Friday, May 08, 2015

Ask A Trucker: Preparation, Safety, and Accountability

My cousin Christopher Glover, who drives trucks for a living, continues his public service of answering your questions about trucks, the men and women who drive them, and how we share the road.

This is a roundup of comments left on this blog and on Facebook.

Quid from Tampa, Florida asks, "How much sleep do you get"?

The federal motor carrier safety association (FMCSA) and the federal department of transportation (DOT) have established a strict set of guidelines that all commercial drivers must adhere to. They dictate how long we can drive, how long we can be in an "on duty" status, when we must take a break, and how long we must rest.

All commercial drivers must fill out a daily log to show what they were doing in a 24 hour period.  As the law reads we are allowed to be in an on duty status for no more than 14 hours in that 24 hour period.  Out of those 14 hours, no more than 11 of them may be used for driving, leaving us three hours for loading, unloading, and getting fuel.  As implemented last year we must now also take a mandatory 30 minute break within the first eight hours of coming on duty.  The remaining ten hours of the day are for us to sleep, shower, eat, and relax.  We also must complete a 34 hour restart every week  meaning we must be in an "off duty" status for 34consecutive hours with two time periods of 1 a.m. To 5 a.m.  Basically what that means in regards to our restart is if I get back in to my home shop at 12:15 a.m. Saturday , then I can leave out again at 10:15 a.m. On Sunday.  But say I get home at 1:15 a.m. Saturday then I cannot leave out again until 5 a.m. Monday.

Anyone who has driven for a long period of time eventually becomes drowsy.  Some things that I do to help me stay awake are to open my window in the winter and let the cold air circulate around me (its amazing how awake you get in -30).  I'll also start singing along to the radio to keep my mind moving.  Of course this only works so well and if I find I'm really getting tired, then I'll pull into a rest area or truck stop and lay down and sleep.  No load on earth pays enough to risk my life or the lives of the other motorists.

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Danny from Las Cruces, New Mexico asks, "Why doesn't everyone drive as carefully as truckers"?

Let me begin this one by saying that some of the best drivers I've seen are truck drivers, and also some of the worst drivers I've seen are truck drivers.  I can also easily say the same for regular motorists.

Driving a tractor trailer brings with it an added responsibility .  When I'm driving down the road fully loaded I am thoroughly aware of my surroundings. I am always checking my mirrors, looking out both windows , and constantly keeping one eye out the windshield watching and anticipating what the other drivers are going to do.  As a commercial driver I am under constant scrutiny from several federal administrations to ensure that I am operating my vehicle in the safest possible manner.  We are required to complete a daily pre-trip inspection of our vehicle.   We check tires for proper inflation and tread depth, we check all components of the steering controls, we check that all fluids are at proper operating levels, we check that all lights are working as they should, we check that all drive line components are tight and properly aligned , and we check and double check that our load is secured so we won't lose it going down the road.  I'm curious to find out how many regular motorists crawl underneath their cars and check break wear every morning before they leave for work?

So the quick and dirty answer to your question Danny is quite simply:  regular motorists do not have the same responsibility as commercial drivers.  Yes, I understand that we all share the road and need to work together to ensure that everyone gets home safe to their loved ones, but in my experience far too many drivers on both sides adopt a "me first" attitude and I have seen the tragic results far too often.  We ALL need to slow down. Our families would much rather have us home 10 minutes late than not at all.

[Image at top: Chris snapped this picture of his truck after an accident last August. It happens.]


The Yeti said...

That photo doesn’t really do the wreck justice. the fire company that responded to it took several more that make me glad he didn't have anyone on a ride along that time.

Kelly said...

I'm really enjoying this series of posts. The photo from the wreck is scary!

Christopher Glover said...

Kelly, the photos from the wreck look much worse than the wreck itself. I'm just thankful I was wearing my seatbelt and didn't get injured.