Smart Driving

Max Kvidera | July 01, 2011

Wilkins, who hauls highway construction safety equipment on his stepdeck trailer, tries to park so he has a straight shot out when he’s ready to leave. But that doesn’t always pan out. One morning he woke up to see five rigs obstructing his planned exit.

Marshall says many younger truckers choose to make their own parking spaces at truckstops, compounding the parking problem. “All have to be within 20 feet of the buildings,” he says.

Fuel station deliveries

Some of the most difficult real estate to negotiate for a trucker is the local fueling station. Many stations were built when delivery truck-tankers were shorter, says Michael Goldstein, an owner-operator leased to MG Liquid Logistics Transport.

To avoid surprises when delivering to a new customer, Goldstein will turn to the Internet and use Google Earth to provide an overhead view of the location. He wants to see where tanks, pumps and driveways are located and where he might drive into the property.

If he can’t obtain the information from the Internet and the station is close to where he lives in Southern California, he’ll drive to the facility the day before for a first-hand look. “If I have to go into a location blind, I pull over to the curb, put on the 4-ways and walk the station to see where everything is,” he says. “I’ll go inside and ask the operator how trucks came in before and if they have someone to help me back in.”

Despite his best efforts, Goldstein says he has to watch out for aggressive motorists when making deliveries. “I’ve had cars jump the curb and go on the sidewalk to cut me off and get in ahead of me,” he says. “I’ve had them pull around me and come in the other driveway and block me, so I’m hanging out in the street blocking traffic.”

Avoiding accidents, close calls

Road warriors pass along their tips:

• Know where you’re going. Get directions from a dispatcher, loading dock veteran or someone who understands a truck’s size and local geography.

• Spring for a GPS or road monitoring system programmed for big trucks. Some offer real-time traffic and road construction information, but stay alert to highway signs such as overpass height information and detours.

• See and be seen. Install as many mirrors as needed to give you visibility of your rig, and use them.

• Look before you move. When backing up or driving into an unfamiliar area, get out and assess the terrain and traffic. Don’t hesitate to get out and look more than once.

• Use your horn.

• Slow down and let aggressive drivers pass you by. You always have time to avoid potential trouble.

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