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The Dangers of Distracted Driving: How You Can Help

Tips for Avoiding Distracted Driving

It’s officially Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Throughout the month of April, different organizations unite to help drivers safely reach their destinations by encouraging them to remain focused behind the wheel. According to a recent study by the National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA), 3,142 people were fatally injured due to distracted driving. 

Distracted driving affects hundreds of people every single day. And what many people don’t know is how it can impact heavy-duty truck drivers. This Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we encourage you to put down your phone, follow the speed limit, and eliminate distractions. In this blog, we will tell you everything you need to know about distracted driving and tips on how to eliminate distractions from your daily commute.

Facts about distracted driving

While answering the phone, eating a quick snack, or jamming to your favorite song may seem harmless, they can have critical consequences when done behind the wheel. When studied, researchers found that reading a text message for five seconds while traveling at a speed of 55 mph is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

Need more reasons to eliminate distractions from your drivetime? 

Here are a few facts about distracted driving:

  • A 2020 study done by the NHTSA found that 7% of all fatal crashes in 2019 were caused by or related to distracted driving.
  • Another NHTSA study found that 8% of fatal crashes, 15% of injury crashes, and 14% of all police-reported traffic accidents were distraction-affected crashes. Overall, approximately 400,000 people were injured, and 2,841 people died.
  • The NHTSA reported that 1 out of every 5 people killed by a distracted driver was not in a vehicle (walking, jogging, biking, etc.) at the time of the accident.
  • The CDC found that drivers between 15 and 19 were more likely to drive distracted than drivers 20 years of age and older. And 9% of all teen drivers who died in vehicular accidents were involved in distraction-affected crashes.
  • According to the IIHS, the fatal crash rate is three times greater for teen drivers.
  • The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that driver distraction is the cause of more than 58% of crashes involving teen drivers.
  • A research study from Cambridge Mobile Telematics showed that distracted driving habits occurred in more than 36% of all trips across the United States.

The risks are even higher when a truck driver is distracted at the wheel. In fact, “distracted truck driving is more likely to result in fatalities than other types of automotive accidents.” This is because the weight and force of heavy-duty vehicles are much greater than that of a standard passenger vehicle, making them more dangerous in the event of a collision. That is why truck drivers must do their part in eliminating distractions from their drive.

3 types of distracted driving

Over the years, experts in traffic safety have classified distractions into three main categories: Cognitive, Manual, and Visual. If you’ve ever been driving and started thinking about a conversation you had earlier that day or your mental to-do list, you’ve had a cognitive distraction. By definition, a cognitive distraction is when your thoughts distract you from the task of driving. A manual distraction is when you remove your hands from the steering wheel. For example, eating a sandwich or rummaging through your bag is considered a manual distraction. A visual distraction happens when your eyes are not on the road. For instance, if you apply makeup or search for something in your vehicle, you are driving while visually distracted. 

Using your phone while driving, including texting or reading messages, combines all three categories of distractions. The University of Utah found that those who use their phones while driving are 5.36 times more likely to get into an accident than undistracted drivers. The university also found that those who text and drive are comparable to people who drive with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08%. For truckers, texting while driving increases your risk of crashing by 23 times, according to Virginia Technical Transportation Institute.

Tips for avoiding distractions

Now that you have all the information about distracted driving, it’s time to help put an end to it. Putting a stop to distracted driving starts with you.

Here are some tips for remaining focused while driving:

  • Don’t eat and drive. Eating will take your hands off the steering wheel and your attention away from driving. If you’re traveling and want a quick bite to eat, find somewhere safe to park and enjoy your break from driving.
  • Put your phone away. Use ‘Do Not Disturb’ or ‘Driving Mode’ to disable incoming messages, calls, and notifications. Placing your phone in your bag or glove box will also help eliminate your temptation to use it. 
  • Just focus. Avoid multitasking by setting your GPS, picking out your music, and making calls or sending texts before you start driving.
  • Keep your music low. Loud music could prevent you from hearing emergency vehicles and CB warnings.
  • Properly secure your belongings. Items falling throughout the vehicle could distract you from the road ahead. Before you take off, secure loose objects and belongings properly.
  • Get plenty of rest. Being tired could cause you to be unalert or fall asleep behind the wheel.

