Tag Archives: driving tips

ELDs

Are You Ready?

By Larry Pruitt

With the FMCSA‘s Electronic Logging Device Mandate deadline quickly looming, Owner-Operators and small fleet owners alike are trying to wade through all of their options for the upcoming mandate deadline.  They’re trying to decide what will work best for them.  I know some companies have been testing different products on some select trucks in their fleet, while other operations are holding out hope that there will be a stay at the eleventh hour.  In my opinion, Congress doesn’t seem to agree on anything these days and unable to get anything passed, so I seriously doubt that this will get stopped before December 18.

With that being said, there is a very large contingent of drivers that have made the statement that they are leaving the industry when this mandate takes effect.  Some may leave and will probably move on to other careers, but most will continue on and adapt to the mandate. This upheaval in the industry will subside, and as my Mom would say, “This too shall pass”, and I agree with her, “This too will pass… it may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass”.  I’m old enough to remember back in the late-eighties or early-nineties when the CDL License Program was being introduced into the Trucking Industry.  There was a large number of drivers that were afraid that the CDL process would be so complicated that there was going to be a large shortage of drivers.  Drivers were going to leave the industry in droves because of something that today is viewed as no big deal and just part of the process of the regulations that we are saddled with today.

I’m not going to try to change anybody’s mind here on whether you want ELDs or don’t want them.  I’m just going to pass on my experiences, as I switched over to an ELD a little over a month ago.

To give you a little bit of background, I’ve been doing my logs on a tablet for the past 5 years or so using the Big Road app. I found that my logs were much easier to make sure that they were filled out completely and most of all, correctly.  This helps ensure you have a lesser chance to fall victim to a form and matter violation at a roadside inspection. The app would not let you sign your log unless everything was filled out properly.  I installed the connection to ECM back in September using the same app Big Road app.  I chose this product for a couple of different reasons, one was that I already was familiar with the app and the other was that I had good luck with tech support previously.  I wanted to get acclimated to using an ELD now versus trying to get compliant in the middle of December and having trouble.

The process of switching over has been pretty much uneventful so far.  I haven’t been caught about to run out of hours in my day yet, but I’m sure that will happen eventually.  I’m very fortunate that my operation allows me to be home every night.  I will admit that e-logs make it easier to keep track of duty status changes, it automatically knows when you start driving and when you stop driving, so you don’t even have to look at it for the biggest part of the day.  I will go back into it later and add notes to my stops whenever I have the time.

I think that ELDs are going to affect the industry over the foreseeable future.  I think that changes are going to be just as hard on shippers and receivers.  The truck lines are going to force shippers to get their trucks in and out and back on the road.  Let’s face it, companies are not going to be able to let trucks sit at a shipper or receiver for roughly 8 hours and then only have 6 hours left for their day and still be able to make any profit whatsoever.  Shippers will have to get better or their freight will lay on their dock, because no one will waste their time with that shipper.  I can see more drop and hook freight in the future, in segments that have never before been drop and hook operations.

One thing is for sure, the small fleet folks may have to change how they do business.  I think most small carriers will be able to adapt if they approach this from working within the system rather than trying to work around the system.

Well, that’s my opinion and experiences on the ELD mandate.  There are folks that agree with me and most definitely some that do not agree with me but are very passionate about their opinion.  No matter what anyone’s opinion is, let’s revisit this issue in about a year or so and see what the industry and it’s logging issues are at that time.  To everyone involved, GOOD LUCK with the mandate!

Iowa80.com offers a variety of e-log devices, shop here.


Larry Pruitt is an owner-operator with over 20 years of experience and has been involved in trucking for close to 40 years. He is a firefighter in North St. Louis County Missouri and resides with his wife, Jeanette, in Saint Clair, MO.


 

Chain Up!

Chain Up! Winter Driving Tips for Semi Trucks | Trucker Tips Blog

By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm

Ready or not, winter is here! If you run out west you had better be prepared to meet the requirements of the western states when it comes to snow chains. Even if you are stopped on a nice sunny day with no hint of snow in the forecast, you could still be at risk of getting a ticket for not carrying the proper amount of chains for the truck you are driving. It is extremely important that you familiarize yourself with the requirements for EACH state law regarding chains BEFORE you enter that state. Unfortunately, the laws are not the same from state to state, so getting the information ahead of time is crucial.

