Trying to get a good night’s sleep

sleep1In the trucking industry where there is a need for long periods of acute mental awareness during long stretches of physical inactivity, quality sleep is vitally important. From time to time we hear of incidents where sleep was related to a crash and we must not glaze over the seriousness of proper rest.

Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night, although some need more or less sleep to be adequately rested. And when you have not gotten the right amount for your body, “oh boy” does it let you know. Well, sorry to say that there isn’t much that can take the place of a good night’s sleep to keep you alert. So, let’s first discuss what a good night’s sleep is and along the way talk about things to keep your alert level as high as possible while you’re awake.

Located in the brain is your body’s biological clock that tells it when it’s time to sleep and when to be awake. Your clock runs on a 24 hour cycle and regulates body temperature, alertness and the daily hormone cycles which stimulate cells into action. Disruption to any of the phases of the clock can cause physical and mental-related issues.

There are two main types of sleep, rapid-eye-movement (REM), and non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM). In most adults, sleep begins with the NREM phase. NREM sleep has three main stages. NREM begins with the 1st stage of gently dozing off until reaching the 3rd stage which is the “couldn’t wake you up with a bullhorn” stage of the NREM phase. In the progression from stage 1 to stage 3, brain waves slow and become more synchronized, and the eyes remain still. In the 3rd stage, the brain becomes less responsive to external stimuli, blood pressure and body temperature drop and muscles relax. The 3rd stage is where scientists believe physical and mental recuperation occur like protein building and hormone release. The NREM phase then reverses stages to a more awake stage 2 then stage 1 at which point the REM phase begins.

During REM sleep (aka “active sleep” state), muscles in the arms and legs are temporarily paralyzed, the slow brain wave sleep of NREM quickens as does your heart beat and breathing. The blood pressure rises and the eyes move around in all directions. Scientists believe these eye movements are related to dreams. REM can last from 5 to 30 minutes. NREM sleep and REM sleep continue to alternate throughout the night with the length of NREM stage 3 declining during each cycle. The average length of the NREM-REM sleep cycles are between 70 and 120 minutes.
Many of us have awake times that do not match our internal sleep clock which wants to be awake during the day and asleep at night. For those that do, you’ll have to work extra hard to get the sleep your body needs.

There are a lot of factors that affect the quality and quantity of sleep which include stress, what we eat and drink, medical conditions and the medications we take, the environment in which we sleep and the times at which we finally get to sleep. Any one of these can disrupt the depth of sleep we need so badly.

STRESS: Stress can stimulate an arousal response making restful sleep more difficult to achieve. Search out ways to help decompress e.g., exercise, yoga, music, deep breathing techniques, etc.

ALCOHOL: Alcohol can cause a person to fall asleep more quickly, but the quality of sleep will be compromised. Ingesting alcohol before bedtime has shown to cause increased awakenings due to the arousal effect the alcohol has as it is metabolized throughout the night.

CAFFEINE: A chemical called adenosine, which naturally builds in the brain during awake times is believed to inhibit brain cells that promote alertness. Hence, the longer we’re awake, the more sleepy we become. Interestingly, caffeine works to block the adenosine receptors of the brain allowing nerve cells to maintain activity. However, the more caffeine we ingest the longer it will take for the affects to wear off which can interfere with sleep cycles.

LIGHT: Exposure to light in the evening tends to delay the phase of our internal clock and leads us to prefer later sleep times. Bright light bulbs and electronic devices are common examples and should be minimized before bedtime.

PAIN: Pain and discomfort limit the depth of sleep we get. Those with chronic and acute pain should limit caffeine and alcohol consumption and practice stress reliving techniques. Use of pain killers and/or sleeping pills, while effective, should only be used under the supervision of a physician.

DRUGS: Many medications contain alpha and beta blockers used to control heart rhythms and reduce blood pressure both of which affect sleep. Talk to your doctor about the affects they may cause.

SLEEP ENVIRONMENT: Increase your chances of better sleep by controlling your sleep environment. 1) Use no/low lighting such as nightlights to minimize the effects on the internal clock; 2) Reduce noise that can prevent transitions to the deeper stages of sleep, and; 3) Maintain a comfortable temperature to avoid disruptive sleep; 4) Invest in quality bedding.