Observe Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Observe Distracted Driving Awareness Month by:

  • Taking the pledge to end distracted driving.
  • Supporting campaigns developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Safety Council, as well as state, county, and local law enforcement agencies.

Using the hashtag #DistractedDrivingAwarenessMonth when posting on social media this month.

For more articles about driver safety, click here!

Women in the Trucking Industry

It’s officially Women’s History Month! And while women in the trucking industry is nothing new, there has definitely been an increase in the number of females entering the field that has traditionally been male-dominated. 

So, in honor of this month, and International Women’s Day on March 8, we have developed the ultimate trucking guide for women to encourage and aid the industry’s future drivers. This guide will go over how to get started, why more women should enter the field, and why “hiring women drivers is a viable and responsible option for reducing the driver shortage and boosting profitability.”

How to get started as a truck driver

Before starting your career as a truck driver, you will need to obtain proper training and necessary certifications, including a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) or Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) license and certificate. To acquire these licenses, you’ll need to complete driving school. However, each state is different, so it’s essential to research your state’s requirements for certification. 

Trucking education and coaching/mentor programs are designed to prepare you for the road ahead and assist you in finding the right job within the industry. Some resources that will help you begin your journey to becoming a driver include:

  • LeadHERtrucking from Women in Trucking (WIT); 
  • Engage Mentor Match through WIT;
  • The Women in Trucking Foundation (WITF) Scholarship
  • WIT Professional Development Certification Training

Once you’ve completed your education and training, it’s time to look for opportunities at companies that are reputable and a good fit for you. 

When it comes to finding a job in the trucking industry, your mentor or trainer may be able to place you in a position that is right for you. However, if you find yourself searching on your own, you can try browsing job boards, bulletins, or company career sites. When vetting these potential workplaces, it’s vital to look for female-specific training options, positive reviews on sites like Glassdoor, a clean track record, and pictures of female drivers on their website.

What makes truck driving a great career for women?

Being a truck driver comes with its fair share of perks that make it a great career choice for women looking to be financially secure and independent, including:

  • Accessible opportunities
  • Competitive salaries
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Full employer benefits
  • Professional training opportunities
  • Thriving freelance market
  • Variety of available jobs and career paths to choose from

Unlike most jobs, truck driving offers reliable income. Plus, it gives drivers the chance to work in an environment free of micromanagement with plenty of opportunities to use unique problem-solving skills. Being a truck driver also allows you to avoid the highly repetitive workforce that most women are corralled into.

Why do women make great truck drivers?

Not only are more and more women becoming interested in truck driving jobs, but recruiters are noticing studies and statistics that prove just how essential women truck drivers are to the industry. 

Here are just 3 of the reasons why women make excellent drivers:

1. Lower driver turnover 

Driver turnover for large fleets typically runs in the 90th percentile, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA). However, the driver retention rate for women is much higher, meaning women are more likely to remain with one trucking company for a longer period of time than men. The ability to retain truck drivers allows carriers to avoid turnover and retraining costs, which can be quite expensive and time-consuming.

2. Fewer accidents

Despite the stereotypes, women truck drivers, statistically, are involved in fewer accidents, including rollovers and rear-end collisions. Carriers looking to “boost their profits by curtailing insurance and litigation costs should take note of the reliability and safety records being compiled by women in the truck driving workforce.”

3. Higher mileage 

On average, women in trucking tend to log more miles than men. When drivers are able to keep their wheels turning for longer periods of time, they are able to earn more money for themselves and their employer.

4 tips for women truck drivers

1. Network, Network, Network.

One of the many beauties of being a truck driver is gaining access to the large and strong community of fellow drivers. This network of people is always willing to guide and support new drivers, so take full advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience they offer. Who knows, networking could even help advance your career.