We recommend finding out which state has the strictest law and carry the maximum chains you will need, weight allowing. This way you will always be compliant. Another thing to check on, and be sure of, are the dates of requirement which can differ from state to state. For instance, Georgia now has a chain law as a result of all of the wrecks they’ve had in recent winter storms. Again, it’s important to look at the law in ALL states where you run.

When the chain law signs go up, you had better be prepared to hang “iron” or hire some of the people who sit at chain up areas to hang chains for you. If you don’t, you certainly aren’t going anywhere! Make sure that you know your company’s policy about chaining up or parking when the road conditions get to this point. Many companies will allow you to run around a severe winter storm or blizzard, which is the ideal situation. However if they don’t, you need to have the knowledge to keep yourself safe.

Before you find yourself in a situation where you need to put chains on your tires, it would be a good idea to find a place and practice putting them on your wheels. Standing in the cold and snow with drivers splashing you with yuck off the road is not the time to be figuring this out.

Make sure that you have plenty of bungee cords or spider bungees to help secure the chains once they are on. Time and travel on rough snowy roads can and will loosen them, so pay attention in your mirrors. It’s nice if you have a chain hanger under your trailer or on the frame of your truck so that you can hang wet sloppy chains up and not let them freeze in a big lump inside your tool box.

It’s a good idea to check your tires after running chains. Even if your chains didn’t break, other trucks will probably have one break and a broken link in a tire means a trip to the tire shop for repair. I would never have guessed this if a friend hadn’t told me (after learning the hard way).

Sometimes chains can help you even if there isn’t a chain law in effect. For instance, if the road is icy and you have to stop for an accident on an incline, chains might be the only way you are going to be able to get going again. Sometimes after a really big snow it can take truck stops awhile to get everything plowed, especially with all of the trucks in the lot. In a case like that chains or a shovel are going to be your only way out. Another good idea, one we ALWAYS do during winter months, is to carry a bag of sand, salt or kitty litter to help you get enough traction to get going. Be prepared – it may just save your life one winter day!

Remember to SLOW DOWN in inclement weather. Nothing will help you avoid disaster better than a slower speed! We have to keep a sharp eye out at all times for new drivers; 4-wheeler and 18-wheeler alike. For some, this could very well be their first ever winter driving experience. We need to be driving our trucks for them, as well as for ourselves, to keep everyone safe. It is our responsibility as the professionals out here to stay calm and behave as such. We can lead by example and do our best to keep the accident statistics down this winter.

Stay Safe Out There And Keep It Shiny!


Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.


 

Oh, the Places You’ll See!

Take Pictures | Trucker Tips Blog
(Be sure to take pictures)

By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm

Today it’s so easy to take lots of pictures. The digital age is phenomenal and has made it so simple! You can see your photos instantly and either keep them or delete them just as fast. You can edit them quickly, so there is no reason not to take them. You can file them, label them, put them into albums, store them on a cloud and on your computer. Many times your device will even know when and where the photos were taken. Such a huge leap over the old Polaroids and Instamatics of our early days where as you actually had to write that info on the photo!

As the quality of cameras in smartphones and tablets keep getting better, it is easier for you to have lots of great photos! Most EVERYBODY has a smartphone on them, almost every moment, so there’s no excuse for missing a shot. You can shoot some pretty amazing videos too! It may not seem like it now but these are memories that one day you will cherish.

Take Pictures | Trucker Tips Blog
Traffic jam on I-70 before it was completed alongside the Colorado river, circa 1984

Looking back through pictures that we took back in the day, we get to relive that race down the drag strip in Topeka or the water fights at the Walcott Truckers Jamboree, even the run we made together up and over the grapevine! Those old photos are in pretty poor condition considering the age, the film and processing, not to mention the ‘equipment’ we had to shoot in the mid ’70s, but thank God we have them! We don’t have many, but those we do have are very precious to us! We get to remember the friends and family who are no longer with us, but we get to see that smile or funny face that we loved so much. Where we’ve been helps make us who we are and it’s a pretty nice place to revisit from time to time.

