the day, try a 15-minute power nap might be enough to re-energize you.
  • Exercise is beneficial to sleep but if your workout is close to bedtime, it’s important to leave a little time to cool down and relax.

Resting your body is an important part of your job as a trucker.  Driving for hours can take a physical and mental toll on your body but by keeping in shape and giving your mind and body the rest that it needs, you’ll be better equipped to do your job safely.  

Sources:https://www.ghsa.org/issues/drowsy-driving, https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/summary-hours-service-regulations

America’s Trucker Shortage

americas-trucker-shortage

In the United States, truckers are the glue that binds product with consumer, connects supply with demand.  Without them, our economy would grind to a halt. We depend on truckers for getting us everything we need or want.

This is why the current shortage of trained truck operators in the U.S. is such an alarming problem.  It’s been predicted that if things stay on their current path, the shortage could reach a deficit of 174,000 drivers by 2026.  In 2017, truckers were moving more than 70% of freight in the U.S.

The Cause

The main reason for the shortage in drivers is the imbalance of incoming and outgoing drivers.  As a large number of truck drivers are retiring, a much smaller number of people are entering the field.  It’s been a while coming but the Great Recession slowed the problem as consumers were buying less but it became apparent as the economy grew and the number of drivers did not.

The Deterrent

Being a truck driver can be a hard life.  In the past, traditional family roles had a mother who stayed at home and took care of the house and children while the husband was the main breadwinner, focusing on the job, no matter how many hours it kept him away from home.  Now, couples focus on having a balance between their work and home life with shared responsibilities when it comes to both. This makes a career as a trucker more difficult.

The hours.  Driving a load from one end of the country to the other isn’t for everyone.  The hours are long and exhausting and most people would rather sleep at home in their own beds instead of one in the cab of a truck.

Little family time.  If you want to start a family, life on the road doesn’t leave much time for going to little league games and reading bedtime stories.

The sedentary lifestyle.  Sitting in a truck all day is hard on the body.  When you factor in the lack of healthy fast food options on the road, it can be an unhealthy occupation and lead to serious physical issues.

It’s dangerous.  According to the Department of Labor, on-the-job deaths in the transportation and warehousing industry was at a staggering  825 deaths in 2016, making it one of the top most dangerous jobs, second only to construction which had 991 deaths.

The Result

The shortage is causing shipping rates to rise.  Because companies are paying more for truckers, the cost gets passed onto consumers.  Thanks to Amazon’s 2-day shipping model, consumers expect their orders to arrive within just a couple of days.  With the trucker shortage, freight is taking longer to ship which cuts into sales and is slowing the economy.

The Good News

While the shortage may be bad news for trucking companies, shippers, and consumers, it’s good news for truckers and  people considering a career in the trucking industry. Not only is there an abundance of job opportunities, there are plenty of incentives too.

Better pay.  Carriers are offering better starting salaries.  The current average income for truck drivers is $44,020 but is on the rise, and it’s not unheard of for truck drivers to earn more than $80,000 a year.  To entice more drivers, companies have started offering large sign-on bonuses along with other incentives for meeting fuel economy guidelines, safe driving, etc.  They can really add up but beware, with some companies, their huge bonuses have so many requirements they’re nearly impossible to attain.

Better hours.  Carriers are splitting routes and many retailers are setting up more warehouses around the country so consumers get their goods faster and truckers have shorter routes,  keeping drivers closer to home.

They help drivers get their CDL.  The training course for a Commercial Driver’s License typically costs around $7,000.  More and more companies are footing the bill for the course if you agree to drive for them for a period of time, usually a year.

If you’re a truck driver or thinking of becoming one, the current shortage may be the perfect time for you make good money doing something you love.  With Trucker Search, it’s never been easier for truckers to find jobs. Whether you want to actively search our database of available jobs or you want to post your resume so shippers can find you, TruckerSearch is an invaluable resource that’ll help you get out on the open road reaching your full earning potential.  Call Trucker Search today at (888)254-3712 or go to TruckerSearch.com and get moving!

Sources:  https://www.trucking.org/article/New%20Report%20Says-National-Shortage-of-Truck-Drivers-to-Reach-50,000-This-Year, https://www.trucking.org/News_and_Information_Reports_Industry_Data.aspx, https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0015.pdf, https://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag484.htm

 

Reefer Hauling Tips

reefer-hauling-tips

 

Steven Wright once said, It doesn’t matter what temperature a room is, it’s always room temperature.  

If you’re a reefer operator, you have to be a little more precise.

A reefer, or refrigerated truck, is a truck that has a built-in refrigeration system in order to haul temperature sensitive freight safely.  The trailer must be maintained meticulously to keep it running properly so that the food being hauled is kept at safe temperatures. If it is not kept at the right temperature, food can be lost, costing the company thousands of dollars or worse yet, people could get sick and even die, costing your employer million dollars in lawsuits and lost sales due to a damaged reputation.  

Food Safety is a public safety issue.  In 2017, the FDA launched the Food Safety Modernization Act intended to protect foods from being contaminated on their way from the farm to consumers. The requirements include rules for the cleanliness of vehicles and transportation equipment, required temperatures controls, keeping ready-to-eat foods and non-food items away from raw foods, and keeping out contaminants and allergens.  Also included are guidelines for food safety training and record-keeping which must be detailed and kept for a year. For more on the act, go here.  

As a reefer truck driver, you must take more precautions than with a regular trailer.  Some of the things you must do are:

  • Keep the trailer clean.  It should be washed after every load if you can.  If you’re carrying meat, blood can spread across the floor during transit so be thorough about cleaning.   Odors can stick around too and affect the smell and taste of your next load. Be on the lookout for things that could’ve been left behind from your last load like wood bits or nails from the pallets or screws from other equipment.
  • Do strict regular maintenance.  Breaking down in a reefer truck can result in the loss of your load.  Don’t risk it! Get regular maintenance to ensure your truck and its sensitive load meets their destination safely.  Giving your truck a quick inspection before each trip, looking for any damage or nails in your tires, check tire pressure, etc. may prevent a breakdown as well.  
  • Follow loading guidelines.   Stacking loads appropriately so air flows through the truck will help to keep the food at the correct temperature.  Never overload.
  • Pre-cool your reefer.  If you put cold food in your hot truck, the temperature of the contents will lower before the truck cools to the appropriate temperature.  Better to do it first. Allow plenty of time to do this, especially in the summer.
  • Make the temperature of your trailer the most important thing.  Before you pick up your load, check with the shipper to find the right temperature of the load.  If the temperature is off by even a little when you deliver the load, the receiver may reject it due to food safety concerns.  Bacteria grow at temps between 40°-140° so it’s crucial to get it right. Don’t rely on the trucks thermometer; use a pulp temperature thermometer before, during, and after transit and be sure to record all of your temperature readings.
  • Fill up at the pump first.  Make sure that when you pick up your load, you have a full tank of gas.  Reefers need to be kept running to keep the trailer cool so any stop can affect food temperature.  Some shippers require that you’ve filled up before you take the load.

 

TruckerSearch is a leader in helping reefer drivers find employers and jobs across the country.  You can search our database of thousands of job listings or load your resume and let companies find you.  And if you’re a shipper looking for experienced reefer drivers, we’ve got the database for you! Go to TruckerSearch and begin your search today!