2. Plan your routes.

Planning your routes is a vital component of being a successful truck driver. Not only does it make your job easier by eliminating unnecessary stress, but it also keeps you safer and on time. Need help creating a schedule? Try using scheduling apps and online templates.

3. Find and maintain your support system.

Having a network of fellow professionals is as crucial to your success as having a personal support system when you come home. As a truck driver, you will spend a lot of time on the road, so it is helpful to have people who can handle things at home. This will offer you peace of mind while you are away.

4. Install a CB radio

CB radios have been an essential communication tool for truck drivers and show no signs of disappearing any time soon. Why? Compared to cell phones, CBs are more reliable in areas with poor reception, which can be vital when trying to contact someone for help. Drivers also use them to warn other drivers of upcoming road hazards, traffic, and more.

Happy International Women’s Day!

5 Ways Truck Drivers Can Avoid Heart Disease

Spreading Heart-Health Awareness This American Heart Month

Question: What’s the leading cause of death in the United States of America and claims more than 650,000 lives each year? The answer: heart disease. 

Luckily, research and new technology have given medical professionals the tools to know more about the condition, prevent it, and treat it quicker than ever before. Despite the extraordinary progress that’s been made, there’s still more that can be done.

This American Heart Month, we celebrate by sharing information regarding the prevention of heart disease to eradicate the illness further. In this article, we will go over heart disease and discuss the top five ways truck drivers can avoid it.

What are the different types of heart disease?

Heart disease is a general term referring to any condition that affects one’s cardiovascular system. Overall, the disease comes in several variations, and they all can have severe impacts on the body.

Different types of heart disease include:

  • Coronary Artery Disease: Coronary artery disease (also known as coronary heart disease) develops when the blood supply to the heart becomes clogged. It is known as the most common type of heart disease. 
  • Congenital Heart Defects: Those with a congenital heart defect are born with it. There are three main types of defects, including atypical heart valves, septal defects, and atresia.
  • Arrhythmia: An arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat that occurs when the electrical impulses controlling one’s heartbeat make it beat incorrectly. The variations of arrhythmias include tachycardia, bradycardia, premature contractions, and atrial fibrillation.
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy: A dilated cardiomyopathy is when the heart chambers become enlarged, and it is often caused by arrhythmias, genetics, past heart attacks, and toxins.   
  • Myocardial Infarction: A myocardial infarction (also known as a heart attack) is caused by an interruption of blood flow to the heart, which in turn causes damage to the muscle.
  • Heart Failure: Heart failure is the slow deterioration of one’s heart due to untreated arrhythmias, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and other health conditions.
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: This condition affects the heart muscle by thickening the walls of the heart and making regular contractions more difficult, thus affecting the heart’s ability to circulate blood to the body. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy commonly develops from inherited genetic issues and conditions. 
  • Mitral Valve Regurgitation: Mitral valve regurgitation happens when the heart’s mitral valve does not close properly, and blood flows back into the heart.
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse: A mitral valve prolapse is caused by the heart’s valve flaps not closing correctly and pushing into the left atrium.
  • Aortic Stenosis: An aortic stenosis happens when the pulmonary valve becomes thick or fuses, preventing it from opening correctly making it harder for the heart to pump blood.

5 Ways Truck Drivers Can Avoid Heart Disease

It’s no secret that most truck drivers are forced into a lifestyle that puts them at a greater risk for health conditions, including heart disease. The main factors contributing to this high risk for heart disease are poor sleep, smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and high-stress levels.  

Luckily, truck drivers can significantly reduce their risk and live long and prosperous lives by implementing a few healthy habits.

1. Get your rest.

Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to your well-being, especially your heart health. Unfortunately, a full eight hours is not always possible for America’s truck drivers. However, science has proven that adults who regularly get less than seven hours of sleep per night are at a greater risk for conditions such as heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.