Take Pictures | Trucker Tips Blog
An unusual sight! Semi Truck Parking Only sign in Gloucester, MA, circa 1983

For drivers just getting on the road today, take our word for it, 20 years will go by faster than you can even imagine! So start taking lots of pictures of your first days and years on the road, it’s will be fun to go through them years later. It’s also a great way to share all the places you’ve been with family back home. It brings your stories to life, paints the picture of your day for them, so they can feel more a part of your world.

No matter where you run, all 48 or a dedicated run, the photo opportunities are endless! The sun comes up the sun goes down and in so many places this can be quite spectacular. When the snow stops and the sun comes out it creates an entirely different kind of beauty! There is beauty in a rain storm or a moonlit night sky. Fall presents a plethora of landscape changes that are among my personal favorites to shoot. I am forever searching for that perfect backdrop to use to frame my truck amidst the changing colors of fall leaves. Springtime itself has its own multi colored beauty which oftentimes go unnoticed in our rush to just see green after a long cold winter, but look for it, it’s there!

Take Pictures | Trucker Tips Blog
A beautiful sunset

I personally like taking pictures of my truck and trailer in some of the “challenging” docks and places I have to deliver. It looks pretty impressive to see where you can get that rig without hitting anything! This is a skill and you never stop learning!

Hopefully you will never have to take pictures of an accident but if that ever happens and if you are able, make sure you get a lot of photos, because you are probably going to need them before it’s over.

Taking pictures is a passion for both of us, we have been doing it for years and we encourage others to shoot pictures of lots of different subjects; such as a snowplow at work in the winter or a hummingbird mid flight. There is beauty all around us, things worthy of being photographed, especially a beautiful truck in an unusual or scenic setting. The places we go, this industry we are a part of, is an ever changing entity. It evolves quickly and the equipment itself changes too. What is here today may not be tomorrow. TAKE PICTURES! You won’t regret it. We promise!

Stay Safe Out There And Keep It Shiny!


Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.


 

No Time to Read?

No Time To Read | Trucker Tips Blog

By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm

Reading broadens your horizons, but as drivers someNo Time to Read?- Reading broadens your horizons but as drivers sometimes it’s hard to find the time to sit down and enjoy a good book.times it’s hard to find the time to sit down and enjoy a good book.

These days there are so many options to enjoy your favorite authors.  I am still a fan of a good old fashioned  book, sitting down and turning the pages. Sadly, that’s not always practical. Even when you get the opportunity to do so, you might find yourself falling asleep after the first or second page!

Books on tape have been around for years and they have come a long way from the days when there was a rack in nearly every truck stop. In the early days, you would rent your favorite books, listen to them and return them miles down the road; rent a new title and enjoy hours of listening to a murder mystery, a drama, western or war story, even a love story. It was the forerunner to today’s Redbox.

You can spend the money and find many good titles that are still sold in most truck stops and swap with friends on the road.  If you don’t have the money to create your own audio book collection there are other places that you should investigate.  Most libraries will let you check out audio books just like you would a paperback and they usually give you a couple of weeks to listen before needing to  return them.

Some companies have racks in their lunch rooms or drivers spaces that will let drivers leave books for others to listen to and bring back so other drivers can share the same book.

No Time To Read? | Trucker Tips BlogWe found when you get hooked on an author it made for many hours of listening that helped us cover thousands of miles while entertained. I, Kim, enjoyed the Sue Grafton alphabet murder series. I enjoyed the P.I. character Kinsey Millhone narrated by Judy Kaye. To me she became the voice of Kinsey in her adventures in the fictional California town of St. Theresa. We look forward to the next book coming out in any series. They become so addictive. The characters become members of your own friendly circle!

Now, in the digital age, it has become even easier to get the books you love to “read”. If you have a smart phone or tablet it’s as easy as installing an app called OverDrive. You can use this free service if you have a local library card or through your Facebook account. The app has linked libraries from across the country, all over the world in fact. You can access audiobooks and ebooks, download them to your device for listening while you are connected to the Internet so that when you are away you can listen to them and they don’t use any data. You can keep the books for a couple of weeks and if you don’t renew them, OverDrive will automatically remove them from your device on their due date. You do have the option to renew.

If you want a certain book and it isn’t available, you can put your name on a waiting list and when it does become available they will notify you, just like any other library service. The cool thing about this particular service is that as drivers, we just don’t always have the option to get back home to the library like average folks to pick up and return books. With this type of digital service, we don’t have to worry about that any longer!

