Even the most well-trained, safety-conscious professional truck driver is at risk of engaging in driving behaviors that could lead to a crash on today’s crowded highways. Weather conditions or road conditions change and suddenly “driving too fast for conditions” becomes a risk factor. Failing to look — or looking and not seeing — impaired performance because of fatigue, inattention or daydreaming or an unexpected external distraction can all lead to a truck crash.
To help commercial drivers be better prepared for any highway condition and to raise consciousness among truckers about common driving errors the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has developed a web-based driving tips project developed to provide defensive driving safety information and offer valuable driving tips through an easily accessible tool, the internet.
The driving tips, ideas, and suggestions on the site are supported with real-world 25- to 30-second video clips recorded in a naturalistic (open roadway, non-test track) driving study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).
The video clips show examples of driver errors that serve to motivate drivers to become safer and avoid dangerous driving situations. Also, as a training exercise, each video clip is followed by a set of questions to help encourage drivers to think about and examine the driver’s behavior in the clip. FMCSA encourages fleet safety managers to use the web site for their driver training programs.
Following are several tips that offer preventive measures drivers can take to help avoid crashes and stay safe on the highway.
TIP # 1: Always Wear Your Safety Belt
It is critical that when you are driving, either short distances or on long trips, you should always wear your safety belt. It is also critical that if you have a passenger, he/she should buckle up as well. In case of a sudden stop or crash, a safety belt will keep you secured to the seat, helping prevent injury or death that may occur from you being thrown from your seat into the steering wheel, dash, or windshield. From 2001 data, NHTSA reported that 60% of all passengers killed in traffic crashes were unrestrained.
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 23% of combination truck, single-vehicle crashes involved the driver not wearing a safety belt. A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) naturalistic study of truck driver safety belt use found that in baseline events (i.e., non-crash), 39.6% of drivers were un-belted. However, in incidents, that number jumped to 66.5% indicating that not wearing a safety belt may be indicative of other risky driving behaviors
TIP # 2: Reduce your driving speed in adverse road and/or weather conditions
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 23% of large-truck crashes occurred when truck drivers were traveling too fast for conditions. Adjust your speed to safely match weather conditions, road conditions, visibility, and traffic. Excessive driving speed is a major cause of fatal crashes, and higher speeds may cause more severe crashes. The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) recently reported that 25% of speeding-related large-truck fatalities occurred during adverse weather conditions.
You should reduce your speed by 1/3 on wet roads and by 1/2 or more on snow packed roads (i.e., if you would normally be traveling at a speed of 60 mph on dry pavement, then on a wet road you should reduce your speed to 40 mph, and on a snow-packed road you should reduce your speed to 30 mph). When you come upon slick, icy roads you should drive slowly and cautiously and pull off the road if you can no longer safely control the vehicle.
Also keep in mind that when it first starts to rain, water mixes with oil on the road making it particularly slippery.
Manufacturers generally advise drivers not to use a retarder [also called a "Jake" brake] on wet or slippery roadway conditions. In fact, a Safety Board Investigation of a motor coach crash that occurred in Canon City, Colorado, in December 1999, revealed that an enabled retarder most likely triggered the loss of control and eventual crash of the motor coach on a snow-covered and mountainous roadway.
TIP # 3: Enter a curve slowly
Speed limits posted on curve warning signs are intended for passenger vehicles, not large trucks. Large trucks should reduce their speed even further. Studies have shown that large trucks entering a curve, even at the posted speed limit, have lost control and rolled over due to their high center of gravity.Forty percent of speeding-related fatalities occur on curves. Braking in a curve can cause the wheels to lock up and the vehicle to skid.
TIP # 4: Reduce your speed before entering an exit/entrance ramp
Approach an exit/entrance ramp at a safe speed. Truck rollovers are more likely to occur on exit/entrance ramps when the driver misjudges the sharpness of the ramp curve and enters the curve at an excessive speed. The posted speed limit on an exit/entrance ramp generally shows the safe speed for a passenger vehicle; the safe speed for a large truck is usually significantly lower than the posted speed. Even though ramps and interchanges make up less than 5% of all highway miles, 20 to 30% of all large-truck crashes occur on or near ramps.
TIP # 5: Drive slowly with a loaded trailer
Be more cautious with a loaded trailer. Loaded trailers have a higher center of gravity and sudden speed adjustment may cause the load to shift, leading to skidding or a rollover. Large trucks with fully loaded trailers are 10 times more likely to roll over than those with empty trailers. Loaded trailers require 20% to 40% more braking distance than passenger vehicles to come to a complete stop.
TIP # 6: Slow down in work zones
Nearly a quarter of all work-zone deaths in 2006 involved a large truck. Before entering a work zone, decrease your speed, merge into the correct lane well ahead of any lane closures, and be prepared to slow down or stop suddenly. Speed increases perception-reaction distance, braking distance, and stopping distance.
TIP # 6: Review maps and plan your route before driving
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 22% of large-truck crashes occurred when CMV drivers were unfamiliar with the roadway. Be sure to plan your driving route before getting behind the wheel so you can keep your schedule and prevent distractions that may occur while trying to read a map or directions. You may use electronic devices, such as a navigation system, to aid you when you are unfamiliar with the roadway. However, remember to use technology appropriately (pull safely to the side of the roadway or stop and take a break), otherwise it can be a source of distraction.
When transporting hazardous materials, remember that most states and localities have route restrictions and/or designated routes. You must carry a written copy of your route plan, and you must follow that plan if you are carrying Division 1.1, 1.2 or 1.3 explosives.
TIP # 7: Do not suddenly change your direction of travel
If you miss a turn or an exit, pass the turn and find a safe way to change direction. Do not take shortcuts. Trying to suddenly correct a missed turn or exit may result in you performing an illegal or unsafe maneuver which may threaten your safety and the safety of the vehicles around you. From 2004 to 2007 almost 50,000 moving violations were classified as an improper turn or an improper lane change.
TIP # 8: Signal your intentions
A recent study reported that there are approximately 630,000 lane-change crashes annually (including both large trucks and passenger vehicles). Use turn signals first to indicate your intent to change lanes, next visually scan for adjacent traffic and road hazards, and then execute a safe lane change. By signaling your intentions well in advance, you will be in a safer position to communicate with the surrounding drivers and you will be able to safely execute the desired driving maneuver.
