It's December already and with the holidays right around the corner, the best gift drivers can give to their fleets is to drive safely and have positive roadside inspections. Much like an episode of Ice Road Truckers, most of your drivers will inevitably face hazardous winter weather driving conditions this year as they have in years past. However, unlike in years past, CSA will play a huge role in driver safety as the ultimate critic of driver performance. As fleet owners, managers and safety personnel, be sure to emphasize the proper safety protocol for your fleets when preparing your drivers for the coming winter months.
It is nothing new to say that winter driving is extremely hazardous, but what is also a reality is that planning ahead during the winter months will certainly pay off when it comes to CSA. A carrier's and driver's record will be negatively influenced in the event of an accident or poor maintenance on a truck, both of which can certainly be affected by winter weather.
Maintenance itself, when it comes to winter weather, is an issue that should definitely be addressed. First and foremost, a proper pretrip inspection by each driver will go a long way towards preventing any maintenance issues that could arise during a trip. A burned-out light bulb or a frayed strap will lead to negative CSA scores, and those points will be stuck with a carrier for two years and the driver for three. With the retention of data in the CSA program, that bad roadside inspection data could have been alleviated by performing a good pretrip. In addition to maintenance issues being identified by performing a thorough pretrip inspection, safe driving in winter weather can also be achieved as well. Making sure equipment such as windshield wipers and tire chains are in proper working condition helps your drivers in the event of a snow or ice storm and safely gets them to their destinations.
Of course, pretrip inspections are only part of the battle. Since winter weather is often predictable, be sure your drivers plan their trips accordingly. Weather fronts and patterns in areas where drivers are traveling can often be identified beforehand, so drivers should use local forecasts to plan their trips and even their rest periods to avoid ice- or snow-filled roadways. Proper trip planning around weather can be essential to steering clear of a weather-related accident or even avoiding lengthy detention times due to snow or ice.
Obviously, be sure to emphasize all the proper driving techniques to your drivers that do get caught in snow or icy conditions. Posted speed limits mean nothing in snow or ice storms, so your drivers should operate at a controllable and safe speed. Drivers should increase following distance to allow for proper reaction time; finally, be sure to allow your drivers the ability to make the decision to stop and wait out a storm if they are not comfortable driving. The old saying that the driver is the captain of the ship certainly applies in this instance.
We all hope that every driver will continue to operate in a safe and effective manner over the course of the winter. Being prepared will go a long way to making your drivers safer, which will help keep those CSA scores low.
I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.
David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to [email protected].