Driving without the proper amount of quality sleep makes it harder to pay attention to the road and dramatically impacts your reactions. Signs of drowsy driving are trouble focusing, heavy eyelids, an inability to remember the last stretch of road that you just drove, yawning constantly, bobbing your head, and drifting from your lane. If this starts to happen while you’re driving, find a safe place to pull over and take a quick nap or stretch, breath deeply and take a short walk, or buy a cup of caffeinated coffee to help keep you alert. STAY SAFE AND GET SOME REST!


Comes with consequences

Call Your Agent

So many things can happen in a short amount of time and when you delay reporting a claim, those “things” can be forgotten, embellished and/or lost forever. If it is something that can help in your defense, you don’t want it lost.

When you are involved in any type of claim that has property damage or injury, it is imperative that you let your insurance agent know as soon as possible so that the process of discovery can begin. In many instances, an insurance company can have an independent adjuster dispatched to the scene to begin the process.

Witnesses: When there are witnesses to a claim, it is critical to talk to those witnesses as soon as possible in order to get their version of the story. Details can become fuzzy or lost altogether as time goes by. Always get names and phone numbers of witnesses – especially if they cannot stay at the scene.

Your story: When you or a driver are involved in a claim, the details are so important, e.g. how many people were in a particular vehicle at that time? We see claims where individuals that were not even involved in the crash are claiming injury. Write down the details, take pictures and/or have someone in the company designated to conduct post-accident interviews.

Scene changes: The more time that goes by the more a scene can change. Skid marks fade and/or other skid marks occur, spills get cleaned and damages get repaired. When there isn’t proper documentation and examination of the scene, it becomes more difficult for a claims professional to do their job.

Unnecessary expenses: Expenses can occur when a claim is reported late to your insurance company. When a claimant’s vehicle is damaged, they will likely need a rental. The longer the life of the claim, the more rental expense is incurred. Additionally, claimants can rationalize that the insurance company is not properly tending to their claim and respond by hiring an accident attorney. These attorneys are synonymous for inflating charges.

Your damages: Another item to note is that when you are involved in a claim, your damages need to be fixed as soon as possible as well. We see claims where damaged parts from a previous crash fall off of the vehicle and cause another separate claim.

Please report your claim as soon as possible to give your claims professionals the best chance at defending you and reducing your exposure to unnecessary costs. A notice of an incident to an agent is a notice of claim. You should expect confirmation from the insurance company of the claim within a reasonable amount of time.

Spotlight on crashes

Multiple Vehicle Crash

As we have noticed an uptick in the frequency of multiple-vehicle crashes, we would like to pass on some key points to consider with respect to liability arising out of these types of crashes. The key for investigators is to determine the sequence of events. The following would be typical questions you might be asked following a crash.

      1. Were you stopped before the impact?
      2. If not, how far were you from the vehicle ahead before you made contact?
      3. How many impacts did you feel?
      4. What was the severity of each impact?
      5. Was a lane change the cause of the crash?

In addition to the information above, any photos that you could provide before the vehicles are moved would help to preserve the scene for accident investigators. As always, safety first. Do not put yourself in an unsafe area to take photos. When safe, take photos of all angles, both the whole scene and the impact areas. Take photos of signs, intersections and skidmarks. Photos go a long way in helping claims representatives to corroborate any received testimony.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Always give yourself enough room to stop behind the vehicle in front of you. If you are being followed too closely, increase your distance from the vehicle ahead to help prevent a rearend crash.
Another type of crash we are seeing more often is trucks backing into dock doors and stationery vehicles. These accidents have been occurring with seasoned drivers. Safety coordinators should add these accident types to their driver meeting notes as the development of bad habits and not asking for assistance is more likely to blame than actual ability.

When a parking situation is tight – especially when backing, you should always get a spotter to assist you. If the area appears to be too tight, stop and ask to have the obstacle moved to accommodate your truck and trailer size. Do not risk a claim. When backing without a spotter, be sure to get out of the truck and check for obstacles and people that might be behind and/or alongside your vehicle and trailer.