To help truck drivers get the best sleep possible, we recommend:

  1. Parking your rig in a safe and quiet area
  2. Blocking out as much light as possible with curtains or shades
  3. Use an eye mask and earplugs to help block out irritants

2. Quit smoking.

For years, we’ve seen numerous warnings about smoking and the damaging effects it can have on one’s health. A recent study showed that 51% of truck drivers smoke cigarettes, thus increasing their risk for heart disease by four times. Smoking cigarettes also increases the chances of dying from heart disease by three times. Fortunately, there are many ways to help break this unhealthy habit, including nicotine replacement therapy and smoking cessation hypnosis, and all can be done while on the road.

3. Follow a healthy diet.

Working as a truck driver means long hours on the road with few opportunities for a healthy meal. You can make subtle changes to your diet by stocking your rig with healthy snack options.

These options include:

  • Fruit
  • Granola bars
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Hummus with veggies or crackers
  • Nuts

When you stop at a fast-food restaurant for a full meal, opt for one of the healthier options, including salads, protein wraps, or sandwiches.

4. Get regular exercise.

A lack of exercise can increase your risk of severe health conditions, including diabetes, weight gain, certain cancers, and heart disease. To avoid these health concerns, try to exercise several times a day for three to 10 minutes. This can be done before you start your day, during your breaks, or after you’ve finished your day. It’s essential not to overexert yourself and to start slow. In the beginning, stretch, squat, and walk your way to health for at least 12 minutes a day.

5. Manage your stress levels.

As many can imagine, stress and anxiety can put a strain on your mind, body, and soul. Those who experience frequent high levels of stress are more likely to experience heart disease.

To reduce stress, try these techniques:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Visualization
  • Stretching

For more information on American Heart Month and heart disease, visit heart.org!

Older Drivers: How to Stay Safe Behind the Wheel

It’s officially the first week of December, which means it’s Older Driver Safety Awareness Week! This national celebration was initiated in 2009 by the American Occupational Therapy Association to start a conversation around older driver safety. According to the CDC, there are currently 45 million motorists over the age of 65. In one year alone, approximately 250,000 of those older drivers were involved in vehicular accidents that resulted in severe injuries, and another 7,700 tragically died in traffic accidents. 

This week of awareness sheds light on those driving for personal reasons as well as our nation’s truck drivers. When long hours on the road are combined with harsh winter weather or age-related medical conditions, heavy-duty hauling can be dangerous to you and those around you. For these reasons, it is vital to recognize when the risks of driving outweigh the benefits and to learn different ways to stay safe in the meantime.

6 Safety Tips for Older Drivers

Older drivers are not only twice as likely to suffer from medical conditions that impair their driving skills, but they are also at a higher risk of getting injured or even dying in a car accident. However, these numbers don’t mean that those 65 and older have to fear getting behind the wheel; they just need to drive more cautiously, practice good judgment, and follow the CDC’s tips for older driver safety.

These CDC safety tips include: 

1. Obey all traffic laws. 

Follow speed limits and traffic signs, wear your seatbelt, and never drive under the influence. This is important for drivers of ALL ages.

2. Only drive under favorable conditions. 

If feasible, only operate your vehicle during the daytime and when the weather is decent. 

3. Keep an open line of communication with your doctor. 

Discuss any medical concerns or issues with your healthcare provider and determine if they could have an adverse effect on your driving. In terms of medication, determine if any potential side effects, such as dizziness or drowsiness, could interfere with your driving.

4. Have your vision and hearing checked at least once a year.

If either is impaired, be sure to obtain the proper prescription for your eyewear or hearing aids. It is imperative that you wear your glasses at all times when operating your semi truck.

5. Plan your route in detail. 

Before hitting the road, make sure you know exactly where you are going, what alternative routes there are, and where rest stops are along the way. It is always a good idea to have an up-to-date map with you as well. 

6. Adapt your truck to fit your needs. 

If allowed and/or feasible, add installable features or adaptive devices to your vehicle to help with proper vehicle maintenance.