Roger and I used to check out 10-12 audiobooks every time we went to the library! It took up a lot of space and we actually began to run out of books to listen to, with this service, I can’t see that ever being a problem. Listening to a good book is a really good way to keep you wide awake and alert, especially if you are driving overnight. We highly recommend this form of entertainment as a way to occupy your mind and keep you safe.

I know from experience that listening to a good book would, literally, make the time just fly by while keeping my blood pressure down. It’s a win-win. Give it a try. We hope you end up enjoying it as much as we do!

No Time to Read? | Trucker Tips Blog

Stay Safe Out There And Keep It Shiny!


Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.


 

Signs

By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm

When we hit the road, there are a plethora of signs we need to recognize and understand. Some are suggestive, some are required, some are cautionary, and some are informational. It is SO important that we know which is which so that we can always obey the law.

We all know and recognize the red octagon, the famous STOP sign, STOP is NOT a suggestion! People running these, along with their electric counterpart, the red light, kill or maim innocent people every day. It is for our personal safety as well as the safety of everyone else that these signs are put in place to protect us.

Speed Limit signs that are white and black are law, but they also represent ideal conditions, if the weather conditions are bad you could be cited for traveling the posted speed limit so you always need to use good judgement as well. There are a lot of new electronic signs erected all over the country that will post adjusted speed limits or alert drivers to accidents or bad weather and all kinds of useful information that needs to be communicated to the motoring public that are very helpful.  There are a few states such as Wyoming and Georgia that have speed limit signs that will change with the weather or traffic conditions.

Signs- When we hit the road, there are a plethora of signs we need to recognize and understand. Some are suggestive, some are required, some are cautionary, and some are informational. It is SO important that we know which is which so that we can always obey the law.

There have been several accidents lately involving low overpasses and weight limits on certain roads.  In one instance, a woman destroyed a historic bridge in a town she was familiar with,  after the damage was done she said that she didn’t know how much a ton was.  A ton is 2000 pounds and many roads and bridges are marked with Weight Limit signs telling a driver what is allowable.  If you are over this weight and something as catastrophic as tearing the bridge down occurs you or/and your company just became responsible for that bridge.   Most but not all trailers are 13’6” high which is a standard in the industry, height over that in many states require you to have permits and depending on how high you are they will also require pilot cars.  Each state differs so you should know before you go.  If you approach an overpass that says the clearance is 13’6” slow down!  Some states will pave and not change the signs.  Slowing down could save you the damage and enormous expense of such an accident.

Railroad Crossing Signs warn you of tracks that you are about to cross and you need to heed them. When it comes to truck VS train the truck will lose every time! This sign is even more important to trucks who carry Haz Mat or who pull trailers with low clearance. Getting stuck or hung up on a track could become a major disaster!

Orange signs are used to warn us of upcoming construction, they could tell us there is a flag person ahead or workers and equipment on the roadway. Whatever they tell us, take them seriously, road construction is a necessary part of life and the people who perform it have a very dangerous occupation already, let’s do our part to help keep them safe! Let them do their job and we will reap the rewards of safer smoother roads.

Then there are the blue signs, the service related signs, those telling you where the rest areas are, hospitals and gas stations. All kinds of things we need, restaurants, hotels, motels and other services motorists will need at any given time, that’s when we need to look for those blue signs. We both remember all too well when those signs weren’t around, it was much more difficult to locate necessary places back then, almost a guessing game if you had never run that lane before. Believe me, blue is better! We are grateful for those blue signs!

Another helpful tip is to know that the brown signs out there are used to designate historic places such as National Parks, Zoos, Museums, Visitor Centers and various tourist destinations such as campgrounds, picnic sites, theme parks and such. All in all, we have a very significant and helpful series of signs to help guide us along our travels for all types of purposes. You can joke about that old 60’s song with the chorus that goes “signs, signs, everywhere a sign, blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind” by Five Man Electrical Band. But in all honesty? I’d hate to think where we’d be without them today!

Stay Safe Out There And Keep It Shiny!


Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.