REQUIRED! Electronic Stability Control

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a final rule requiring electronic stability control (ESC) systems on truck tractors and certain buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of greater than 26,000 pounds.

Industry stakeholder Meritor WABCO announced its support of the final rule stating, “we fully endorse NHTSA’s action” and “ESC helps save lives and reduce injuries and accident-related costs.” Meritor WABCO with its SmartTracTM stability control system boasts 262,000 vehicles in more than 220 fleets equipped with the technology. According to the company, those fleets equipped with the technology report a reduction of rollover and loss-of-control accidents by up to 60%.

ESC systems are designed to reduce untripped rollovers and mitigate severe understeer or oversteer conditions that lead to loss of control by using automatic computer-controlled braking and reducing engine torque output.
For all new typical three-axle truck tractors manufactured on or after August 1, 2017, the effective date of this rule is August 24, 2016. For all other truck tractors including two-axle vehicles, the effective date is delayed two years due to their increased braking capabilities.

NHTSA determined that a 150-foot radius J-turn test maneuver to be an efficient means to ensure vehicles maintain roll stability. The J-turn test maneuver involves accelerating to a constant speed on a straight stretch of high-friction track before entering into a 150-foot-radius curve. After entering the curve, the driver attempts to maintain the lane at a speed that is up to 1.3 times the speed at which the ESC system activates, but in no case below 30 mph. An ESC system must activate the vehicle’s service brakes to slow the vehicle’s speed to 29 mph within 3 seconds after entering the curve and 28 mph within 4 seconds after entering the curve. Additional J-turn tests are conducted to ensure that an ESC system is able to reduce engine torque.

Speeds on a 150-foot radius curve of greater than 30 mph on a typical truck tractor are likely to lead to lateral instability, wheel lift, and possible rollover.

Autonomous truck approved for Highways

Nevada has officially granted the first license for an autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the U.S. to Freightliner Trucks. Freightliner’s Inspiration truck is equipped with what is termed “Highway Pilot Technology” (HPT). HPT used radar to monitor its surroundings and react by controlling speed and braking. The vehicle’s onboard camera reads the lane stripes and markings to detect its position while controlling the power steering to maintain in the center of the lane. The vehicle also has a mode called “Platooning” that allows other vehicles with HPT to connect with the lead vehicle. Through vehicle to vehicle communication, adjustments to operational components such as speed and braking are performed almost simultaneously. Platooning is expected to reduce air flow and air pressure which in turn increases aerodynamics and vehicle efficiency.

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Regulatory actions ramping up for truckers

July 1st marks 35 years since the landmark Motor Carrier Regulatory Reform and Modernization Act (aka The Motor Carrier Act of 1980) was signed into law by former President Jimmy Carter, partially deregulating the trucking industry. Here in 2015, the red tape is as vibrant as ever and over-regulation is abundant, extremely restrictive and costly.

Listed below are regulations set to become a Final Rule or Proposed Rule later this year:

Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers; Prohibition (Proposed Rule)
FMCSA is proposing to adopt regulations that prohibit motor carriers, shippers, receivers, or transportation intermediaries from coercing drivers to operate commercial motor vehicles in violation of certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
While there is an overwhelming consensus that coercion is a bad thing, very few truly feel that this proposed rule as written has the teeth to make a big difference. It doesn’t require special declarations by employers who dismiss a driver, no date/time stamps on Bills of Lading for pickup and delivery, no signed review of HOS prior to dispatch – really nothing procedural. Rather, it states that drivers “must bear a substantial burden of proof” in establishing coercion. If and when found in violation, the offender will receive a fine and may be ordered to pay restitution for the coercion.
This proposed rule is scheduled to clear OMB and be published as a Final Rule by September 10. Docket #: FMCSA-2012-0377 RIN: 2126-AB57
Commercial Driver’s License Drug &

Alcohol Clearinghouse (Proposed Rule)
FMCSA is proposing to establish the Commercial Driver’s License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a database that will contain controlled substances and alcohol test results for commercial drivers.