TIP # 9: Be aware of your “No-Zone”
Be vigilant in watching for vehicles in the “No-Zone.” Drivers around you may not be aware of the size of your truck’s blind spots. As a professional truck driver, you are aware that some of your blind spots are large enough that a passenger vehicle can virtually disappear from your view. Remember that other drivers unfamiliar with commercial driving probably don’t realize this. One-third of all crashes between large trucks and cars takes place in the “No-Zone.”
TIP # 10: Always drive defensively
Defensive driving is a way of operating your vehicle to avoid accidents due to the actions of others. To drive defensively you should: keep your distance, maintain a safe speed and stay alert. Recognizing potentially dangerous situations well in advance can allow you to safely maneuver past these situations.
A recent study on the interaction between light vehicles and heavy vehicles revealed that light-vehicle drivers initiated almost 83% of safety-related traffic events. Therefore it is important to be aware of surrounding traffic and be ready to react to other drivers’ mistakes. And 75% of lane change/merge crashes involve a recognition failure by the lane-changing/merging driver. The vast majority of these drivers (over 90%) are drivers of passenger vehicles.
TIP # 11: Look far enough ahead
Looking far ahead will allow you to respond early and smoothly to changing conditions ahead and to avoid dangerous, abrupt braking situations. Look at least 15 seconds in front of you (approximately1/4 of a mile on the interstate and 1 1/2 blocks in the city).
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) states that “the speed of rotation and angle of the front wheels give you clues to whether the driver is slowing to stop or planning to turn in a certain direction. If the rotation does not appear to be slowing as the driver approaches a required stop, you should pad your brake and prepare to stop, and lightly tap your horn to get the other driver’s attention.”
It takes 3/4 of a second from the moment your brain sends the signal to your foot to move from the accelerator to when your foot actually applies the brake. In this short period of time, you may have already traveled up to 60 feet.16 Focusing on the vehicles ahead of you will help you react in a safe and timely manner.
TIP # 12: Check your mirrors often
Check your mirrors regularly (at least every 5 to 8 seconds) and before you change lanes, turn, or merge. Check your mirrors quickly and return your attention to the road ahead.16 Frequent scanning will allow you to be aware of changing traffic conditions around your truck.
If you check your mirrors regularly, they can help you spot overtaking vehicles. Mirrors will also help you monitor your surrounding environment and may help you identify if a vehicle has moved into your blind spot.
You can also use your mirrors to check your tires as you are driving down the road which may help you spot a tire fire. In addition, you can use the mirrors to check for loose straps, ropes, or chains when you are carrying open cargo.
TIP # 13: Approach and enter intersections with caution
Check left, right, and left again before entering an intersection. Being able to quickly glance in each direction (of the crossing traffic) will provide you sufficient time to recognize oncoming vehicles. A report on “Rear-End Large Truck Crashes” stated that 14.6% of truck-striking crashes are intersection-related.
TIP # 14: Get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 13% of truck drivers were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash. Be sure to get an adequate amount of sleep each night. If possible, do not drive while your body is naturally drowsy, between the hours of 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Driver drowsiness may impair a driver’s response time to potential hazards, increasing the chances of being in a crash. If you do become drowsy while driving, be sure to choose a safe place to pull over and rest.
A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that driver alertness was related to “time-of-day” more so than “time-on-task.” Most people are less alert at night, especially after midnight. This drowsiness may be enhanced if you have been on the road for an extended period of time.
TIP # 15: Maintain a healthy diet
Skipping meals or eating at irregular times may lead to fatigue and/or food cravings. Also, going to bed with an empty stomach or immediately after a heavy meal can interfere with sleep. A light snack before bed may help you achieve more restful sleep. Remember that if you are not well-rested, induced fatigue may cause slow reaction time, reduced attention, memory lapses, lack of awareness, mood changes, and reduced judgment ability.
A recent study conducted on the sleeping and driving habits of truck drivers concluded that an unhealthy lifestyle, long working hours, and sleeping problems were the main causes of drivers falling asleep while driving.
TIP # 16: Take a nap
If possible, you should take a nap when feeling drowsy or less alert. Naps should last a minimum of 10 minutes, but ideally a nap should last up to 45 minutes. Allow at least 15 minutes after waking to fully recover before starting to drive. Short naps are more effective at restoring energy levels than coffee. Naps aimed at preventing drowsiness are generally more effective in maintaining a driver’s performance than naps taken when a person is already drowsy.
TIP # 17: Avoid medication that may induce drowsiness
In a recent study, 17% of truck drivers were reported as having “over-the-counter drug use” at the time of a crash. Avoid medications that may make you drowsy if you plan to get behind the wheel. Most drowsiness-inducing medications include a warning label indicating that you should not operate vehicles or machinery during use. Some of the most common medicines that may make you drowsy are: tranquilizers, sleeping pills, allergy medicines and cold medicines. If you must drive with a cold, it is safer to suffer from the cold than drive under the effects of the medicine.
TIP # 18: Recognize the signals and dangers of drowsiness
Pay attention: Indicators of drowsiness include: frequent yawning, heavy eyes, and blurred vision. Research has indicated that being awake for 18 hours is comparable to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent, which is legally intoxicated and leaves you at equal risk for a crash. A 2005 study suggests that three out of every four truck drivers report having experienced at least one type of driving error as a result of drowsiness.
TIP # 19: Don’t rely on alertness ‘tricks’ to keep you awake
Behaviors such as smoking, turning up the radio, drinking coffee, opening the window, and other “alertness tricks” are not real cures for drowsiness and may give you a false sense of security.
Excessive intake of caffeine can cause insomnia, headaches, irritability, and nervousness. It also takes several minutes for caffeine to get into your system and deliver the energy boost you need, so if you are already tired when you first drink a caffeinated drink, it may not take effect as quickly as you might expect. In addition, if you are a regular caffeine user, the effect may be much smaller.
Rolling the window down or turning the radio up may help you feel more alert for an instant, but these are not effective ways to maintain an acceptable level of alertness.
