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Thursday, 16 October 2014 00:00

I was chatting with a friend and colleague the other day about safety and employees who must drive as part of their duties.  This major retailer operates its own fleet of tractor-trailer delivery vehicles and operates Canada-wide.  We have been providing driver safety products and services to its delivery fleet operation for a decade now.

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We also discussed the other 'non-professional' drivers in their company - employees who drive many kilometres every year to do their job.

When I asked what they were doing to keep these employees safe, the answer shocked me: "We never really thought about that," he said.

This organization is one of the best in terms of customer service, employee morale and relations, and was recognized as one of Canada's Safest Employers.  And yet, for employees who driver personal and company vehicles from time to time in the course of their duties, nothing is being done to ensure their safety on the road - not even checking whether employees are licensed or doing annual checks of their driving records.

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It was just never considered.

This company is not alone.  Too many employees fail to recognize that if they send their employees out on the road, they are driving as part of the job.  While driving may not be the principle part of their job, they are driving as part of their profession and may be woefully unprepared to safely execute this duty in the environment and vehicles required.

But, you may ask, if these workers have current licenses they must be competent.  Not necessarily.

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In order to become licensed, one must pass certain tests, typically a knowledge test followed by at least one driving test (in some jurisdiction, two road test are required).  The road test may have been conducted when the worker was a teenager and upon passing, their driving skills will never be looked at again until they participate in a corporate driver safety program, get flagged in the system for excessive violations or hit their senior years when retesting occurs.

To complicate matters further, road tests are available in even the smallest of communities and may be taken in the smallest of cars, and yet, a passing mark yields a license that permits the holder to drive any size vehicle in that license class in downtown Toronto, Detroit, Montreal, Los Angeles or Vancouver.

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Think about: You take your road test in the tiny interior town of Sparwood, BC, in a Smart Car.  Next thing you know, your new job had you driving a service van or full-size car or pick-up in downtown Edmonton.  How on earth can we think this person has been prepared to meet the challenge?  Yet, if they fail to measure up and have an incident or accident, we may blame them for not taking enough care or not being defensive enough.

What other occupational duty that exposes employees to high risk requires no initial or refresher training or recertification?  Even first aid requires regular re-training and qualification.  Furthermore, driving remains to be the most probable activity to result in an injury incident on the job.

Our conversation really got interesting for me when I mentioned that due diligence would be to at least require an annual driver record check, permitting a maximum number of penalty points and provision for some remedial action if this number was exceeded.

This is where it really hit me. My enlightened safety professional colleague asked how we should distinguish between on-the-job tickets and off-the-job tickets.

My response was:  The same way that you distinguish between criminal activity on or off the job, you require responsible and legal behaviour among your employees on or off the job.

Driving infractions off the job are equally relevant.  Would you hire someone convicted of embezzlement, while off the job, to work in your accounting department?

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Employers can enhance employee safety and demonstrate due diligence with a few simple steps:

  • Check driving records of employees who must drive as part of their duties.  Perform this prior to hiring and regularly after that (annual is recommended).
  • Upon hiring, ensure employees are capable and not simply licensed, by evaluating their driving skills in the vehicle that will be used for work and in the same environment.  Set a baseline and determine if training is required.
  • Do the necessary training, if indicated.
  • Provide regular refresher and/or upgrading as well as specialty training, where indicated (such as winter driving or four-wheel-drive training).

There are some outstanding and progressive companies that are truly showing the way by embracing driver safety issues and addressing them this way in their occupational health and safety programs (you know who you are).

For everyone else, let's make a start today towards reducing the risk in this most risky of work activities.

Written by:  Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

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(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine)

About the Author - Spencer McDonald is a respected authority on driver behaviour, psychology and training, and is the founder of Thinking Driver. To learn more about Mr. McDonald, please visit www.thinkingdriver.com.

Published in NEWS
Tuesday, 25 November 2014 00:00

music notemusic note"Slip sliding away, slip sliding away.  You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip slide away."

Paul Simon sang it in 1977 (there I go dating myself again) and it's still happening every winter.  But with some simple techniques and a bit of practise you can eliminate that 'slip sliding away'.