 

Our Interstate System

By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm

Our Interstate System- We have a truly magnificent Interstate Highway System here in America that connects states to one another almost seamlessly today. It hasn’t always been so, in fact we remember when we began driving big trucks there were a lot of unfinished roads all across the country.

We have a truly magnificent Interstate Highway System here in America that connects states to one another almost seamlessly today. It hasn’t always been so, in fact we remember when we began driving big trucks there were a lot of unfinished roads all across the country. It is a very intricate system, like a circulatory system (that’s why they call them arteries) of roads, highways, bridges, and tunnels. There are a few basic tools you may already be using, but if you don’t know them, there’s no time like the present to learn them.

When our Interstate System was developed, the engineers and their counterparts came up with some rules that are still being used to this day. East/West interstates are numbered with even numbers, Southern mostly being smaller numbers working their way bigger as they go North (the idea originally was to avoid conflict with the numbered US Highways already in use, but in reverse). The North/South interstates are numbered with odd numbers, low to high, from West Coast to East Coast. This system makes it simple to locate any interstate, anywhere in the country, on any map at any time. (This is why, in ALMOST every state, mile markers are numbered West to East and North to South as well.)

Once a road is determined to become a part of the Interstate System and the funding for that road is approved, it is assigned a number. That number is based on what type of relationship the new road has to the existing highway. If the new road is going to branch off the existing road and not rejoin it, it’s called a “spur”. If it leaves the main interstate, but will rejoin it at another point further down the road, it’s called a “loop”. A spur will be numbered with an odd number attached to the main interstate number and a loop will be numbered with an even number. This is important to know because if you find yourself in an unfamiliar place, lost and wondering whether or not you’ll be able to get back onto the main interstate from where you are, this knowledge can help you figure it out.

A good example of this is in southern California where I-10 runs East and West through Los Angeles area. Some time ago, the federal government agreed to include the 7, 11, & 210 local freeways in the Interstate System so they changed their designations to the I-710, the I-110 & the I-210. Both the I-710 & the I-110 are spurs, they leave the I-10 and head South but the I-210 leaves I-10 at the base of the grapevine and runs along the foothills all the way to Redlands where it rejoins I-10. If you are on the I-210 and want to get out of town just continue heading East, eventually you will rejoin I-10 on the other side of all the traffic! This is also good information to keep in mind anytime you are in a new location and need to travel off the main highway.  Remember, if you are on a spur you’ll probably need to make plans to retrace your steps to get back onto the major interstate when you’re all finished with your load that day. I can’t tell you how many times just knowing this has helped me during my 40 year career!

Another useful tip we can share with you about signs on interstates, is to pay attention to the placement of the exit number, is it on the right side or the left? Depending on the answer, this will tell you which side your exit will be on, right or left side.

We understand that many of you use a GPS these days, heck we do too. But, we thought you might want to know these facts just in case you are in a situation where you need to revert back to using an atlas.


Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.


 

5 Tips to Make Team-Driving Work

By Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm

Running team is favored by many companies. Husband and wife teams became highly desired in the early 1980’s. Having a couple together on a truck not only cuts back on the need for home time, it also provides stability and security that companies would otherwise be lacking.

Back in the days before cell hone and everything technological, there were many funny stories where one driver would leave their co-driver in a variety of places. A rest area was a common place for a driver to go in and, not knowing that their co-driver had done the same, and after doing their business would leave without verifying their co-driver was in the sleeper so they were accidentally left there.

5 Tips to Make Team-Driving Work- Running team is favored by many companies. Husband and wife teams became highly desired in the early 1980's. Having a couple together on a truck not only cuts back on the need for home time, it also provides stability and security that companies would otherwise be lacking.
Heather & Roger

Thankfully this never happened to us, even though we came close once! We have heard so many stories about another driver giving the one left behind a ride; then catching up to their truck and passing them while the driver who is supposed to be in the bunk is waving like a crazy person. The puzzled look on the faces of those drivers when they turned around to look in the bunk, and sure enough nobody was home, must have been priceless!

We said all of that to say this: It’s imperative that when running as a team, whether it be with a spouse, significant other or simply a co-driver, you must have a system in place to notify one another anytime one of you is out of the truck.