TIP # 20: Don’t fixate on non-driving related objects
A study published in April 2006 found that driver inattention was the leading factor in crashes and near crashes. The study reports that nearly 80% of crashes involved some form of driver inattention within 3 seconds before the incident.
When driving, keep your mind engaged with driving-related information and try to avoid focusing on external objects such as billboards or buildings or internal objects such as as talking on a cell phone, eating, reading, or adjusting the radio. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 8% of large-truck crashes occurred when truckers were externally distracted and 2% of large truck crashes occurred when the driver was internally distracted. Remember that all distractions can be dangerous. Paying attention to driving-related information will help you determine when and where there are vehicles around you and will also enable you to react more quickly to any unforeseen event.
TIP # 21: Avoid smoking while driving
Smoking while driving can be very distracting, as it requires you to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel to light a cigarette and to hold it for an extended period of time. Several studies have found that smoking while driving increases the risk of being involved in a crash.
Smoking was found to be a source of distraction in 0.9 percent of distraction-related crashes, which equates to approximately 12,780 crashes over the 5-year period examined.
TIP # 22: Turn off your cell phone while driving
Avoid using your cell phone while driving. If you must use your cell phone, try to find a safe place to stop or pull off the road, and keep your conversations short. The risk of a crash when using a cell phone is four times higher than the risk of a crash when a cell phone is not being used.
Cell phones fit into each of the four major distraction categories. Cell phones are a visual (may require you to take your eyes off the road to dial), auditory (requires you to listen), biomechanical (requires you to operate them manually) and cognitive distracter (requires you to engage in a mental task other than driving).
TIP # 23: Minimize eating and drinking while driving
Make sure to eat before getting behind the wheel or leave time to pull over and eat safely. Eating while driving may not only be messy, but dangerous, as it creates a physical and visual distraction for drivers. It usually requires drivers to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel while juggling food or beverage with the other.
A recent study found that eating while driving was riskier than talking on a cell phone.
TIP # 24: Maintain a safe following distance
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study reported that 5% of truck crashes occurred when the truck driver was following the lead vehicle too closely. Large trucks need additional space between vehicles to allow for safe braking and unexpected actions. In crashes, large trucks most often hit the vehicle in front of them. If you are driving below 40 mph, you should leave at least one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length. For a typical tractor-trailer, this results in 4 seconds between you and the leading vehicle. For speeds over 40 mph, you should leave one additional second.
TIP # 25: Double your following distance in adverse conditions
Adjust your following distance to appropriately match weather conditions, road conditions, visibility, and traffic. In emergency conditions, maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you will allow you to stop safely and/or to take necessary evasive action. The average stopping distance for a loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 55 mph (in ideal conditions) is 196 feet, compared with 133 feet for a passenger vehicle. Braking distance can be greatly affected by road surfaces, weather conditions such as rain, ice, and snow, or debris.
TIP # 26: Watch for brake lights from slowing vehicles in front of you
A 2005 study reported that 14 percent of safety-critical events occurred when the truck driver executed an inadequate evasive action. Focus on several lead vehicles ahead, or at least 15 seconds in front of you. Focusing on the vehicles ahead of you and being aware of their brake lights will allow you to safely react to changing conditions. It takes 3/4 of a second from the moment your brain sends the signal to your foot to move from the accelerator to when your foot actually applies the brake. In this short period of time, you may have already traveled 60 feet. Focusing on the vehicles ahead of you will help you react in a safe and timely manner.
TIP # 27: Practice good scanning habits
Scan the driving environment and be aware of potential hazards. Recognize the hazards, determine what action to take, and then execute your actions safely. Knowing what hazards to be aware of will keep you prepared to execute proper evasive actions. Two-vehicle crashes between large trucks and passenger vehicles result from inadequate evasive action 6.6% of the time.
To view video clips illustrating each of these safe truck driving tips visit http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/
The old stereotype of free-wheeling rebel truck drivers crisscrossing the country, running hard for days on end without sleep by snorting cocaine and staying hopped up on amphetamines, is thankfully now pretty much only a figment of Hollywood imaginations.
Since mandatory random drug testing of all commercial driver license holders became the law the problem of impaired truckers has dramatically diminished. The Department of Transportation estimates that fewer than 2% of truck drivers test positive each year for controlled substances in random federal tests. Government statistics prove truck drivers are the safest drivers on the road, with much lower rates of drug use than the general population.
However, a recent study shows those figures may be distorted. The LexisNexis Risk Solutions 2011 Commercial Driver Safety Report used driver qualification file statistics that included real-time data capture from trucking customers using its services between May 2010 and July 2011.
Drug test trending results they found were disturbing: Cocaine usage increased by seven percentage points, amphetamine usage increased by two percentage points and opiate usage also demonstrated a slight increase.
The biggest problem is truckers who are cheating to pass urine drug and alcohol tests.
In 2008, undercover investigators with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, used bogus truck driver’s licenses to gain access to 24 drug-testing sites.
They found that 75% “failed to restrict access to items that could be used to adulterate or dilute the [urine] specimen, meaning that running water, soap, or air freshener was available in the bathroom during the test.”
GAO investigators also bought drug-masking products over the internet and were able to mix them with real specimens at the drug-testing sites “without being caught by site collectors,” the agency said in its report.
Drug-screening labs never realized that there was a problem. “Every drug masking product went undetected by the drug screening labs,” the report said.
GAO says crucial improvements to trucker drug testing are necessary, as users have been able to easily subvert tests and the lack of a nationwide database of drug-testing information has made it easy for drivers who fail tests to find new jobs.
“Although FMCSA and its state partners review thousands of carriers each year, these reviews touch about 2% of the industry,” the report stated. “As a result, carriers have limited incentives to follow the regulations. Factors contributing to failures to detect drug use include the ease of subverting the urine test, either because collection sites are not following protocols or because drivers are using products that are widely available to adulterate or substitute urine specimens.”
To remedy the situation, the trucking industry is pushing for stricter drug testing policies that would include the use of alternative specimen testing methods, such as hair follicle testing, to remove chronic drug users from the truck driver pool.
