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Important reminders for every driver

The new year is a good time to brush up on some compliance and maintenance standards.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

Driving a semi-trailer encompasses a lot more than simply sitting behind a wheel and getting from the loading point to the destination. From thorough checks before leaving to recording the number of hours spent on the road, drivers have much to account for.

Some important information or details may be forgotten during the daily routine of a driver. With a new year, now is a perfect time to brush up on information every driver should remember. It might be helpful to create a notebook that contains important information and regulations, and periodically look it over.

The importance of compliance
Numerous industries, including trucking, have compliance standards that must be met on a daily, monthly or yearly basis. Fleet owners have to meet specific requirements, as do drivers. For example, fleets and drivers risk increasing fines if they don't implement electronic log devices in the next two years.  According to ELD Facts, fines in 2015 equated several hundred million dollars.

Compliance can sometimes be a hassle to follow, due to the sheer amount of regulations that have to be kept track of. Furthermore, regulations are constantly changing, making them more difficult to remember for everyone involved in a supply chain.

"Important regulations center around what to do following an accident."

Some of the most important regulations center around what to do following an accident and drug and alcohol testing.

For example, drivers must complete a post-accident alcohol test within eight hours, and also complete a post-accident drug test within 32 hours. According to Fleet Owner, when asked, a majority of drivers and fleet managers believed the drug test had to be completed within six hours, and the alcohol test in 12.

When it comes to completing a Department of Transportation alcohol and drug test following an accident, drivers must complete them when there is a fatality or an injury requiring treatment, and the driver is cited within eight hours. In addition, tests are required if damages result in towing. Most drivers and owners believed the tests were required if there was an injury, fatality or damage resulting in a tow.

It's important to understand what to do following an accident from a safety perspective, and also because of the risk of large fines.

Inspection requirements
Pre-trip inspections are critical before a driver hits the road. In many instances, these checks can reveal mechanical issues and be fixed before they become worse and the driver has to call in for help. Because of its importance, some drivers may believe a daily vehicle inspection report is required more often than not.

Drivers should then remember that a DVIR is only required if a vehicle defect is discovered. This is in contrast to the common belief that reports must be filled out for each vehicle a driver operates within a 24-hour period.

This regulation is important because it can save drivers valuable time. Instead of needlessly filling out DVIRs, truckers can focus more on pre-trip preparations, going over the route or simply relaxing before the long trip.

Technical reminders
Like any other vehicle, semi-trailers can, and will, experience mechanical issues, some of which may be minor, while others more severe. According to Trucking Info, a common issue is wheel separation, with inadequate maintenance as the cause. Wheels separate from trucks on an average of two to three trucks per day across the U.S. However, the National Transportation Safety Board doesn't actually track these types of accidents.

"To prevent wheel separation, tires and wheels need to be properly serviced."

To prevent wheel separation, tires and wheels need to be properly serviced, which includes using procedures for the system being looked at, especially when it comes to bearing installation and adjustment.

Care must also be observed when putting wheels back on. Always ensure the contact surface is free of any contaminants, including dirt and grease. If not, Brandon Uzarek, field engineer for Accuride, told Trucking Info substances can settle on joints, cause tension in the bolts to decrease and lead the clamping force to diminish.

Clamping force is important to keep in mind because technicians often tighten the nuts too much. Instead, the nuts should be snugged, which will help with torque. If maintenance crews and drivers are thinking about utilizing used parts, they will have to carefully inspect everything. Bearings in particular should be looked at for overall condition and drag on the rollers.

With so many moving parts and equipment to keep track of, drivers need to carefully inspect vehicles. Over time, truckers will develop a complete understanding of the semi-trailer and spot issues when it comes to wheel separation.

Like school, drivers have to continually study and refresh their minds on important topics. In this instance, compliance with regulations and maintenance tips will help drivers. Not only will they enhance safety, but also avoid regulatory fines in various instances.