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Traction is the main element to consider when driving in winter conditions and when you have lost traction you are slip sliding.  It doesn't matter what the road surface is or what the conditions are; there is a finite amount of grip or traction between the tires of your vehicle and that road.

Once you exceed the available traction and your vehicle is no longer responding to your commands to steer, brake or accelerate, you are no longer in control. Your final destination is now in the hand of Newton-Sir Isaac Newton, that is. Vehicle control is about physics and we learned all that we really need to know about it in high school (grade 9 physics if I recall that far back).

Learning skills to observe these laws can take a bit of practise, but no amount of skill or luck will let you dodge them. Ignore Newton at your peril.

Newton's first law says that an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by another force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by another force. This law is often call 'the law of inertia'.

In driving, if your vehicle is not moving, it doesn't want to move unless acted on by another force. Once your vehicle is moving, it wants to stay moving in the same direction as it is going unless acted upon by other forces.

You exert force to change the speed or direction by altering the speed or path of the tires and as they grip the road, your direction or speed changes; but only if you have maintained traction and they are not skidding.

Abrupt steering, braking or acceleration exerts excessive forces that may exceed the available traction and initiate a skid or spin.  That's why controlling with finesse is critical to winter safety.  Do everything as smoothly and as gently as you can to keep the vehicle balanced and maintain the tires' grip with the road.

Here are some techniques to try:

  • Leave yourself extra space and begin to brake early when you know that you may have to slow or stop.  The longer distance that you use to slow, the less traction that you need to stay in control.
  • Keep your speed lower than usual on corners and avoid sliding sideways.foot on brake
  • Squeeze and ease the brake and accelerator.  Start gently, and gradually increase pressure to minimize the weight shift of the vehicle on braking or acceleration and reduce the chances of traction loss.
  • Avoid abrupt steering and use 'total control steering'.  Keep your hands at the 9 and 3 o'clock position on the steering wheel and 'shuffle' or 'push and pull' the steering wheel to the left or right.  This will help you make directional changes more progressively and maintain your traction.
  • Traction is improved when you have good winter tires and enough weight in the vehicle.  Drivers with empty rear wheel drive pickup trucks could consider adding weight when conditions are slippery.65__320x240_car_in_snow_skidding[1]
  • Look well ahead in slippery conditions to plan when you may need to slow or stop.  Avoid coming to a complete stop when possible and legal, particularly on hills where more traction is needed to get moving than is needed to keep moving.  If you stop on a hill, it's much more difficult to get going.
  • Read the road surface and try to drive where there is better traction and minimal ice.
  • If you do find yourself sliding away and using your anti-lock brakes, use them correctly.  If you feel or hear your anti-lock brakes activating, remember, the right reaction is to push the brake pedal down hard and look and steer where you want to go.  Don't let up on the pedal until you are either back under control or stopped.  The anti-lock brakes are designed to keep your wheels from locking up and allow you to steer out of danger.

Practise these techniques and you may find yourself singing Randy Bachman instead of Paul Simon and instead of 'Slip Sliding Away', you will be safely 'Rollin' Down the Highway'.

Written By: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

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(Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.)

About the Author - Spencer McDonald is a respected authority on driver behaviour, psychology and training, and is the founder of Thinking Driver. To learn more about Mr. McDonald, please visit www.thinkingdriver.com.

Published in NEWS
Monday, 22 December 2014 00:00

bluetooth_portable_rotary_phone_-_redWhen I was young, we had a rotary telephone on the kitchen counter (for those of you under 40, you may have seen one of these babies in a museum!).  When someone wanted to get in touch, they called and the phone rang.  If no one was home, the caller eventually gave up because there was nothing called an answering machine then.  Those came later with those tiny little cassette tapes.  If no one was home to answer the phone, you were disappointed, but simply called back.  In the intervening years (you can guess how many) we have seen the aforementioned answering machine which morphed into voice mail, fax machines that sent documents over the phone line, email and cell phones and text messaging.  Smart phones with games and web browsers, text messaging and email access are the norm now for most of us and we are addicted.

We are addicted to being connected and as with most other addictions, its killing us.