The proposed rule would require verified positive, adulterated, and substituted drug test results, positive alcohol test results, test refusals, negative return-to-duty test results, and information on follow-up testing to be reported and stored in the database. The proposed rule would also require employers to report actual knowledge of traffic citations for driving a commercial motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The proposed rule would also establish the terms of access to the database which includes prospective and current employers.
Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service Supporting Documents
(Proposed Rule)
FMCSA is proposing amendments to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to establish: Minimum performance and design standards for hours-of-service (HOS); electronic logging devices (ELD); requirements for the mandatory use of these devices by drivers currently required to prepare HOS records of duty status; requirements concerning HOS supporting documents; and measures to address concerns about harassment resulting from the mandatory use of ELDs.

A large number of comments on this proposed rule show disagreement with its purported safety benefits and concern with the costs associated with these devices. In comments by United Parcel Service, the company notes that roughly 12,000 of the 40,000 trucks that it operates that would be subject to this rule already have onboard recording devices. However, the company also notes that to upgrade those devices to be compliant with the new rule, it would cost roughly $300 per unit. Additionally, UPS estimates the cost to install onboard recording devices in the remainder of its fleet would be $4,226 per unit. Considering these estimates are representative of a large purchasing power causes deeper concern.

This proposed rule is scheduled to clear OMB and be published as a Final Rule by September 30. Docket #: FMCSA-2010-0167 RIN: 2126-AB20

Commercial Motor Vehicle Speed Limiters
Stemming from petitions from the American Trucking Association, Road Safe America and a group of nine very large motor carriers, FMCSA is proposing federal motor vehicle safety standards to require speed limiters on trucks. The proposal was originally posted in the Federal Register in 2011, but has been delayed 21 times since then. The original proposal would require vehicle manufacturers to install a tamper-resistant device to limit the speed of trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 26,000 pounds to no more than 68 mph.

Most recently, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was asked about the 21 delays in a Senate Subcommittee hearing. Foxx told Maine Senator Susan Collins that “there is a Notice of Proposed Rule Making that is working its way through the department
currently and I’m looking forward to getting that out as soon as possible – hopefully not later than the fall.”  Federal Register No. 2010-33057

Port collisions among truckers are on the rise



Crashes at the ports are becoming an all too common occurrence as truckers line
up at terminal gates and jockey for position to get in and get out as painlessly as

At the port, traffic control is often an oxymoron. There can be trucks entering and exiting the gates from all different directions with line stalkers looking for the opportunity to cut in on truckers who leave room and/or attempt not to block onstreet traffic lanes. With inflamed tensions, trucks bottleneck at the gates. There is obvious work to be done for the ports and truckers to come together to keep tensions in check and the traffic flowing as smoothly as possible.

Be aware that in those instances when trucks are too close together and tensions
are heightened, collisions are occurring at an increased rate – it is a very frustrating
situation for all involved. On the insurance side, the ports aren’t allowing claims
professionals entrance inside the terminal gates to perform investigations. Truckers
need to understand that because of this, it becomes a “he said”, “she said”
scenario. And, if the other guy has photo evidence and/or witnesses to corroborate
his claim, the preponderance of evidence can favor the other guy. Our claims
professionals need you to be aware of this situation and be prepared to take photos
of the accident scene. Take wide (panoramic) shots as well as closeups, and if
you can, get names and numbers of any witnesses. Notable is that we have had
instances where a trucker who hit one of our guys produced witnesses that (while
they were at the port) were not at the collision site at the time of the collision. It was
only through photographic evidence that we were able to discredit those witnesses.

While the ports around the country are making efforts to smooth the flow of traffic
through appointments, extended gate hours and other efficiencies it is still the
responsibility of truck drivers to operate safely. And, if/when you have a collision
preserve the scene as best as you can through photos/video and get names and
numbers of any witnesses.

These simple actions will go a long way towards defending your liability and
protecting your safety record and loss ratio.

Seasonal driving tips

The wrong mapping device could send you over the edge

Before you go on your next trip, make sure you check the weather and road conditions, and oh yes… if you’re going to use a GPS device, choose one designed for commercial driving.