Several trucking companies have instituted hair testing for drug use among drivers in addition to urine tests required by the DOT, including Schneider National, JB Hunt, Gordon Trucking, Roehl and C.R. England.
One of the first fleets in the country to try hair drug tests, JB Hunt, found when it began hair testing in 2008 that while only 1.56% of its drivers failed urine tests, 8.97% failed hair tests.
During a pilot test of a hair drug-screening program in 2011, C.R. England said both urine and hair samples were collected from driver applicants and, after a year of research, the company was convinced that hair testing was a superior methodology for pre-employment drug screening compared to urine testing alone.
England said that out of 2,000 candidates in the pilot study, over 150 tested positive who otherwise would have passed the current urine test mandated by DOT. In total, over 11% of the applicants tested positive with hair testing in C.R. England’s drug-screening pilot study, versus 2.8% testing positive via DOT urine testing alone.
In the last four years, some 38,000 Schneider National applicants had their hair tested for evidence of drug use. Of those, 1,411 failed the test. Yet more than 90% of those who failed were able to pass a urine test, the government-mandated industry standard.
While hair follicle testing is more expensive it can detect illegal drug use over a longer period of time, proponents claim. Each half inch of head hair provides a 30-day history of drug use, while urine tests provide a two- to three-day history in most cases.
However, the legalities of hair testing are subject to debate. Schneider National executives say the government currently allows hair testing but doesn’t officially recognize it.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says it’s studying testing methods beyond urine testing, but it has said testing hair and other specimens raise significant issues that may take more time to resolve.
However, even without a federal stamp of approval, hair testing has become more popular with trucking companies because it’s more difficult to cheat. And it may even keep chronic drug users out of the industry.
“It’s a deterrent,” said John Spiros, vice president of safety and claims management at Roehl, which began testing hair in 2011. “When people know that you’re doing hair-follicle testing, a lot of them won’t even apply.”
The push toward using hair drug tests has picked up steam. On May 14 the National Transportation Safety Board issued a recommendation to allow motor carriers to collect hair samples for Department of Transportation required drug testing in conjunction with the currently mandated urine testing process.
NTSB’s recommendations come a day after ATA President and CEO Bill Graves wrote to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood again urging him to move forward on a process to allow motor carriers to collect hair samples for DOT-required drug testing.
“ATA knows for a fact that thousands of truck drivers who have failed hair tests . . . have obtained driving positions with other carriers because they were able to pass DOT-authorized urine tests,” Graves wrote in a May 13 letter.
“All we are asking is for DOT to allow this industry to use the best available tools under the DOT-mandated drug and alcohol testing program to make sure our roads are safe for all motorists,” Graves said.
ATA has also came out in support of a bill, H.R. 6641, introduced by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) in December that would require the DOT to conduct a pilot program to evaluate the use of hair samples to test commercial drivers for illicit drug use.
“Hair testing, which research and experience shows can be much more effective than current, conventional sampling and testing methods, is the next logical step in this process and we thank Congressman Ribble for introducing this important legislation,” said ATA’s Graves. “ATA also thanks Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) for signing on as an original cosponsor.”
Fleets and drivers not familiar with hair testing may have questions about the process. Following answers to common questions about hair drug tests provided by Omega Laboratories that operates a state-of-the art drug testing facility offering hair testing for drugs. Omega has over 6,000 clients worldwide and services businesses, government organizations and educational institutions.
1. What is hair drug testing?
Since hair growth is fed by the bloodstream, the ingestion of drugs of abuse is revealed by analyzing a small sample of hair. Our testing method measures the drug molecules embedded inside the hair shaft, eliminating external contamination as a source of a positive test result. Hair testing results cannot be significantly altered with shampoos or other external chemicals.
2. What drugs can Omega test for with hair?
Cocaine, marijuana, opiates (Codeine, Morphine & 6-MAM Heroin Metabolite), Amphetamine, (Methamphetamine & Ecstasy), and phencyclidine (PCP). These five drug classes are mandated for testing by the Federal Government. Omega Laboratories also offers an Extended Opiates panel, which can be added to a standard test, and includes Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Hydromorphone.
3. What time period does hair testing cover?
For head hair, Omega?s standard window of detection is 90 days. However, longer and shorter timeframes are possible. Body hair samples are noted as an approximately 12 month timeframe.
4. How soon after use can a drug be detected in hair?
It takes approximately 7-10 days from the time of drug use for the effected hair to grow above the scalp. Body hair growth rates are generally slower and cannot be utilized to determine a specific timeframe of drug use.
5. How does hair testing compare to urinalysis?
The primary differences are
1) wider window of detection
2) inability to tamper with the test
Cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates and PCP are rapidly excreted and usually undetectable in urine 72 hours after use. The detection period for hair is limited only by the length of the hair sample and is approximately 90 days for a standard test.
Additional advantages include non-intrusive collection procedures.
The combination of an increased window of detection and resistance to evasion makes Hair Testing far more effective than urinalysis in effectively identifying drug users.
6. How effective is hair testing in detecting drug users?
In side-by-side comparison studies with urinalysis, hair drug testing has uncovered significantly more drug use. In two independent studies hair drug testing uncovered 4 to 8 times as many drug users as urinalysis.
7. How much hair is needed?
A standard test with GC/MS, GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS confirmation requires 60+ milligrams of hair or approximately 90 to 120 strands. The thickness of different types of head hair (thick coarse vs. thinning fine) is the reason for this variation.
8. Can tests be run on people with little or no hair?
Hair can be collected from several head locations and combined to obtain the required amount of hair. In addition, body hair may be used as a substitute to head hair. In the rare case where no hair is collectable, oral fluid or urine testing may be utilized.
9. Can hair be affected by cross-reacting substances such as over-the-counter medications?
Enzyme-immunoassay antibodies (EIA), similar to those used to test urine, are used for the initial screening test for drugs of abuse in hair; therefore the potential for substances such as over-the-counter medications to cause a false positive screening result does exist. To eliminate the possibility of reporting a false-positive due to cross-reactivity, Omega confirms all positive results by GC/MS, GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS.