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Few people would argue that they can text and drive safely, and most now accept that handheld cell phones are equally dangerous while many will continue to argue that hands-free calling is safe because it does not involve manipulating the phone while driving.  All the research is contrary to this as the distraction is not principally as a result of using your hands; it's the cognitive distraction that results from processing the conversation while simultaneously attempting to attend to the driving task.

GPS, mobile music players, radios, and any other activity that pulls your attention from driving is a distraction as are the ongoing challenges of children and pets as well as other passengers.

Auto makers are now including technology that will allow drivers to interface with the web, text messaging and email as well into new vehicles which causes me great concern.  While they assure us that they will recommend that this technology is used in a responsible way while not driving, the seductive lure of instant information is, I fear, too great for many to resist.

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How many of you have heard the tone of a text, email, voicemail or the ringer of your phone while driving and responded with "just a quick peek"?  I'm guilty, and I feel guilty because I'm supposed to be a safety professional.  I know the risks, laws and penalties and I have had that 'quick peek'.

So I guess I'm addicted too.  I recognized my addiction slowly as I came out of denial and at first tried (as many others addicted to alcohol or drugs will) to control my compulsion to use my device constantly, even while driving and I was somewhat successful but the temptation was great; particularly if I was expecting a call or waiting for a text or email.  I tried to be a good boy and pull over to answer my phone and only check text messages at traffic lights.  This created a whole new set of distraction issues as I looked for a quick, easy, safe spot to pull over where often there was none and recognized early that taking my eyes off an intersection while waiting for the green was just as dangerous (and illegal) as texting while moving.

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Cold turkey was the only real solution.  Now I turn off the phone or switch it too silent when I get in the vehicle.  Problem solved.  I can check when I have reached my destination or plan a stop to deal with business along the way.

Recently, I had the good fortune to travel in Europe where my mobile phone didn't work, and even spent a week on a boat where there was no internet connection either.  The world didn't end, my business continued to operate under the guidance of my staff, and I detoxed from the addiction.  I recognized that I can indeed turn back the clock to when someone called and I didn't answer; they would just have to wait, as would I until I was able to connect safely.  It was kinda nice, totally out of contact.  Weird, but nice.

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Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

Reprinted as previously published in Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine.

Published in NEWS
Monday, 23 February 2015 00:00

buddhaAs we all become caught up in the business of life and perceived need to hurry, accomplish, arrive on time; and as we find ourselves powerless at times and disrespected at others, useful to stop and think, what might the Buddha do?  Or Jesus, or Mohammed the prophet.  What would Krishna or Confucius or even Moses do?

We may or may not be religious, go to church, pray, meditate or practice a faith, but fundamentally we all know right from wrong.

Too often this knowing is outwardly directed to others in a judgmental way determining whether others are treating us right or wrong rather than internally where we look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we are taking the true and right path, decision or action.

When we drive, we cant look into the eyes of another and even if briefly connect with him/her, instead we are insulated in our cars and trucks and depersonalize others; easily judging their actions as good or bad, right or wrong and in turn justifying behaviour that we might otherwise never engage in. What might Jesus do if cut off? Swearing and tailgating is likely not the response.

But even if you are not a practiser of spiritual or religious values, is retaliation the right thing to do?

Would the Buddha should someone out of the way in the grocery store lineup or intentionally tailgate someone when driving?

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Every spiritual leader ever, professed peace and the importance of tolerance, forgiveness and the inherent goodness in all others regardless of their behaviour in the moment. You and I have both behaved badly at some point but has that doomed us to purgatory and forever tarnished us as a bad person?

In fact, we all are imperfect people, struggling to find out way through life, some more skilled in some ways and less in others. Compassion is an appropriate response to poor driving skill seen in others or even intentional aggressive driving.

The angry, blaming, judgemental and fearful are truly the ones that most need our understanding and compassion rather than our retaliation and road rage.

You may have a GPS in your vehicle that guides you to your destination, but each of us has another compass; and internal moral compass that if you listen to it, before acting or reacting impulsively, will guide us to the best outcome for all.

So when you next drive, make a resolution for this New Year to refer to your internal compass about right and wrong and apply it to yourself first before judging others.