Example: A truck driver (just last month) drove almost to the top of Butterfield Canyon Utah where he came within inches of falling down a one hundred foot drop-off. Despite very narrow and winded roads, the driver kept going because his GPS instructed him to. Ultimately, he got to a place where he couldn’t make the turn. The rescue took six hours and meant two-thirds of his cargo had to be off-loaded so a front-end loader could lift the trailer around the hairpin turns to a place where the he was able to turn around.

Not all navigation systems are the same and the shortcut you trusted to save you time and fuel could end up costing you more than you bargained for. It is extremely important for truckers to understand important route restrictions, road and weather conditions. Commercial mapping devices choose routes based on your vehicle’s length, width, height, axle weight and hazardous materials onboard. They can track fuel purchases, list truck stop and service locations and include real-time weather overlays.

Adjust your driving to fit conditions

• Turn off your cruise control.
• If you lose traction with the road, gradually slow down. Don’t slam on the brakes.
• Use caution when driving on bridges or overpasses. Because of their elevation, the ground does not warm these surfaces and they are the first to freeze and become slippery when the temperature drops. Shaded areas also remain cooler and freeze faster.
• Know your route. Some roads are regularly maintained while others less frequently leaving the potential for dangerous obstacles and surface damage to contend with.
• Don’t drive fatigued. If you’re feeling tired, find a place where you can safely pull off the road and rest.
• Always perform a pre-trip inspection testing the heater and defroster, lights, wipers, battery and tires.
• Be sure to use antifreeze that’s good to -25°F; check and fill washer and other fluids and make sure hoses aren’t loose or brittle.
• Keep an automotive safety kit in your vehicle.


Underride Guards Fail Critical 30% Test

Trailer underride guards, while improved, did not pass the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) critical 30% test. According to the IIHS, trailer underride guards on modern trailers do a pretty good job at keeping vehicles from sliding underneath them, but primarily when the crash occurs directly behind the trailer. IIHS tests show that when a vehicle strikes a portion of the trailer (overlap), most trailers fail to prevent potentially deadly underrides.

In a IIHS study of 115 crashes in which a passenger vehicle struck the back of a heavy truck or semitrailer, results showed that 80% were underrides. Of those crashes involving underride, 82% were fatalities; about half of those with severe underride had overlaps of 50% or less.

IIHS engineers most recently crash-tested trailers from eight of the largest manufacturers. In each test, a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu struck a parked tractor-trailer at 35 mph. When the car was aimed at the center of the trailer, all successfully prevented the underride.  When the mid-point of the car struck the trailer edge, only one guard failed to prevent the underride.  However, when the portion of the vehicle striking the trailer was reduced to 30%, all but one failed. The 30% overlap is used by the IIHS for testing because it is the minimum overlap under which a passenger vehicle occupant’s head is likely to strike a trailer in an underride guard failure. It is important to note that in successful tests where the guards held up, the Malibu’s structure and airbags protected the dummy.
Earlier test results from the IIHS showed that the size and strength of the guards were inadequate  leading the IIHS to petition the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2011 for tougher standards. In that set of tests, IIHS engineers crash-tested trailers from three manufacturers (Hyundai, Vangard and Wabash). The Hyundai trailer failed all tests. Vangard failed the 50% and 30% tests while the Wabash trailer failed the 30% test.

Since 2007, under Canadian regulation, a guard must withstand about twice as much force at the point where it attaches to its vertical support compared to the U.S. rule. It’s encouraging to note that while NHTSA has not issued any additional requirements on trailer underride guards, trailer manufacturers have responded to the IIHS results by installing guards that are much stronger than required. All eight manufacturers now have underride guards meeting the Canadian standard, and none of the current designs had any difficulty passing the full-width test.

According to the IIHS, the location of the guards’ vertical supports appears to be a problem. As the supports are attached to the slider rails which allows the position of the wheels to change depending on the load, the vertical supports are located an average of 28 inches from the trailer’s edge. Manac, a Canadian manufacturer and the only one to pass the 30% test, attaches its guards to a reinforced floor and spaced just 18 inches from the edge.