10. What methodology do you employ?
Hair samples are first screened in our laboratory using enzyme immunoassay (EIA) technology, which has been proven reliable for routine drug testing. Any samples that test positive in the screening process are then subjected to GC/MS, GC/MS/MC, or LC/MS/MS confirmation testing. Tandem “MS”, as it is called, provides the most sensitive fingerprint of the drug target available.
11. How does Omega Laboratories establish its cut-off levels?
Omega follows the cut-off levels generally accepted industry-wide. These levels are based in part by minimum detection levels for GC/MS, GC/MS/MS or LC/MS/MS confirmation.
12. What is the turnaround time?
Samples received by Omega Laboratories will report out within 1-3 business days.
13. Is Omega Laboratories’ internal chain-of-custody comparable to a urinalysis laboratory test procedure?
Omega’s internal chain-of-custody is modeled after Federal guidelines (SAMHSA) as well as other accredited agencies (CAP).
14. How long are test reports kept on file?
Test reports are retained for a period of two years or as mandated by law.
15. What is done with the excess hair that is not tested?
The hair not used from the time period being tested (i.e. three months equals 3.9 cm) is stored in the chain-of-custody sample acquisition pouch. Hair is stored for a one year period.
16. What experience does Omega Laboratories have providing Expert Witness Testimony?
Omega Laboratories’ forensic experts have qualified as expert witnesses in 29 states for over 250 civil, criminal, and Superior Court trials.
17. Can a hair test be beaten?
At this time there are no known successful adulterants for hair tests. Since hair tests analyze the drugs inside the hair shaft, external contaminants/chemicals have no effect.
18. How is the data reported?
As with all Omega testing, results are reported to the designated party and Medical Review Officer, if appropriate. This may be done via the Omega Extranet, fax or electronic data exchange of test results.
19. Does hair color effect results?
Hair color is determined by the amount of melanin in the hair. It has been shown experimentally, through actual hair samples, as well as determined in court that hair color has no significant impact on results.
20. How fast does head hair grow?
Studies indicate that head hair grows on the average approximately 1/2 inch per month.
21. What is the shortest time period that can be accurately evaluated?
The minimum time period is approximately two weeks (1/4 inch). Body hair can be used if head hair is too short for a test. If body hair is used the timeframe represented by the test is approximately one year, due to different growth patterns in body hair.
22. Does body hair give the same type of results as head hair?
Yes, body hair can be used to test for the five standard drug classes, though body hair growth patterns are different than head hair. Most body hair is replaced within approximately one year. This means a test done with body hair will be reported as drug usage during approximately a one year timeframe.
23. Can hair collected from a brush be used?
Yes, but the test will be reported as having an “anonymous” donor. We cannot attribute the sample to any specific person and we cannot determine the timeframe of the test, so the test result is not legally defensible.
24. Can external exposure to drugs (marijuana smoke, crack smoke, etc.) have an effect on the hair test results?
To rule out the possibility of external contamination, Omega?s testing (where appropriate) looks for both the parent & metabolite (bi-product) of drug usage. For marijuana analysis, Omega detects only the metabolite (THC-COOH). This metabolite is only produced by the body and cannot be an environmental contaminant.
25. What other drugs are available to be tested in hair analysis?
Currently, nicotine, methadone, simple benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants assays and mescaline have been detected in hair. However, many details such as cutoff levels and dose response relationships have not yet been established for these compounds. These assays are in the Research and Development process.
Leadership is a funny thing. In the past, trucking industry leaders would solely be comprised of heads of industry associations and unions, the presidents of national trucking companies, or appointed officials like the newly nominated secretary of transportation Anthony Fox.
Today’s leaders don’t need an elected position or a big company to have an impact on our industry. Instead, they are using the internet and social media to connect individual professional drivers and their families into a community focused on support, education, advancement in technology, and improved working conditions.
Here we give credit to the individuals and organizations using the internet to make a difference in the trucking industry and the people who keep it running.
Top 10 People/Organizations Connecting the Trucking Industry Online
Click on any of the names to learn more about the people and websites in our Top 10 list. Did we miss your favorite industry leader or organization? Give us your recommendation in the comments below.
#1 Allen and Donna Smith – TruckingSocialMedia.com
You can’t say “internet” and “trucking” without mentioning Allen and Donna from TruthAboutTrucking.com and AskTheTrucker.com. No one else has worked harder to keep drivers informed, protected, and connected than these two, which is why we’ve made them our #1 pick as online leaders in trucking.
As a 35 year veteran of the trucking industry, Allen has devoted the last 8 years to informing students and drivers about all aspects of the industry: trucking schools, CSA, regulations, health, leasing scams, driver’s wages, driver employment, and all the concerns that drivers have and should be made aware of.
Community Builders Who Build New Leaders
When I asked the featured people below who they respect as online leaders and community builders the Smith duo were almost universally the first names mentioned. Additionally, several credited their successful start in the industry to the time and mentorship Allen and Donna gave early in their careers.
Three years ago, they founded the first ever Truck Driver Social Media Convention to help drivers and industry professionals connect and find a shared voice in protecting and improving our industry. Ever wondered who is speaking up for the concerns and well-being of the professional driver? Ever wanted a place where you could be heard? Check out the 2013 Trucking Social Media Convention and lend your voice to the conversation.
They Need Your Help Now!
Allen and Donna, along with Hope Rivenburg, need your help fighting the lack of safe parking for drivers. Take 2 minutes to complete this National Truck Parking Survey, which you can learn more about here on their website. The results of this survey will be shared with the DOT and help to determine the funding that is put towards increasing the amount of safe truck parking around the country. Every driver’s participation is needed to give the DOT a complete understanding of the dangers that are caused by strict Hours-of-Service regulations and an extreme lack of safe places for commercial vehicles to stop.
How to find Allen and Donna Smith online:
Websites – TruckingSocialMedia.com , TruthAboutTrucking.com, AskTheTrucker.com
Facebook – AskTheTrucker, TruthAboutTrucking
Twitter – @askthetrucker, @truckconvention
Podcasts – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/truthabouttrucking
#2 Desiree Wood – REALwomenintrucking.com
The WTN offers a free bi-weekly phone conference with an extensive library of archived recordings that focus on helping new CDL students and drivers of any gender get accurate information as they decide on CDL schools and carriers.