Jesus said,"Let those without sin cast the first stone".The Buddha said, "It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell"

Or perhaps Michael Jackson said it best in his song, Man in the Mirror. "If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change "

Written By: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

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About the Author - Spencer McDonald is a respected authority on driver behaviour, psychology and training, and is the founder of Thinking Driver. To learn more about Mr. McDonald, please visit www.thinkingdriver.com.

Published in NEWS
Monday, 06 April 2015 00:00

fleet-safety1Good training is a key element, but only part of the puzzle for vehicle safety!

Employers with vehicle fleet or employees who drive are aware (or should be) that the greatest probability of an injury incident is going to be vehicle or driving related.  Many organizations have, therefore, incorporated driver training into their OHS program.  This is as it should be.

Unfortunately, in many cases, this is where vehicle safety stops.

Training is too often expected to become 'the answer' to vehicle reduction.  A driver involved in an incident, for example, is automatically sent back to re-attend the training program where he/she would almost always pass with flying colours, seemingly without effort.  Lack of skill is clearly not the problem here.

In this situation, is retaining really the answer or are there other forces at play?  Could this be a motivational problem, an attitudinal issue, maybe a medical condition?  Was the vehicle appropriate for the work and equipped correctly?  Training alone can't address all these issues.

A driver training program labouring under the expectation that it should solve all of an organization's driver safety or incident problems is destined to fall short.

Training is undertaken for a variety of reasons:

  • to train and qualify new operators,
  • to provide refresher or upgrade training/education,
  • to reinforce previously learned skills,
  • to re-qualify experienced operators.

But there are many more elements to an effective vehicle safety program.

How does yours stack up?  Compare the features of your vehicle/driver safety program with this list of critical key elements:

1. Senior Management Commitment

Is driver safety seen and acted on by senior management as a critical safety issue?  Frequently we see lip service paid to driver safety, with strong statements of corporate commitment but an absence of meaningful action.  In many cases, senior executives are visibly absent in the training courses associated with the program and have a belief that they are somehow exempt from vehicle safety policies, like pre-trip inspection and circle checks.

Enlightened organizations implement driver safety programs by starting with attendance and qualification on course from executives very early in the process.  These managers lead by example, by committing to the program and adhering to policy (like cell phone prohibition, backing in to park, circle checks).  Workers need to both hear about safety from management and also see management participating and in compliance.

2. Written Policies and Procedures

Vehicle safety policy and practise should be identified and detailed in its own section in your health and safety manual.

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The policy should state the company's expectation of employees who drive, as well as specific policy related to job tasks involving vehicle use or movement - on or off-road.  In addition, the policy should state qualifications for use of various vehicle types or classes and the training testing required to achieve these qualifications.

Consequences for non-compliance (if different from the corporate disciplinary system) should be stated clearly.

3. Driver Abstract / Record Checks

Check the driver records of all prospective employees who will be driving for work purposes. Screen out applicants who have poor driving records since they are most likely to cause problems in the future. The driving record should be reviewed annually to ensure that the employee maintains a good driving record, and action should be taken if the record deteriorates.

Clearly define the number of violations an employee/driver can have before losing the privilege of driving for work, and provide training where needed.

4. Incident Reporting and Investigation

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All vehicle incidents should be reported and investigated.  Acquire the services of an experienced trainer or vehicle operation expert if one is not available in-house.

Root causes should be identified and action items (if applicable) developed to help prevent future incidents.

5. Vehicle Selection, Maintenance and Inspection

Selecting, properly maintaining and routinely inspecting company vehicles is an important part of preventing crashes related losses.  Ensure the vehicle selected for a particular application is suited and properly equipped to permit safe use in that application and environment.

A pre-trip/shift inspection routine should be incorporated into the vehicle safety policy, and vehicles should be inspected daily by the driver.

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Regular maintenance should be done at specific mileage intervals consistent with the manufacturer's recommendations.  A mechanic should do a thorough inspection of each vehicle at least annually.

 

6. Disciplinary System

Develop a strategy to determine the course of action after the occurrence of a moving violation, policy breach, complaint and/or preventable incident.

