Let's Be Careful Out There

New video aimed at cargo tanker drivers offers helpful safety reminders for liquid waste carriers as well.

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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 making a living operating a vacuum truck or supervising an entire fleet of pumpers, you probably don’t compete in many egg relay races. But doesn’t it stand to reason that you’re probably 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 say 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.

Must-See Video

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 semi 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 trucks with fixed tanks or semi rigs with tank trailers. Any pumper who hauls an unstable load or a load with a high center of gravity will benefit from the tips shared 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 many over-the-road 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 septage or running portable sanitation routes can participate in the safety program, which 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 truck drivers who have been involved in rollover crashes, and their stories carry a lot of weight with professional haulers, says John Conley of 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 video 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 limit 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 vac truck 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. As you are able, pinpoint stretches with soft shoulders, downhill grades, limited visibility and twisting 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 a top-heavy or liquid load. 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 liquid load haulers:

“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.’’


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