Addressing Truck Driver Safety

Driver Safety

There are many obstacles that truck drivers face each day, and many of them are not even while they are driving. Sometimes trucking companies are aware of this, and sometimes,….. they ignore this, and say “it’s the nature of the beast”. Which is a poor excuse for the safety and well-being of the truck driver.

Think of the issues that you, as a driver face with shippers and receivers? Many drivers talk about how they are treated by some warehouse facilities, loading docks and terminals around the country. But what are your most concerning problems, so far as safety goes?

Here are some points I’ve seen in my years on the road, along with those of many other drivers:
(1) When loading at some warehouses, some times, drivers are instructed to “Just open the doors and bump the dock, then wait in your truck until we tell you to pull ahead.” When this happens, the driver is often unaware of what the load actually is, how it has been loaded and if the load has even been secured prior to pulling away from the dock to close the doors. When the time comes to pull away from the dock, shippers will often not use any of the securement the driver has inside the trailer, or they do not use it properly, leaving the driver at risk of the load being damaged, or the driver being injured from a falling load, when he or she opens the doors of the trailer.

(2) When arriving at receiving warehouses around the country, drivers are often met by people off the premises, waiting to “lump” loads for the driver. (For those not aware, this means the individual is looking to unload the truck for the driver, (at a cost) so the driver can get the rest they might need.) Part of the issue with this, is that when these “lumper’s” are waiting on the street, away from a company, the driver has no idea what, or who, they may be dealing with. Also, in the lumper category, are the lumper’s that are already in place at the warehouse, where the prices charged, can sometimes be extremely high, unless the warehouse has set limits that these lumper’s can charge And, with some receiving warehouses, there is an appointment system set up that, if you show up late, they re-schedule your delivery, charge you for the delivery, and leave you waiting overnight to meet your appointment

Another area of concern is for open freight haulers. (flatbeds, step-decks, and lowboy operators)

(1) Shippers:  How many times have you gone to a shipper to load, to find that for any load that has to be secured and tarped, that there is no safe way of getting the load properly covered, without bringing risk to yourself? Some shippers will go so far as to have you pull OFF their property to tarp and secure a load, which brings the driver into another category of safety, as the driver now assumes responsibility for their own, leaving the shipper not being liable for any injury that might happen.

Some shippers have what are known as “Tarping Stations” where the driver can pull into, or next to, and put on a safety harness, and connect to an overhead cable that is intended to prevent the driver from falling to the ground while on top of the load to lay out tarps and are required by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), but not all facilities have these systems in place, with little or no intention of installing them

Sometimes, the driver may be loading in a location where there is adverse weather that can greatly affect their safety while going about the process of covering their load. Bringing this to the attention of the shipper sometimes, but not always, brings the shipper to allow you to move either inside, or to another part of the facility where you are at least out of the wind.

Receivers?? Honestly?? Not much of an issue, there, unless you have multiple stops where the load must be constantly UN-tarped, and re-tarped. Also, flat-bedders don’t necessarily have to man-handle loads, as they are unloaded by the receiver.  Then, look at some of the warehouses that van/reefer drivers deliver to.

From my own personal experience, the most serious threats to a flat-bedder, outside of wearing the proper safety gear for loading and unloading, and paying attention to what is going on during those processes are:

(1) Making sure that preloaded trailers are properly loaded and then secured so that no one gets injured from a falling load.

(2) Weather. Getting loaded on a sunny, or dry day is one thing, but tarping can be another, if it’s windy, snowing, raining, or a combination of any of those conditions. Trying to tarp a load during inclement weather like this can have a driver either slipping, or being sucked right off the top of a load, along with the tarp, and being either seriously injured,… or killed. The same can go for drivers who haul tankers of any kind, as there is little, if any, safety for them while working on top of their trailer/tanker.

Safety has to be the ultimate key for drivers, no matter what kind of work they are doing. And the drivers safety should be an issue for shippers and receivers, a strong issue. And the response of trucking companies, in favor of their drivers, should be equally as strong. If a driver arrives at a facility, and has to perform duties that may place him or her at an UN-necessary risk of injury or worse, then the driver should be able to tell the shipper, receiver, and their trucking company, that such a condition exists and why they feel unsafe about performing the function asked of them.

Solutions CAN be put in place to resolve issues of safety concerns for drivers, and everyone has the ability to face and fix these problems, right away. It’s just a matter of properly addressing these problems before they get to the point that they become commonplace and steps will never be taken to correct them. Attitudes can make a difference, but action, on a part of everyone concerned, will make the changes and improvements for drivers safety, take place.

Hal Kiah

North American Trucking Alerts

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Hal Kiah

Hal is a 20+ year OTR Veteran driver and a 12 year military police veteran. He has also served as a dispatcher and has been a trainer for new Over The Road Heavy Haul drivers. Hal has performed “FHWA” inspections (now called DOT Inspections) . He has been instrumental in the last few years, aiding and mentoring other drivers via social media and personal communications as founder of Truck Driving Career, on Facebook and has a passion and goal of seeing that drivers are respected and recognized for their efforts and sacrifices in the trucking industry, recognizing that trucking is a Lifestyle, and not just a job.