There are a variety of corrective action programs available; the majority of these are based on a system that assigns points for infraction and/or incidents.  The system should provide for progressive discipline if an employee begins to develop a pattern of repeated problems.

7. Reward / Incentive Program

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Safe driving behaviours contribute directly to the bottom-line and should be recognized as such.  Positive results are realized when driving performance is incorporated into the overall evaluation of job performance.

Reward and incentive programs typically involve recognition, monetary rewards, special privileges or the use of other incentives.

8. Driver Training / Communications

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The training program should be an integral part of the OHS program and be ongoing.

Conduct initial training and qualification for new hires; even those with clean driving records may have never experienced professional training and only passed a basic government driving exam (perhaps many years ago).  To set a baseline for driver performance and to document competence in case of future problems, employees should be trained, evaluated and qualified on the vehicle type(s) they will be assigned to, in the environment they will be operating in.

Regular refresher/requalification should be an integral part of the program.

The best programs incorporate a driver safety related course, seminar or event annually to keep vehicle safety at the forefront of employees' minds and demonstrate the corporate commitment to safety.

Every two to three years, requalification by on-road evaluation should be conducted.

Keeping vehicle incident rated low goes beyond just providing training, it includes a comprehensive system of the key elements discussed in this article.

How does your organization measure up?

Written by: Spencer McDonald, President, Thinking Driver

Published in NEWS
Tuesday, 22 January 2013 00:00

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DID YOU KNOW?
Thinking Driver has instructors stationed in Saskatchewan, waiting to assist YOU with YOUR fleet safety training needs!

Train your drivers now in a variety of courses and programs including:
– Thinking Driver Course/Five Fundamentals of Defensive Driving
– Winter Driving Fundamentals
– Safe Backing
– Load Securement
– Four Wheel Drive
– Trailer Towing
– Hazard Avoidance Training
– Driver Evaluations
– and So Much More!

Customized program development is also available!

www.thinkingdriver.com

Published in NEWS
Tuesday, 29 January 2013 00:00
Published in NEWS
Friday, 01 February 2013 00:00

At 90, school transportation veteran still on the job. Click here to read full story!

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Published in NEWS
Thursday, 05 September 2013 00:00

bigstock-back-to-school-suppli_427858[1]At the end of every summer, the days grow shorter and the sun loses some of its warmth but for many parents, it’s the best time of year, as the kids head back to school!

In every town, village, city and neighbourhood, the schools reopen and drivers need to adjust their speed and awareness to make sure all the kids get safely to and from school.

Print and read over this entire agenda (or download a PDF version here).

Questions For This Meeting:

What are some of the things that drivers need to be aware of and adjust for as school goes back into session?

Answers could be:

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  • Adjusting speed for school zones.
  • Young children walking on their own without supervision.
  • Children on bicycles who may or may not know traffic laws and habits.
  • Impatient parents dropping kids off in front of the school and stopping where they block traffic.
  • School buses stopping to pick up or drop off students.
  • Heavier traffic generally as vacation ends and most folks get to their jobs.
  • In some areas, the weather is already getting colder and wetter.
  • Any other ideas?

All of this activity can challenge even the best driver and it’s easy to allow a lapse in attentiveness if you are in a hurry or thinking about something else.

Let’s talk about some of these challenges:

Q: What are the rules for School Zones in your area?

  • Markings?
  • Hours in effect?
  • Speed restrictions?

Q: What are the rules and what is the correct procedure around school buses?

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In every jurisdiction, that we are aware of, a school bus displaying flashing red lights requires you to stop regardless of which side of the road you are on.  The school bus red lights are intended to stop ALL TRAFFIC to permit children to safely cross the street in front of the bus.  Be patient and NEVER pass a school bus with red lights flashing.

Tailgate Tips:

Younger Children Walking

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The little ones (unlike some teenagers) can be very excited to get back to school and allow this excitement to overcome whatever road safety education that they may have had.  They may be easily distracted and run out to greet a friend on the other side of the road or simply wander across without checking traffic or using a guarded crosswalk.

Your eyes are your best defense!  Stay alert and keep moving your eyes and tracking those kids!  Cover your brake and watch for telltale signs that they may suddenly dart out.  The lower your speed, the shorter your stopping distance, so keep the speed down!