By following these tips and regularly assessing your driving habits for any concerning shifts, you can continue driving safely and avoid at-fault accidents. However, if you notice any changes in your reflexes, vision, hearing, or physical or mental well-being, it’s essential that you stop driving and talk with your doctor. 

Click here to learn more about medical conditions that may affect your driving.

Observe Older Driver Safety Awareness Week

This week celebrates the role that transportation plays for older drivers and their communities. To celebrate Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, reach out to your favorite, experienced driver and start a dialogue about their safety and others. Drivers can observe this week by following the top six safety tips as recommended by the CDC.

Pro tip: Use the hashtag #OlderDriverSafetyAwarenessWeek when posting on social media this week!

Sleep Apnea: A Growing Concern for Truckers

An estimated 1 out of every 3 truckers suffers from sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous condition where a person struggles to breathe as they sleep. This can lead to a host of dangers and medical issues—from feeling distracted and drowsy to heart attack and stroke. 

For truck drivers and the companies that employ them, this condition can lead to larger safety concerns. To safely operate their vehicles, truck drivers need to be alert and attentive at all times. Those who drive with sleep apnea symptoms may put themselves or other drivers at increased risk for accidents as the condition can affect focus and reactions, leading to fatigue-related crashes.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition where a person cannot breathe properly while sleeping, causing them to wake up sometimes several hundred times throughout a night. There are three types of sleep apnea:

  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is when a person’s brain does not send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is when a person’s throat muscles relax as they sleep and collapse, blocking the airway.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome (CSAS) is a combination of CSA and OSA.

People with sleep apnea may gasp for air as they sleep or snore loudly. Even though they can sleep for a full eight hours, the person will wake to feel exhausted as the constant interruptions impact the quality of their rest.

Sleep apnea can be incredibly dangerous, contributing to conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, morning headaches, difficulty staying asleep, attention problems, irritability, and others. Many times, a person will not know they suffer from sleep apnea unless told of potential symptoms—something that may be difficult for truckers and owner/operators who tend to spend lots of time alone.

Who is at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

Anyone can have sleep apnea regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. However, there is a statistical correlation between the size of a person’s neck and their body mass index to sleep apnea sufferers.

People who have a larger neck size or are overweight have a higher chance of suffering from sleep apnea. A sleep study—done either at a sleep lab or in some cases at a person’s home—can help determine if someone suffers from the disorder.

How Do You Treat Sleep Apnea?

Once diagnosed, a sleep apnea sufferer may be prescribed one of several treatments. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is typically the most common remedy. This device delivers air pressure through a mask placed over a person’s face that can help keep their airway open.

Other treatment options include a Mandibular Advancement Device, or MAD, which is a custom-designed mouth guard to help keep the throat open. Some sufferers simply sew a tennis ball to the back of their sleeping clothes to stop them from lying on their back.

More severe treatments include surgery or implants, although the most common way to relieve sleep apnea is to lose weight.

What Truckers Need to Know About Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea among truckers has been a concern for more than two decades. Some companies require drivers who meet certain criteria—either for age, body mass index, or neck size—to complete sleep studies to see if they suffer from apnea, although there is no formal regulation.

Some experts, including P. Sean Garney, vice president of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, believe formal regulation may happen under the administration of President Joe Biden. One issue for trucking companies is the cost of sleep studies, which can be expensive both for drivers and for companies.

Many organizations have started working with organizations like SleepSafe Drivers, a third-party sleep apnea and fatigue-management service, for coaching and monitoring. With such a high number of drivers at risk for the condition, trucking companies see long-term value in finding ways to help those at risk, even before regulation makes it mandatory.

Even if a driver’s company does not require it, or if they work as an owner/operator, there is a benefit in getting tested for sleep apnea. As mentioned, several potential remedies can help a person feel more awake, alert, and calm during the day, reducing the potential for dangerous accidents. For truckers who spend their workday behind the wheel, they must do so at their full physical and mental capability for their sake and those sharing the road.

