Over these last 6 weeks, we’ve talked about many different challenges you might find driving US25E from Corbyn, KY to Newport, TN. We got into managing tight corners. We covered the dangers involved with uncontrolled divided highways. We looked at the complications brought on by a route that has more than 20 speed limit transitions across 90 miles. And last week, we drilled down on managing multiple highway to in-town transitions.

Notice anything missing? If you drive or manage this route (or others similar to it), then you are probably wondering “when are we going to talk about the everyday drivers out there that unintentionally get in the way of us doing our job?”

On a route that bounces back between highway and in-town roads so much, you can bet there are passenger vehicles around every corner. They are not trying to make our jobs difficult. They just don’t know any better and therefore, they present complications.

Let’s dive into our three-perspective examination of how we can be safe when dealing with Joe Public moving throughout the traffic in and around us.

Operations

We’ve been kind of hard on Ops these last few weeks. So, on this topic you guys get to take a little bit of a breather. There is not much that Operations can do to stop some teenager from throwing his Camaro in front of a even the most carefully operated rig.

That being said, it is important to realize that most of the time, your driver is in a situation where they cannot control the decisions and behavior of local drivers on routes like US 25E.

Here’s where we could use your help… Please let receivers and customers know that their load is traveling along a route that is heavy with passenger vehicles, and that your drivers are aware that you have communicated this to the customers, then they can focus on making a safe trip and getting the load delivered without an incident of some kind.

We know that once the load is in the driver’s hands, it’s time for operations to move on to the next issue that needs solving or trip that needs planning. Still, sometimes it might be necessary for dispatch to reschedule drop off or pick up times. Your driver will be able to get his job done much better if he feels like his Ops team has him covered.

Drivers

No matter how good a driver you are, you never know when Farmer Jones is going to pull out right in front of you in his ‘69 Dodge Power Wagon, driving like he doesn’t want to spill any of his sheep out of the bed in the back.

It’s easy to get mad or frustrated, but just remember that he doesn’t know any better. He doesn’t understand that you need a good 450 feet to come to a complete stop. Remember, you are the professional, so it’s up to you to be prepared. What does being prepared mean? It means more than anticipating how to avoid rolling over Farmer Jones. Your equipment needs to be ready for this situation as well.

It’s a good thing you have 10 brakes on your rig to slow you down, but if one is out of adjustment, it can heat up and glaze. Now you have only 9 sharing the load. Once these heat up, they expand. This reduces the air-flow and causes them to heat faster, and one or two more will start to glaze causing brake fade. Are 7 or 6 brakes enough to stop you? Once brake fade sets in, it starts a chain reaction pulling the rest of the system down.

Now you have to “stab brake,” punch, punch, punching the brake pedal. Stab braking is also the best way to keep your brakes from overheating on a long, downward hill. You can’t overcheck your brake adjustment. Make sure they are adjusted and ready to ride before getting behind the wheel.

Here is another thing to consider when driving on a road where you have lots of Farmer Joneses with their sheep trucks, soccer moms on their cell phones, and tourists taking checking out the foliage. When you come around a corner and come face-to-face with the back of a minivan stopped in the road to take a picture, remember that turning the wheel more than one-sixteenth of a turn can throw you into a jackknife. That’s not good for the minivan, the driver, the customer, YOU or anybody else involved.

Sometimes the only solution to get out of these headaches is to “chop steer.” That’s maneuvering your steering wheel one-sixteenth of a turn left, back, left, back, etc. You don’t want the trailer swinging out in front of you where it can take you out along with everything in your path. You see NASCAR drivers do this when the nose of their car starts to ‘push’ in the corners. This same technique works on ice, too. Sometimes hitting the brake full on is not your best option.

If you are unfamiliar with any of these techniques then please check in with your safety manager to make sure you have the skills needed to handle the craziness that may present itself in front of you on routes like these.

Safety

While it may not be necessary for you to be able to execute these braking and steering maneuvers from behind the wheel, it’s important that you know how to teach them.

If you are going to send a driver out on a route with a lot of passenger vehicles, it’s a good idea to get them set up with some skid pad training. Thankfully, there are several places that still offer skid pad training and whatever it costs to get your drivers properly trained, it is well worth it.

Here’s the one question you need to be to answer with a comfortable “yes”, before sending your drivers off to maneuver in lots of local and civilian traffic. “Have I taught my drivers everything skill and maneuver they need, so that when they get into a situation where they need a camera to exonerate them in a crash, they were doing everything they possibly could to avoid that crash?” That’s the kind of great training that the best in the business safety managers provide.

Conclusion

Operating a rig safely around passenger vehicle traffic depends mostly on the driver’s skills and behavior. Our drivers are doing the best they can, so any help goes a long way. Ops can take some of the pressure off the driver through good communication and encouragement. Safety can make sure the driver has had the proper training to react to situations that are outside of their control.

Next week we are changing our series focus to
Driver Management. We will be looking at how Operations and Safety Teams can coach and train the highest performing and safest drivers in the various scenarios we have been looking at on US 25E, as well as other specific road conditions and challenges.