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Children on Bicycles

For many kids, riding their bike to school is a new thrill and they may only have the basic control skills.  Keep a sharp eye out for riders and when passing them, leave lots of room.  One small wobble or bump can send them right into your path.  The best plan is to wait until you can move way over into the other lane and not pass closely or squeeze them towards the curb or ditch.  New riders are focussed on controlling the bike and are easily startled by closely passing cars.  This can cause them to jerk the handlebars and lose control!

Pick Ups & Drop Offs

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If your route takes you past a school, try to avoid times when school is either going in or letting out students.  Parents who pick up or drop off kids may stop in inappropriate spots and tie up traffic.  Avoid the frustration and traffic jams by picking times carefully.  If you are picking up or dropping off your own kids, park a block away and walk.  The exercise will do everyone good and you can avoid the melee at the front of the school.

Heavier Traffic in Early September, as school goes back in.

Plan in advance for heavy traffic by leaving earlier and expecting to take longer to get to your destination.  It’s much more relaxing and safer to not feel the need to hurry and yet still know that you will arrive on time or even early.  Trying to hurry through heavy traffic is counterproductive and will just stress you out without really saving any time.

Changing Weather Conditions

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As the fall starts and weather changes, make sure that your vehicle is ready.  Check your tires for inflation and tread wear to ensure that you do not aquaplane on water; check wiper blades to ensure that they work well to keep the windshield clear in the rain.  Before winter sets in, get a proper winterization done on your vehicle.

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Practical Challenge:

Your goal is to drive at or below the speed limit in every school zone that you encounter this month.  This may be tougher than you think, for some.  If you are used to driving over the limit on most roads, this speed will feel “normal” and slowing to school zone speed will at first feel impossibly slow.  This is just the contrast between your normal “just a bit over” speed in a regular zone and the reduced school zone limit.

Persist!  But if you fail, at least be patient when you get stuck behind the rest of us who are at the school zone limit!

To view the BONUS Tailgate Topics & Tips video segment, click on the video icon!blank-online-video-screen[1]

New Feature: Tailgate Topics & Tips is going VIDEO!

For the past year, Tailgate Topics & Tips has been published every other Tuesday and distributed free of charge to Thinking Driver contacts.

Your response has been overwhelmingly positive.  We have had great comments from you at trade shows, conference, by email and even phone calls.  The positive response has surprised us indeed?

Now Tailgate Topics & Tips is changing and getting better.

Beginning with this edition, we will now publish once monthly on the first Tuesday of each month and include a 3 – 5 minute video clip for you to use in your safety or tailgate meeting.

The basic print edition of Tailgate Topics & Tips has been FREE and will remain free always.

In order to take advantage of the video clip element of the program, after this sample, you will want to subscribe to Tailgate Topics & Tips PROFESSIONAL.

Your PROFESSIONAL subscription will give access to stream, or download video clips as they are released and also give you access to the archive of every Tailgate Topics & Tips video from the time you subscribe.  You may also add CORPORATE subscriptions for additional company associates at a discounted price.

Large organizations will want the CORPORATE subscription which includes subscription for up to 6 associates and a high quality DVD mailed to your office suitable for uploading to your corporate intranet.

In order to make this program affordable for all, we have worked hard to keep costs down:

  • Individual videos: $39.95
  • Annual subscription paid monthly on your credit card: $34.95/month
  • Annual subscription paid in advance: $299 (that’s under $25 per video)
  • Additional annual PROFESSIONAL associate subscriptions for people in the same company: $199 (available as prepaid only)
  • Annual CORPORATE subscription: $799 paid in advance (includes up to 6 individual PROFESSIONAL subscriptions and 1 DVD mailed directly to you monthly with authorization to upload to your corporate intranet with unlimited internal use)

Don’t want the video?  Don’t worry!

For those of you who love and use Tailgate Topics & Tips but for some reason choose NOT to subscribe to the PROFESSIONAL version with video, you will continue to receive the basic print version FREE every month courtesy of Thinking Driver.  The FREE print version is available for one month and then go into the archive which will be available for purchase as the next month’s edition becomes available.