What Would Our World Be Like Without Truck Drivers?

Just about every facet of consumers’ lives is made possible because truck drivers deliver goods on a daily basis. According to the American Trucking Associations, the trucking industry carried 72.5% of all freight transported in the U.S. in 2019, equating to 11.84 billion tons. If truck drivers were to stop operating, we’d be in big trouble.

Navigating COVID-19

During the current COVID-19 crisis, truck drivers have proven to fit the government’s “essential worker” title. National Truck Driver Appreciation Week took place on September 13-19, 2020 to emphasize the vital role truck drivers have played during the coronavirus pandemic. While many places of business such as restaurants, clothing stores, and bars, have shut their doors to contain the spread of the virus, local and federal authorities have requested the trucking industry continue to keep the supply chain in motion.

In the words of a trucker quoted in USA Today, “If the freight’s there, it’s got to move. If people are going to eat, the trucks are gonna move. If they need medical supplies, the trucks are gonna move. If we stop, the world stops.” Thankfully, the estimated 3.5 million United States-based professional truckers are continuing to keep the shelves of grocery stores stocked with food and household necessities for consumers, along with ensuring medical staff receives supplies needed to give proper healthcare.

What Would Happen if We Didn’t Have Truckers?

Many people outside of the trucking industry do not think about where all of their goods originate from, nor give a thought to the dire scenario that could be presented if truckers stopped operating completely. Consider the example of the week-long strike carried out by truck drivers across Brazil in 2018. CNN reported the results heavily impacted the country as the strike “prevented the delivery of goods to supermarkets and gas to petrol stations.” It even affected public transportation since gas stations ran out of fuel.

So, if truck drivers stopped operating here in the States or other countries around the globe, would chaotic disorder ensue? In short, the answer is yes, especially while we’re in a pandemic.

The first 24 hours would hurt the medical field the most. Due to the lack of delivery, medical supplies would become depleted. Hospitals would run out of basic supplies such as syringes and catheters. Therefore, if the trucking delivery network stopped, hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies would quickly run out of necessities. Looking for a check from your employer or a gift from a relative? There’s a good chance you wouldn’t receive it since the USPS, FedEx, UPS, and other package delivery operations would cease. Also taking place within a day would be the onslaught of food shortages and service stations would begin running out of fuel. Further, without manufacturing components and trucks for product delivery, assembly lines would shut down, resulting in the unemployment of thousands of people.

And that’s just the beginning.

In a matter of two to three days, ATMs across the country would run out of cash. Thus, banks wouldn’t be able to process transactions. Garbage would begin piling up in both great metropolitans and suburban areas. Essential supplies such as bottled water and canned goods would disappear resulting in even more food shortages, especially when consumers panic and hoard foodstuffs (we’ve seen it during natural disasters). Service stations would completely run out of fuel for all vehicles, including the essential working trucks. Imported goods shipped from other countries from the sea would remain in ports.

Within a week, due to the lack of fuel, automobile travel would come to a standstill. Hospitals would begin to run out of oxygen supplies. By the fourth week, the clean water supply would be completely exhausted, and water would only be safe for drinking after boiling. You might be wondering, “What’s a truck driver have to do with the water supply?” Everything. Every 7-14 days, truck drivers deliver purification chemicals to water supply plants. Without such chemicals, water cannot be purified and made safe for us to drink. Inevitably, the water supply plants would run out of drinkable water in two to four weeks.

Thank a Trucker Today

The future’s indeed bleak when you think of a world without our all-important, heroic truck drivers. The magnitude of a ceased trucker operation would produce a trickle-down effect that would ultimately impact everything—right down to our physical health. This information isn’t meant to frighten you. Instead, we hope it bolsters your appreciation for truck drivers internationally. They’re carrying out a job that’s difficult even when we’re not enduring a global crisis. Next time you meet a local truck driver, be sure to thank him or her for their service—because, without them, we’d lack the necessities and comforts we’ve come to take for granted.

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