Inadequate Driver Training Causing Truck Accidents
If you are driving a big rig in Houston or anywhere in the state of Texas, you need specialized training and a Commercial Drivers License. If not, truck accidents will happen. The training goes far beyond that required of those who drive cars and pickup trucks. Serious accidents can happen when the driver of the big rig is not properly trained or not licensed to operate the truck they are driving. If you have been injured contact Michael P. Fleming & Associates.
Types of Truck Driver Licensing
Drivers of big trucks in Houston are required to have a commercial drivers license appropriate to the type of truck they drive. The purpose of these licenses is to ensure that truck drivers are properly trained and will not cause accidents. The Commercial Motor Vehicle Act of 1986 defines three types of commercial drivers licenses and some specialized qualifications for school buses, tank trucks, tractor trailers and others.
- Class A is the typical license for a truck driver. The Act states that this type of license is required if the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the combined tractor and trailer is over 26,001 pounds and the trailer’s GVWR is over 10,000 pounds. Generally speaking, tractors weigh at least 17,000 pounds and many trailers are over 10,000 pounds so for most of the big rigs on highways in Texas the drivers require this type of license.
- Class B licenses are truck drivers who operate with lighter equipment and loads than Class A. Any vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more or any vehicle towing a trailer that is less than 10,000 pounds.
- Class C are for drivers of vehicles that do not fit into the other classes including drivers of school buses or any other vehicle that carries 16 passengers or more or vehicles that transport hazardous materials.
Testing of Truck Drivers to Reduce Accidents
Each type of truck driver license requires that an applicant pass certain tests meant to reduce accidents:
- A written test which is based on the Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook
- A safety inspection of the truck they are using for the road test. The inspection includes brakes, exhaust system, lights, lamps and many other items. If the driver does not pass the inspection the road test is postponed.
- A skills which includes an air brake inspection test and a road test.
Truck Driver Training Needed to Avoid Accidents
The obligations of Houston trucking companies to prevent truck accidents do not stop with requiring their drivers to have the proper commercial license. In order to safely operate a large truck, drivers must be trained to use their specific equipment. Failure to train drivers can result in a truck accident. Responsible trucking companies make sure that their drivers are properly trained in the following areas:
- Backing Safely. Drivers should avoid having to back up as it is always dangerous. Backing safely is one of the most important skills a driver must receive training on.
- Get out and walk around the truck before beginning and position the truck
- Make sure you use the mirrors on both side of the truck repeatedly, if you need to, stop and get out of the truck to make sure your path is correct
- Always back up slowly
- Always back up and turn using the driver’s side so you can see the back of the truck through the side window
- When possible use a helper who can direct you, make sure you both have a common understanding of the hand signals the helper is using, especially the signal to STOP
- Turning. Truck accidents are often caused by an improper turn. To prevent truck accidents, drivers should always use turn signals, turn them on early to notify other drivers and remember to cancel the signal only after you have completed the turn. Use your mirrors when turning and make sure the rear of the trailer will not hit anything.
- Controlling the Vehicle. Serious truck crashes and fatalities can happen if you are speeding and lose control of the truck. Drivers must be trained on adjusting their speed depending on the situation;
- Wet or slick road conditions, drivers must control speed and accelerate slowly or you can easily lose control
- Poor visibility
- Driving over hills with steep inclines and declines
- Sharp curves in the road
- Traffic congestion
- Proper Securing of Loads. Improper securing of loads is a big problem and can cause serious accidents. Whether the driver of the truck loaded the cargo or someone else did it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure the trailer or flatbed;
- Is not overloaded
- Is not poorly balanced
- Secured properly with tiedowns, synthetic web or chains
- Heavy machinery is secure within the regulations for working load limits and the weight of the machinery
- Free of any loose load items especially gravel, sand and stone when you are hauling bulldozers, excavators or front end loaders
- Truck Air Brakes. Compressed air is used to operate many braking systems and it is effective in stopping large trucks with heavy loads. Drivers must understand these systems to ensure they are operating properly and to identify potential issues, such as water and oil accumulating in the compressed air storage tanks which can affect the brake system’s performance and even cause them to fail and cause a crash.
- Combination Vehicles. Most of the big rigs that you see on the road are a combination of a tractor-trailer, a tractor with two trailers (commonly known as a double) or a tractor with three trailers (triple). Drivers who operate doubles and triples require special training as these rigs require more skill. Doubles and triples are longer and heavier so the risks of rollover and trailer jackknife are greater.
- Distracted Driving. Just like other Houston drivers, truck drivers must focus fully on driving at all times. Serious injury even death can occur when drivers who are distracted cause accidents. Trucking companies must train their drivers on the dangers of distracted driving whether it is;
- Use of the phone, even if it is hands free
- Using an on-board dispatch system
- Adjusting the radio
- Conversing with other passengers
- Eating or smoking
- Reading maps
- Hazardous Materials. Drivers of big rigs that transport hazardous materials require an endorsement on their commercial driver’s license. This is identified with an endorsement code of “X”. If the truck you are driving or the tank or trailer you are hauling is placarded identifying that the load is hazardous YOU MUST have a commercial drivers license with the hazardous material endorsement code. To drive this vehicle without this endorsement is ILLEGAL.
- Use of Extra Equipment. Some big trucks carry extra equipment such a forklifts. Drivers should be trained on the safe use of all extra equipment.
- Inspecting the Truck. Drivers must pass an inspection test in order to obtain a commercial drivers license. Federal and state laws require drivers to inspect their truck as do the trucking companies. Uncovering a potential problem or safety issue during a daily pre-trip inspection is VERY important as it can prevent;
- A serious, even fatal accident
- A breakdown that causes lost time and money for the driver and the trucking company
- Citations being issued to the driver for safety violations if you are subject to a roadside inspection
- “Out-of-Service” situation if a roadside inspection uncovers serious operational issues
- Use of Alcohol and Drugs. Drivers should be trained to understand the dangers in using any alcohol or drugs before during the driving of a commercial truck.
- Keeping Logs. The law requires record keeping, trucking companies must retain original copies for three (3) months. Drivers must complete a daily post-trip inspection of their truck and identify;
- Defects that could impact the safe operation of the vehicle
- If a defect has be identified and fixed this must be noted
- If a defect has be identified but does not need repair immediately this must be noted
- Following Regulations. Truck companies need to make sure that their drivers know all federal and state regulations regarding their business. Furthermore, trucking companies need to train their drivers on all new regulations and laws that are passed that affecting trucking – especially those involving safety issues.