Recently, they have launched the 1st radio program hosted by women drivers on blog talk radio, which you can check out here – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/womentruckersnetwork.
A Mission to Improve Training and Safety
Their goal is to educate future drivers, long time pros, and trucking executives on the troubled reality of current CDL training, while exposing dangerous training programs and connecting new drivers to local mentors.
This is what Desiree had to say about the community of volunteers:
Our mission is to network female professional drivers in order to help one another and provide accurate information to woman entering trucking so they can make better decisions about training when they enter the industry.
There has been a longstanding tradition to cover up the misconduct of a few bad apples in the industry which has fueled ongoing bad behavior. This can be especially dangerous to uninformed women entering trucking. Lack of conduct training puts everyone at risk, including good trainers by not communicating to them that they should protect themselves from unqualified students seeking to advance in driver training the wrong way.
Her group is also working with Hope Rivenburg on the Truck Parking Survey group of OTR drivers, which will be presented at the Trucking Social Media Conference in October.
How to find Desiree online:
Websites – http://truckerdesiree.com/, http://www.realwomenintrucking.com/
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/realwomentruckers
Twitter – @truckerdesiree, @WomenTruckers
Podcasts – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/womentruckersnetwork
#3 Kylla Leeburg – TruckersAgainstTrafficking.org
Kylla is the Social Media Coordinator for Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT). Officially, the organization is a nonprofit focused on educating and empowering professional drivers and truck stop owners to fight sex trafficking across North America.
NHTRC Hotline – 1-888-373-7888
In reality she has one goal – to get every professional driver in America to remember this phone number – 1-888-373-7888.
That phone number saves lives. Watch this short video at http://vimeo.com/65652097 to better understand what is happening at travel plazas around North America.
A simple wallet card with the number to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center and a phone call are all it takes to help free these teens from slavery.
Kylla and the other members at truckersagainsttrafficking.org are bringing together drivers, responsible companies, and local governments to affect real change in the fight against domestic sex trafficking and making a difference in the trucking community.
TAT Doesn’t Do It Alone
“It is the trucking industry partners who have been a big part of TAT’s success,” says Kylla.
Examples of supportive companies and state organizations, as well as what they are doing to raise awareness about this problem, include:
- TA and Petro travel centers – who had all their employees hand out TAT wallet cards to customers at the register on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
- Ryder – who trained all of their employees, even those who go home at night, because they recognize this is a national issue that needs everyone involved.
- California Trucking Association – who paid for a huge order of TAT materials and hands out thousands of DVD’s and wallet cards each year to its members.
- Randall Reilly – who consistently donates booth space to TAT at the GWTS and GATS.
And most importantly, it is the 577 drivers and general managers are making those calls to the NHTRC and reporting what they see…they are making a difference!
How to learn more about TAT online:
Websites – http://www.truckersagainsttrafficking.org/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/TruckersAgainstTrafficking
Twitter – @TATKylla
Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/TATHeroes/
YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/user/TruckersAgainstTraff
Full Training Video – http://vimeo.com/21392891
NHTRC Hotline – 1-888-373-7888
#4 Samuel Barradas – TruckersReport.com
Samuel Barradas is the voice behind TruckersReport.com, where you will find one of the most active forums for truckers online.
The purpose behind the site is to offer free and credible information for student drivers and potential truckers, while connecting experienced drivers with their counterparts around the country.
Want to see what others think of a trucking school? Have questions about making the switch to owner operator? You’ll find over 100,000 members who can help answer your questions in the forum.
The website also features up-to-date information on what is happening in the world of logistics and transport.
How to find The Truckers Report online:
#5 Matt Chasen – uShip.com
Matt Chasen is the founder and CEO of uShip.com, the largest online marketplace for shipping goods within the US and around the world.
Why is a business on this list with non-profits and support networks?
The internet is changing the way shipping is done. Companies like uShip are connecting professional drivers directly with their customer, which leads to an improved outcome for all involved.
Truckers reduce the wasted gas associated with empty load return routes because they can quickly find a local customer to make that return profitable.
Consumers get access to reduced rate shipping as they fill trucks that would otherwise have been empty.
Technology companies are shaping the future of logistics and giving professional drivers more control over their route planning and profitability.
How to follow uShip online:
#6 Kari Fisher – The Missing Truck Driver Alert Network
The winner of last year’s Jason Rivenburg Making a Difference Award, Kari Fisher created and manages the Facebook page for The Missing Truck Driver Alert Network.
This network uses social media to alert other drivers when one of their own has gone missing.
Drivers experience poor road conditions, an extreme lack of safe parking, and dangerous commuters every day. The only people who suffer that same level of stress are their families back home who are waiting for a phone call that lets them know their loved one is safe.
What do you do when that phone call doesn’t come?
You put the members of Kari’s Alert Network to work. Use Facebook to connect with other truckers following the route of your loved one so you have multiple eyes looking out for the missing person and their truck.
All information obtained when the administrator starts an alert is kept confidential unless a family member gives direct consent, so loved ones can feel comfortable reaching out to the community. The singular purpose of this page is to find the missing trucker and find them fast.
Tips From Kari
“We had two truckers go missing last year who drove for big companies with fleet tracking equipment installed, but it didn’t work right,” said Kari Fisher. “Don’t assume that you will be easily found if something goes wrong on your route. Use your phone and a simple app as a backup location device so that your family can be confident in your safety.”
I Could Never Do This Alone
Kari has a busy life on the road riding shot gun with her husband. She barely had time to speak with me over the phone, but grabbed a few minutes while their truck was being loaded. “I couldn’t do this by myself,” she said. “Without the help of the other administrators, it would be impossible to maintain these communities.”
This was a sentiment echoed by many of the other organizers featured in this article. These support networks are built and maintained by volunteers who work full time jobs, drive the routes, or raise the family back home, and still manage to devote their extra time to helping their fellow drivers.
Kari is thankful for the other administrators who help keep the Alert Network growing, and the truckers who offer an extra set of eyes when a driver goes missing.