Today it’s probably less likely to happen than when we were dependent on payphones. However, if you phone is in the truck and you are not, there are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening. (Also keep in mind that these days it’s less likely another driver will let an unauthorized passenger in their truck and catching up to the other truck may be harder to do!)

DEVELOP A SYSTEM and put it to use EVERY time you get out. Leave a pillow on the steering wheel or set something specific in your seat so your co-driver knows that you are out of the truck. Pick anything that is obvious and will make sure your co-driver is aware that you are not there! In addition, ALWAYS leave the curtain open when you are supposed to be occupying the bunk but have left for whatever reason. This can also help ensure that you don’t get left behind. Make sure you take your mobile phone with you as well, JUST IN CASE!

BE CONSIDERATE of your co-driver when it’s their turn to sleep. Some people can’t sleep with the radio too loud and some like quiet radio noise to help muffle conversations the other driver may be having on their headset. Work out the details with your partner so everyone gets the rest they need and you are both safe at all times.

Talking on a mobile phone has replaced running with friends on the CB, so the noise can actually be quieter now than it was back in the day of scratchy CB noise. Conversations with others via your mobile phone can help keep you more alert, especially when you have to run the night shift. Remember to always use hands-free when you are driving. Not only is it safer, it’s the law!

Running team in such close quarters will also try any relationship at times. If you company allows, get out of the truck when you are sitting someplace interesting and go SEE THE LOCAL SIGHTS. If you are driving with your spouse or significant other, have a fun date on the road. Go to a movie; many huge theaters allow truck parking. Always make sure the truck and trailer are secure before going on an adventure!

Many people think that when you are running as a team you see each other all the time because you are together 24/7. In reality it’s not as much as you would think, one of you is driving while the other one is sleeping. So while running hard, as teams do, you oftentimes see each other as you pass through the curtain; one to driver and the other to bed.

We really advise that BOTH OF YOU DO EVERYTHING, load, unload, drive in all weather conditions, forward, back-up, big city, two-lanes. If something happens to “the main driver” who back into docks, drivers in the bad weather or through the big cities, the other driver could be in a tight spot if they don’t have any experience.

It takes effort and commitment from both drivers to run a successful team operation. COMMUNICATION is the key when working so closely together, and trust is mandatory to be able to sleep when the other is driving. If done right, team driving can be a great experience; one we have both had and been successful at. It just takes work. But the work is worth it, especially when you find the right partner.

Stay Safe Out There And Keep It Shiny!


Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.


 

Halloween Driving

Keep the Ghosts and Goblins in Your Sights

By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm

Fall is in the air and Halloween is just around the corner, trucks are being adorned with spider webs, pumpkins, ghosts and skeletons as people everywhere prepare for ‘All Hallows’ eve. These should serve as reminders that there will be many holiday parties and many people, small ones in particular, will be dressed up in costumes and masks that can oftentimes prevent them from seeing as clearly as they otherwise would be able to. We can never assume that they can, or do, see us, even if we are driving a huge semi-truck! Watch out for trick-or-treaters!

Keep the Ghosts and Goblins in Your Sights- Fall is in the air and Halloween is just around the corner, trucks are being adorned with spider webs, pumpkins, ghosts and skeletons as people everywhere prepare for ‘All Hallows' eve. These should serve as reminders that there will be many holiday parties and many people, small ones in particular, will be dressed up in costumes and masks that can oftentimes prevent them from seeing as clearly as they otherwise would be able to.
Blood moon eclipse, Joplin, MO

The trees are changing colors and the countryside is putting on a spectacular show before winter changes the canvas to white against the bare trees. On September 27, it was a clear night I was able to enjoy the eclipse and see the rare ‘Blood moon’ in Joplin, Mo. The last time this happened was in 1982 and the next time it will happen is in 2032. One month before Halloween when all the ghosts and goblins come out so the name is appropriate for more than one reason!

On the road, it is a sad fact that during this time of year you have to be aware of people on overpasses that might drop pumpkins, rocks, eggs, and various other objects that could be very dangerous if they hit your windshield. Many years ago, I was driving around Indianapolis on Halloween and was actually hit by a raw egg thrown from an overpass. The ‘tricksters’ probably thought they were doing something funny and relatively harmless but, besides scaring the tar out of me when it hit my truck, it actually broke my windshield, shattering the glass on the passenger side. Had it been the driver’s side, I could have been hurt and in either case this could have caused a major accident. I have never understood what anyone could possibly get out of doing such a thing, but it continues to happen. It seems that people choose to use overpasses where it would be hard for law enforcement to get to them, and by the time an officer could get there the culprits are long gone, as was the case in my incident. Please, use this information to remind yourselves to be extra vigilant watching for this type of hazard!

