Smart Driving

Max Kvidera | November 01, 2010

Roadside Protocol

Practicing common sense and specified procedures will keep you safe in a breakdown

Kevin Anderson estimates he’s experienced six or seven roadside breakdowns in 10 years of over-the-road driving, but the one he remembers most vividly is the time he ran out of fuel. As he was turning in an intersection, his truck stopped. “The state patrol had to come and direct traffic around my truck until a service truck could come with some fuel,” the U.S. Xpress team driver from Louisville, Ky., says. “The truckstop was about a mile down the road. It was embarrassing.”

Anderson says it was the one time he couldn’t get his rig off the roadway. The other times when he has had to deal with a tire blowout and transmission trouble, among other problems, he safely pulled to the shoulder.

The protocol followed by Anderson and other drivers is to get off the traveled road portion while staying on the road surface to avoid getting stuck. “We try to be consistent with DOT requirements if you break down on the side of the road to make sure you’re as far off the road as you can get and still stay safely on the road,” says Jack Curry, safety director at American Central Transport.

Turn on your emergency blinkers and set reflectors or flares on the road shoulder — 100 feet in front of and 10 feet and 100 feet behind your tractor-trailer if on a two-lane highway — to alert other drivers. Contact your dispatcher or carrier and maintenance department with pertinent information such as highway location, mile marker, time of day and what you know about your truck’s operation and the problem.

Curry says his 285-power-unit fleet’s breakdown total has been holding steady this year, thanks in part to a lineup of 2007 and newer tractors. He says a large majority of recent breakdowns have been tire-related. “They are harder to catch even with good pre-trip inspections,” he says. “You get road debris, and we had extreme heat in many places this summer. If you’re running a capped tire — which we do — you have potential for a breakdown at any time.”

Shawn Bird says diligent pre-trip and post-trip inspections have helped him avoid roadside breakdowns during 10 years of driving.

Shawn Bird, a company driver for Hammel Transport Service in Hermiston, Ore., says consistent pre-trip and post-trip inspections have helped him avoid roadside breakdowns over 20 years on the road. He spends about 30 minutes at the start of his run and another 30 minutes at the end of his day. “When I park my truck I check because there are things that might start leaking overnight, or things with the motor that might happen when it cools,” he says.

If a driver encounters another disabled rig on the road, chances are that driver is on his cell phone talking with his dispatcher or repair shop. Curry says if the roadside truck is one of ACT’s, the ACT driver might stop. If it’s not a company rig, the recommendation is to continue driving. “If there’s a way to render some assistance through a phone call, perhaps there’s an opportunity,” he says. “Almost anybody out there with any volume of trucks is running a tracking system now that allows in-cab communication with the driver.”

For many drivers, the desire to offer assistance is trumped by the issue of safety. Law enforcement officials have reported that cargo thieves have used the ruse of an apparent disabled truck roadside to snare a Good Samaritan trucker into stopping.

Kevin Anderson says his truck is equipped with three sets of reflector triangles to set up behind and to the side of his tractor-trailer if he faces roadside repairs.

Anderson says he will get on the CB and check with the driver of the out-of-commission rig if help is required. “Sometimes I’ve stopped if it’s a minor issue, like lending a tool,” he says. “Not too many people do it anymore, but I’ve stopped maybe four times.”









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