How to join the community and follow online:
Website – http://www.missingtruckdriver.com/
Facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/Missingtruckdriver/
Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Missing-Truck-Driver-Alert-Network/341127269254698
#7 Kathy Cass – Advice Page for Drivers and their Families
Kathy is an administrator for the Facebook Advice Page for Drivers and their Families. She is also up for the 2013 Jason Rivenburg Award, which you can learn more about on the TruckingSocialMedia.com website.
As the wife of a professional driver, Kathy understands the difficulties of being separated from your loved one for days and weeks at a time. She gives her time to the Advice Facebook page to help support the other women and families managing this often stressful lifestyle.
It takes time and hard work to build and support communities like these, and it is tireless advocates like Kathy who help make the trucking industry better by supporting drivers and their families.
A trucking family to the core, Kathy and her husband, Robert, will be celebrating their 30th anniversary next month by renewing their vows at the Joplin Petro truck stop. Be sure to tell them congratulations!
How to join Kathy online:
#8 Bob Costello – Chief Economist for ATA
Bob Costello is both the Chief Economist and Vice President of the American Trucking Association (ATA). It is his job to keep us updated on overall freight tonnage, diesel prices, and a host of other industry economic indicators.
Perhaps most importantly, he analyses the costs and benefits associated with newly proposed regulations and legislation that affects every driver. This allows the trucking industry to inform Congress on the actual impact those regulations will have on truckers and shipping companies, so that we can better protect our industry.
How to keep up with Bob Costello and the ATA online:
#9 Richard Wilson – Transproducts.com
Richard Wilson is a safety and regulatory manager for Trans Products and Services.
If you need to know what a new regulation actually means for your day to day driving, Richard is the man to contact. He has literally written the book (and training manuals) on safety and industry compliance requirements for new FMCSA rules.
Through his Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/richard.wilson.568, he connects with numerous trucking groups to answer the questions drivers, owner operators, and fleet managers have about current regulations and future rule making that will greatly affect our industry.
Richard Wilson is another candidate for the Jason Rivenburg Making a Difference Award, and will be speaking for the 3rd time at the Trucking Social Media Convention in October.
How to find Richard online:
#10 Kelly Lynn – ATruckersWife.com
Kelly Lynn is the founder of ATruckersWife.com, a forum that offers “support, resources, and fun stuff” for fellow wives of truckers.
Few people understand life on the road, or life keeping the house running while their loved one is gone. For all the ladies who took over the mowing and became the appliance repair expert while raising a family, ATruckersWife.com offers a place to go for support from ladies who understand exactly what you are going through.
How to find Kelly’s community:
Websites – http://atruckerswife.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Truckers-Wife/58431073683
Twitter – @atruckerswife
Who Do You Look To For Leadership in the Trucking Industry?
These are the leaders, organizations, and companies who are working to protect and support the trucking industry for our drivers. Which industry leaders have had an impact on your life on the road? Which communities do you turn to for support and camaraderie?
As the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prepares to issue a final decision in the American Trucking Assns.’ (ATA) case against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding the restart and rest break changes to the driver hours of service rules, the trucking industry should be preparing for the impacts those changes may have on their operations.
The industry finds itself in a “hope for the best and prepare for the worst” position concerning the litigation and the July 1 effective date of the new rules, according to the American Trucking Assns.
In order to help fleets prepare for a July 1 effective date, ATA contacted some of the industry’s leading trucking companies about how they are preparing for the new rules, should they go into effect on July 1. The following are some of the lessons learned from these interviews:
Start Now: Many trucking companies have already started explaining the potential changes to their drivers and customers. Operationally, the restart rule changes and the new 30-minute rest break requirement may cause significant disruption to your daily procedures. If caught off guard, unaware drivers may be confused about the requirements and potentially incur violations that could generate fines and that will affect carrier CSA scores.
Use a Personal Approach: Most find that drivers retain information better in a one-on-one or face-to-face classroom environment. If possible, integrate HOS training into your current training regimen. Sometimes, driver schedules may preclude attendance. Make training materials available to these drivers as soon as possible and be available for follow-up questions. Train early and often as it may take several interactions for full comprehension.
Use Real-World Examples: While FMCSA has provided examples on their website of how driver logs may change, most companies ATA spoke with did not find them particularly helpful because they didn’t reflect the daily operations of their company. ATA recommends that you develop logbook examples based on a typical and/or exceptional driving week at your company. Provide those to the drivers and compare them to examples under the current rules. If time and resources permit, it may be a good idea to select a small group of drivers to operate under the new restart and rest break provisions for a week or two. If you’re able to do so, use their logs as examples to other drivers and allow trainees to ask questions.
Update Route Planning Protocol: Whether you are using route optimization software or planning a route manually, it is imperative to update your protocol to reflect any HOS changes. With truck parking scarce, it may be challenging to find somewhere a driver can rest and it may have to come sooner, or later, than expected.
Discuss Efficiency: The new rules have the potential to negatively impact the efficiency or productivity of your drivers. Drivers need to understand the importance of planning their week to the extent possible. Drivers who regularly utilize the current 34-hour restart may experience significant losses in productivity depending on what time of day they begin the new restart period. Additionally efficiency losses may be experienced as a result of the rest break provision or additional company procedures added to ensure compliance. In most cases, your drivers will desire efficiency and productivity as much as your company. Educating them on the benefits of planning will undoubtedly pay significant dividends.
Key is for fleets to educate their entire organization and their customers: It is important that all parts of your organization are fully aware of the potential changes and their consequences.
This is especially the case if your drivers use the current 34-hour restart, ATA says. Driver managers will need to alter their procedures and the sales staff will need to work hard to adjust shipper and broker expectations. Flexibility will need to be built into business relationships to ensure continued efficiency and productivity.
Following are some recommended hours of service training resources:
ATA’s Summary of HOS Changes
ATA’s HOS Comparison Chart
FMCSA’s Summary of HOS Changes
FMCSA’s Interstate Truck Driver’s Guide to Hours of Service, Updated February 2013
FMCSA’s Logbook Examples
Other Potential Training Material Sources:
For additional training resources or ideas, ATA recommends that carriers consider reaching out to colleagues in the industry. “The industry is dedicated to safety and has a long history of collaborating to meet its unique needs,” ATA says.
