New video for cargo tank drivers offers helpful safety reminders no matter what kind of loads your drivers are hauling
Think about when you were a kid competing in an egg relay race at summer camp. You were never so careful about carrying anything as you were holding that raw egg gingerly on a spoon as you lurched toward the finish line.
Now that you’re grown up and driving and/or supervising other drivers hauling all sorts of important loads, you probably don’t compete in many egg relay races. But doesn’t it stand to reason that you’re a safer driver day-to-day if you imagine you’re always carrying a precarious load down the road?
That’s what the producers of a new safety video aimed primarily at drivers hauling big liquid loads believe. They argue that whether you pull a tank trailer, equipment trailer or other loads behind your tractor, you’ll gain potentially life- and load-saving advice by viewing the video, “Cargo Tank Driver Rollover Prevention,” produced jointly by the National Tank Truck Carriers and the American Trucking Association in cooperation with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
You can see the video at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/outreach/cargo-tank-video.aspx. It’s also free to download and show to drivers as part of a safety-training program.
As part of his work with the NTTC, Steve Niswander, vice president of safety policy and regulatory regulations for Groendyke Transport Inc., Enid, Okla., envisioned this video for tanker drivers to help reduce dangerous rollovers. Groendyke runs about 1,000 tractors 70 million miles annually hauling mostly liquid hazardous materials.
Niswander argues the new video – the latest component of a national anti-rollover campaign – is a must-see safety tool for drivers who pull tank trailers or trucks with fixed tanks. But he says any trucker who ever hauls an unstable load or a load with a high center of gravity will benefit from the tips imparted in the video.
In 2005, a committee including Niswander was formed to build a safety-training program for liquid load haulers. Including safety specialists from several trucking companies, the group began by producing monthly workplace posters sharing safety tips. Then they designed skill cards covering a variety of safety topics that go out with drivers’ paychecks. To date, 180 companies, representing 10,000 drivers, have signed on to the program.
Though it was initially designed for over-the-road semi drivers, companies transporting liquid waste from gas, oil and mining operations or equipment to and from worker camps can participate in the safety program. It costs an average of $11 per driver per year. To learn more, go to the NTTC website, www.tanktruck.org.
TIPS & TECHNIQUES
The video features several truckers who have been involved in rollover crashes, and their stories carry a lot of weight with professional drivers, says John Conley, of the NTTC. Interspersed with the compelling driver stories, the video covers four major areas of risk for dangerous rollover accidents: vehicle design and performance, load effects, highway factors and driver factors.
Using animated graphics, the video shows the impact of sudden movements and tripping the wheels over the shoulder when carrying an unstable load. It explains how dangerous liquid slosh and surge can result from driving too fast for conditions, by squaring off the turning radius and by sudden braking or other maneuvers.
It goes on to explain that drivers are ultimately responsible for many of these factors. It stresses that drivers need to do extensive route planning if they’re carrying a load more prone to rollover risk. And the video shares a variety of tips that would be helpful to any hauler:
Know your limitations.
Be aware of how loads with a high center of gravity will react when you turn, hit a ramp or execute a braking maneuver. And understand that a full load is actually safer to transport than a partial load. The vast majority of rollover crashes (94 percent) occur in rigs carrying partial liquid loads – as they are more susceptible to extreme sloshing and surging.
Manage your speed.
Remember that speed limits and guidelines at curves are meant for general motorists in good weather conditions, not for drivers pulling unstable loads. Fleet experts say truck drivers should maintain a speed at least 10 mph below the posted speed on curves. The faster you go, the more risk you have that a sudden adjustment will cause a rollover.
Maintain your rig, route.
Always perform thorough pre-trip inspections to make sure brakes, tires and suspension will operate safely. And before you take the wheel, identify the higher risk sections of your route. Pinpoint stretches with soft shoulders, downhill grades, limited visibility and twisty turns. Know these risks well ahead of time so you can slow your reactions and maintain control.
Watch for driver fatigue.
It’s always a bad idea to drive when you’re tired, but it’s doubly dangerous when pulling top-heavy or liquid loads. Stay sharp by eating right, stopping frequently to stretch, getting plenty of sleep. Be mindful of clues that you need to take a break, including daydreaming, frequent yawning, heavy eyelids and head bobbing or drifting from your lane.
LISTEN TO THE PRO
In the video, 33-year veteran driver G. Wayne Matheson sounds the safety watchword for fellow truck drivers.
“Anytime you speed up, you’re subject to mess up,” Matheson warns. “When you get so comfortable and think that you’ve been driving so long and you have so much experience … that it all comes natural to you, you’re gonna mess up. Because something’s going to get you when you’re not expecting it.”