Keep the Ghosts and Goblins in Your Sights- Fall is in the air and Halloween is just around the corner, trucks are being adorned with spider webs, pumpkins, ghosts and skeletons as people everywhere prepare for ‘All Hallows' eve. These should serve as reminders that there will be many holiday parties and many people, small ones in particular, will be dressed up in costumes and masks that can oftentimes prevent them from seeing as clearly as they otherwise would be able to.Speaking of hazards, another thing to be aware of are the changes going on with the deer population. Fall coincides with their ‘rut’ season which means that the bucks are running around like crazy after the does. Also, it is deer hunting season all over the country, different states have different dates for their seasons, but most of them have bow season followed by rifle season. This means that the deer population, which can be a hazard year round, become even more so at this time of year. We need to be extra careful and keep our eyes always moving, ever watchful of their image in the periphery so we can avoid contact with these bounding creatures. A deer can do thousands of dollars of damage to a truck in an instant, or even worse, cause much injury when a driver swerves trying to avoid one. Remember that we not only have to try to avoid the deer, we have to try to avoid the collision the deer causes others. ALWAYS drive defensively.

Keep these tips in mind and you can safely enjoy the fall season!

Stay safe out there and keep it shiny!


Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.


 

Down Grade Ahead!

By Heather Hogland & Kim Grimm

Down Grade Ahead!- As they say, what goes up must come down! That is so true, especially when it comes to mountain grades. We cannot say it enough, you only get one chance to start down a mountain in the right gear! As they say, what goes up must come down! That is so true, especially when it comes to mountain grades. We cannot say it enough, you only get one chance to start down a mountain in the right gear! You need to make sure you do it in the proper gear for the weight you are carrying and the grade you are descending.

Grades are based on a decline of 1%, in other words for every 100 feet of road surface there is a drop of 1 foot. Using this formula, an 8% grade means that the road surface drops 8 feet for every 100 feet of travel over the distance posted. If the sign reads 8% grade 6 miles then it means that for the entire 6 miles that road will lose 8 feet of elevation per 100 feet of travel. In other words, you had better pay attention! Take it seriously.

I was recently on a two-lane road in Ohio. Imagine my surprise when I came upon a sign on a truck route I was following from my first drop to my second, which said 17% grade! Yes, 17%! This stretch of road is between I-271 and I-71. It is Highway 303 south and east of Cleveland and thank goodness it was almost midnight so there was no traffic. Headed east, I was going up the ‘hill’ and had to drop about 3 gears. I can’t imagine driving that road in the winter.

Actually, I have been on the steepest grades in my career on two-lane roads in eastern states like Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and New York. In the western states the steepest grades are oftentimes on those two-lane roads. Wolf Creek Pass immediately comes to mind, as well as running I-395 all the way from north to south. The narrow two-lane roads are not traveled as often these days by large trucks, but take all precautions when planning to use them. They do still have those large grades and sharp curves. Many times, at least out west, there will be signs saying large trucks are ‘not recommended’ which means you CAN use the road, but maybe you SHOULDN’T. Just a thought from a couple of experienced ladies who have BOTH taken Highway 198 between Highway 101 and I-5 in California at different times!

Sometimes these two-lane roads have run-offs or escape ramps ‘just in case’ you lose your brakes, some don’t. Also, always be aware there is probably a town a stop sign or a signal light at the bottom. I remember crossing Highway 166 in Maricopa, California and coming down a 7% grade where there was a stop sign at the bottom; so be aware! (California seems especially adept at putting towns or scales or signal lights at the most inappropriate places!)

Sometimes if you can understand exactly what the posted sign is telling you, it becomes much clearer WHY you need to follow the direction. When we started driving, there weren’t a lot of mentors around for us to get this information from and it is our goal to be able to be a resource for all of you.