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Learn more from Thinking Driver’s President, Spencer McDonald.

To receive a copy of the Tailgate Topics & Tips Professional order form, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Tuesday, 08 October 2013 00:00

Tailgate Topics & Tips Is Now Available in VIDEO!Spencer

 

Meeting Leader’s Guide:

Opening Statement:

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On every highway in our nation, we find a mixture of vehicles: everything from the smallest – motorcycles, bicycles and scooters; to the very largest – heavy trucks often weighing 80,000 lbs or over 36,000 kgs.  That’s 40 times the weight of a typical passenger vehicle.

In the US, 5,000 people, every year died in large truck crashes, with nearly 4,000 of those being the result of passenger vehicles and trucks colliding.  In Canada, it’s a similar number per capita.

Print and read over this entire agenda (or download a PDF version here).

Questions For This Meeting:

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Q: When there is a fatal crash between a large truck and a passenger vehicle or smaller vehicle, which driver is typically the one who made the mistake that resulted in the crash?

Leader: Discuss and encourage debate; ask why do you think that?

Answer:

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Surprising to many people, in fatal crashes involving large trucks with passenger vehicles, the large truck driver’s actions are a factor in only 22% of the crashes, while in over 80% of accidents, the passenger vehicle drivers were the main factor.

Q: What driver actions, on the part of the smaller vehicle may have contributed to a crash?  What are the common mistakes that drivers make around larger vehicles?

Answers:

  • Driving in the blind spot or ‘No-Zone’ of the large truck where the larger vehicle can’t see the smaller one,pic 4
  • Passing a truck and cutting in too closely in front of it,
  • Tailgating the truck,
  • Driving too close to the truck on either side, in another lane, and not keeping your options open.  This also takes away the room for the truck to maneuver.

Tailgate Tips for Staying Safe Around Large Vehicles:

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Truck drivers have a difficult job navigating through traffic to make their deliveries on time and this task can be made much more difficult if we don’t share the road in a safe and responsible manner.

A fully loaded semi takes a much greater distance to stop and is much less maneuverable than a smaller vehicle so we need to take special care to give them the room that they need to keep everyone safe.

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  • Stay Out of the ‘No-Zone’.  ‘No-Zones’ are blind spots where you ‘disappear’ from the view of the truck driver.  Make sure that you can see the truck’s mirrors.  If you can’t see the mirror, the truck driver can’t see you.  So stay visible!
  • Leave a Good Gap When Lane Changing in pic 7front of a truck.  Large trucks need a much longer braking distance than cars.  Don’t cut into a truck’s space; if this happens it reduces a truck’s much needed braking distance and restricts evasive action.  At least a 4 second gap is best.pic 12
  • Don’t Tailgate a Truck.  The further you are away from a truck the less likely you will be involved in a collision and the better your vision around the truck will be.  Stay well back.  This increases your vision and lets you prepare for what’s coming up in front of the truck.
  • Allow Plenty of Room.  Large trucks are almost as wide as your lane of travel.  Following too closely behind one or driving in the next lane unnecessarily beside one reduces the space needed for you and the truck driver to react to changing traffic conditions and patterns.  Keep your options open by maintaining your space cushion!pic 9
  • Buckle Up!  In case you are involved in a crash with a truck or any other vehicle, wearing your seatbelt is the single most important thing you can do to save your life in a crash.

Pic 10

What About Unsafe Truck Drivers?

What is the best response when you see a truck driver driving aggressively?

If you see a truck driver driving aggressively and trying to cut through traffic, this unsafe driving may irritate or even provoke you to consider some sort of retaliation.  A better option is to note the name on the truck, the license plate number, time and location.  Call the trucking company and report the driver.  The company will be very interested in this information and the effect on the driver will be much more effective.

Summary:

Pic 11

  • Stay out of the ‘No-Zone’.
  • Leave a good gap.
  • Don’t tailgate.
  • Allow plenty of room.
  • Wear your seat belt.

Practical Challenge:

This week, pay special attention to heavy trucks when you are driving, and work to keep your space while giving the truck driver the room he needs to stay out of trouble!

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