Was Winter 2015 our Deadliest Year for Weather Related Truck Accidents?

winter crash

Hal Kiah / Truckers Lives in The Balance / North American Trucking Alerts

 

With winter still struggling to rear its ugly side, this early in Spring, one has to wonder if this year has been our deadliest season for crashes during winter weather, and what needs to be done in trucking, to get the message across, to slow down, listen up, and pay attention when bad weather kicks in.
In 25 years in the trucking industry, I have seen, read, and heard of some very serious accidents that have happened on our nations highways, including accidents that took place with our neighbors to the north, Canada. Major accidents also took place in Michigan, where vehicle after vehicle, including cars and big rigs, came plowing through fog laden snow, directly into traffic that had already crashed ahead of them, with little or no place to go, to avoid collisions.

Recently in Wyoming, with 2 serious wrecks having taken place within a few days time of each other, where the second wreck involved several vehicles having burst into flames, at least 2 lives having been lost, and a truck driver having been arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter as a result of the investigation and eye-witness accounts of what happened, that led up to the crash. And a series of other accidents having taken place around the country that have had similar results.

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This year, has shown that all drivers need to get their acts together, and start using common sense while driving, which includes, but is not limited to;
(1) not using cell phones, in any way, without a hands free device to talk with, leave the cell phone in the glove box, or toss it into the back seat where you cannot get to it and text or otherwise have your head and eyes taken from the roadways.
(2) Turn down the satellite radio and turn up the CB, and listen to what is going on ahead of, and behind you, so you can know what’s going on, in advance, and make adjustments, rather than end up in the mess that was taking place in front of you, and being a part of it.
(3) And,…. start slowing down and increasing your following distances from the vehicle you are following, or passing, during bad weather.
(4) Plan your day prior to heading out by finding out what the weather is expected to be on your trip, so you can adjust for how much longer it is going to take you to get wherever you are headed.
Most recently accidents have taken place in an area of the country, known for unexpected and foul weather conditions to occur any time of the year, Wyoming was not the exception, but is the rule to Murphy’s Law, (What can go wrong, Will go wrong) and (expect the unexpected). There should have been no reason for the carnage that took place, to happen, if today’s drivers were to take the sound approach to safe driving, and pay attention to what is ahead of them.

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As for trucking, many companies say that Safety is the number one rule, yet few follow through, with dispatchers still in the mode of, “This load has to be there at XXXXX time, with no excuses,” and many new (or young in the business) drivers, falling into stress mode by feeling forced to hurry and get the load delivered, on time, no matter the conditions. Plus, add some seasoned drivers, that are still in hustle mode, even though they know better, pushing other drivers to move it along by calling out on the CB, to trucks ahead of them to move it.
Trucking companies and brokers, must take the leading role in educating, not just their drivers about safe driving, but also to educate their dispatchers, planners, customer service representatives, and themselves, that safety must come first, and that the driver is the one in control of the truck, not anyone else. Start encouraging drivers to turn on the CB, and use it properly and it can be one of the most important tools a trucker has in his or her inventory. Yes, I understand, in many places, there is a lot of garbage talk on the radio, that many just do not want to hear, or have their children hear when they have their kids along for the ride during the off-school season to experience what the country looks like and get a mobile history lesson. But using the radio, paying attention to your surroundings, acting in advance, instead of RE-acting when it’s too late, can make all the difference in the world, and save lives, including your own.

 

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Add one more thing to the key in being safe out there, and this is being approached with the ELDTAC meetings in Washington, that being,…CDL training. Companies need to initiate a program, where road trainers be required to have a minimum of 5 years, (no less) over the road experience in whatever field of trucking they are training new drivers with, including winter and hazardous weather conditions. If that driver has 6 years in hauling refrigerated or dry van freight, and moves into flatbed operations, with only a year or so experience, then he or she does not qualify to train another driver in flatbed operations, the 5 years must be a qualifying prerequisite to being a trainer. Along with the proper mental attitude of being a teacher/trainer, patience must also be a key factor.
These accidents could have been, and should have been, prevented. There is no viable reason for not being careful on the road, even a city street on a tricycle. In the military, they call it “situational awareness”, that meaning that you should always be aware of your surroundings, and be able to react and adjust quickly to what is going on around you, to prevent yourself and everyone else, from being in harm’s way, and being able to mitigate the situation, before it takes place.

Be safe, Driver safe, and get home safe, those words should be a part of every drivers foremost thoughts when heading out on the roadways, Otherwise, we’ll see you at the funeral.

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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.
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