Down Grade Ahead!- As they say, what goes up must come down! That is so true, especially when it comes to mountain grades. We cannot say it enough, you only get one chance to start down a mountain in the right gear! Drivers expect to find steep grades in the mountain ranges out west, but we hope to make new drivers aware to be on the lookout for steep grades everywhere! The little orange/yellow diamond shaped sign with the little truck going down a grade is universal, it is used everywhere you will be travelling and will include the % of the upcoming grade. Heed the warning!

Stay Safe Out There and Keep It Shiny!


 Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.


 

Top Tips for Safe Driving

By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm

Defensive driving knows no season, we must always be on top of our game when it comes to this! Bad roads and conditions don’t end when the snow stops flying. Spring brings a new set of weather conditions to deal with, today we have better forecasts than in days gone by, so always heed warnings of severe weather. Blinding snow and fog are not the only things that can bring conditions to zero visibility, driving rain, smoke, blowing dust or sand and rain wrapped tornado force winds all can lead to conditions that take road speeds from 65 to completely stopped in a matter of seconds.

For new drivers, hopefully most of this has been covered in class or during training, for those of you that aren’t new, a little refresher won’t hurt. Considering the wrecks we’ve been seeing lately, a reminder to ourselves is definitely in order.

Distractions while driving are the subject of many conversations these days. We can only hope you all take this seriously and follow the laws, the only vehicle we can control is the one we are driving. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and when you get behind the wheel, you are the captain of the ship.  You are in charge of your vehicle’s safe operation and in a big truck, that is a BIG responsibility. Some days, thousands of lives are in our hands as they pass by us, or we them. Every vehicle we encounter could be a potential accident and life altering event.

STAY ATop Tips for Safe Driving- Defensive driving knows no season, we must always be on top of our game when it comes to this! Bad roads and conditions don’t end when the snow stops flying. Spring brings a new set of weather conditions to deal with, today we have better forecasts than in days gone by, so always heed warnings of severe weather.LERT. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially on a long, lonely stretch of road late at night when you get tired, or bored, or things at home get to you. Your mind has to be constantly working, anticipating what other vehicles may do, your eyes moving, always moving from mirror to road to mirror, and back again. ALWAYS leave yourself an out, “just in case”.

Following too close seems to be a problem of late. Keeping a safe following distance when so many trucks are governed to run the same speed is a difficult task at best but add hills, weight, wind and gearing to the equation and you can end up with true mayhem. Traffic backs up when one truck tries to pass another running barely faster until he tries to break past the wind the first truck is cutting for him, then it becomes a tug of war between them. They are virtually running the same speed, SOMEBODY has to give up and back out, nobody is going to win this battle. It will just create road rage for everyone behind you. Either back out of it and let the other guy in front of you (if you’re in the right lane) or back out of it and fall behind the truck you can’t pass (if you’re in the left). BUT, in this case, with traffic backing up behind you, the SAFEST thing to do would be for the truck in the right lane to ease up and let the left lane truck over so traffic can pass more efficiently. Just sayin’…

Some maneuvers, like starting down a big mountain, getting off on a steep ramp, or going into a into a sharp curve, only give you one chance to get it right. These places are usually clearly posted with warning signs for reduced speeds telling you of the hazard ahead. When these signs are white, they are required by law, they are not suggestions, they mean business and there is no doubt there are serious consequences for not obeying them, for good reason. Lives are at risk, all our lives.

Going into a curve or an off ramp too fast can quickly put you on your side, once the tipping starts there’s not much left to do but hang on. Something to remember too, if your load is loaded high inside your trailer it becomes top heavy, causing a higher center of gravity. In this case, you would be wise to slow down even more than posted for that ramp or curve.

With the changes in gearing and governing of trucks today, the old rule of using the same gear coming down the hill you used to top the hill no longer holds true. Learning which gear you need to be in for which hill you’re descending is all part of learning your truck. Starting off in too low a gear would be much better than too high a gear since todays trucks operate on such low RPMs. It would be much more difficult to slow down enough to get your road-speed slow enough to get your RPMs low enough to grab a lower gear.

As visibility decreases, so should our speed. I never drive faster than I can see. Slow down and back off the vehicle in front of you. It seems as if mega wrecks are becoming more common. It’s time we take out our common sense and use it!

Stay Safe Out There & Keep It Shiny!


 Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.