If you use electronic logging devices, your provider will also be able to provide useful insight and materials for HOS training and insurance carriers may also be helpful. Also consider reaching out to your state trucking association.
Professional truck drivers actively represent their industry daily on the nation’s highways. They are an often-untapped public relations resource in spreading the trucking industry’s message of safety, essentiality, sustainability and professionalism.
That’s where America’s Road Team fits in. America’s Road Team is a national public outreach program led by a small group of professional truck drivers who share superior driving skills, remarkable safety records and a strong desire to spread the word about safety on the highway.
The American Trucking Assns. created America’s Road Team in 1986 to reach out to the trucking industry and the motoring public. The Road Team comprises a handful of the nation’s top professional drivers, selected from a variety of geographic regions and trucking companies. Drivers selected for the team spend two years as spokespersons and representatives of the industry at various public events.
The drivers continue to work for their employers, but spend an average of one to five days a month on America’s Road Team business. Road Team drivers are screened and trained to be well-prepared for a variety of public speaking engagements, including interviews with print and broadcast media.
America’s Road Team is comprised of professional truck drivers chosen for their excellent safety records and outstanding communication skills. The members are known as Road Team Captains. Road Team Captains travel the country speaking on behalf of the trucking industry to civic organizations and the news media. The Captains address transportation and safety issues in any forum at which they can reach the motoring public to share safe driving tips and offer advice on how to safely share the road with tractor-trailers.
Road Team Captains are also dressed for success. Decked out in striking navy blue blazers emblazoned with a Road Team insignia, crisp white shirts and red ties, these truck drivers stand out in a crowd.
An example of the use of Road Team members are a public event was a recent “Trucking Day” at the Texas State Capitol hosted by Texas Motor Transportation Assn. and Southwest Movers Assn. in an effort to promote highway safety among motorists and educate Texans on new transportation technology. Industry executives from across the state were in town speaking to elected officials about legislative issues and took the opportunity to discuss the trucking associations; priorities – safety, responsibility and efficiency on Texas’ highways.
In an effort to raise awareness among Texas drivers, the association hosted safety demonstrations and exhibited the American Trucking Associations’ Share the Road truck. This education is designed to reduce the number of car-truck accidents by showing motorists the correct techniques on how to drive around and near commercial vehicles.
Leading the safety demonstrations were America’s Road Team Captains Gary Babbitt (Central Freight Lines – Texas), Ralph Garcia (ABF Freight System – New Mexico) Loren Hatfield (ABF Freight Systems – Arkansas), Don Logan (FedEx Freight – Kansas). Together, they represent more than 108 years of experience behind the wheel and more than 10.6 million accident-free miles driven.
“Trucking Day is an extraordinary opportunity to showcase the vital industry that Texas trucking is,” said TMTA President and CEO John D. Esparza. “Many Texans do not realize that trucks transport more than 2.7 million tons per day and one out of every 16 workers are employed by the Texas trucking industry. The road is our work place and we must make certain that all Texans know how to share our highways, ensuring a safe and effective transportation system.”
Road Team Captains also advocate safety to those within the industry by visiting service centers and truck stops, speaking with fellow drivers, driver training students, and corporate safety officers. Also, since they have the insight afforded by first-hand knowledge, they often provide expert testimony on the issues of commercial driving directly to our public officials, at the national, state and local levels.
Nineteen truck drivers to represent the industry as the 2013-2014 America’s Road Team. The drivers were selected from 32 finalists who competed before a panel of judges to gain their spot on the team. Drivers are selected based on their safety records, experience and ability to speak in public and present a good public face.
The competition tested drivers’ knowledge of the trucking industry and communication skills, and reviewed their community service and safety records. The captains have a collected 453 years of experience and more than 30.1 million accident-free miles.
The 2013-2014 America’s Road Team captains are:
• Don Biggerstaff, ABF Freight System, Maiden, N.C.
• John Borman, Koch Trucking, Lino Lakes, Minn.
• Byron Bramwell, YRC Freight, Centerview, Mo.
• Ted Carlson, FedEx Freight, Vancouver, Wash.
• Donald Conklin, YRC Freight, La Porte, Ind.
• Herschel Evans, Holland Inc., Bremen, Ga.
• Jeffrey Halford, Con-way Freight, Meridian, Idaho
• Loren Hatfield, ABF Freight System, Maumelle, Ark.
• Stephanie Klang, Con-way Truckload, Diamond, Mo.
• John Lex, Wal-Mart Transportation, Monroe, Ga.
• Don Logan, FedEx Freight, Eskridge, Kan.
• Rod Miles, Con-way Freight, Lauderhill, Fla.
• Thomas Miller, Prime Inc., Bunker Hill, Ill.
• Otto Schmeckenbecher, ABF Freight System, Little Rock, Ark.
• Todd Stine, Carbon Express, Altoona, Pa.
• Clarence “Eddie” Weeks, AAA Cooper, Silver Springs, Fla.
• Nathan Wick, UPS Freight, Isanti, Minn.
• Dale Williams, Trimac Transportation, Centerville, Ala.
• Bryan Wold, Con-way Freight, Reile’s Acres, N.D.
“America’s Road Team represents the best our industry has to offer: pride, professionalism and dedication to making our highways safer for all who travel them,” ATA President Bill Graves said in a statement.
ABF, a fleet that has had dozens of its drivers represented on America’s Road Team over the years has this to say about the program:
“ABF is a strong supporter of ATA’s America’s Road Team program, and we are particularly proud that the Team has consistently included ABF drivers among its ranks,” says ABF President and Chief Executive Officer Wes Kemp. “Continuous pursuit of quality improvement, as seen in the accomplishments of these drivers, is part of ABF’s corporate culture.”
To be nominated to serve as a Road Team Captain, candidates must be employed as a company driver or leased owner-operator by a full-dues-paying member of ATA. Each nominee must have an excellent safety record and demonstrate an ability to communicate a commitment to safety and professionalism.
America’s Road Team is sponsored by Volvo Trucks.
For more information visit www.americasroadteam.com