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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!

5 Largest Infrastructure Projects Happening Now

Why Transportation Funding Requests are the Highest

Congressional lawmakers submitted nearly $2.8 trillion in total requests for infrastructure projects to the House Committee on Appropriations at the end of April. These requests stem from the limited return of earmarks, which the parties agreed to earlier this year.

These requests should come as no surprise. Political leaders have long championed infrastructure projects as a way to provide for their constituents. Infrastructure projects are geared to benefit a majority of the community and provide a tangible accomplishment for politicians’ time in office.

Overall, transportation earmarks dominated spending requests in this latest cycle. Spending for labor and health projects was second at $832 billion, followed by interior at $697 billion. It is likely this is just a starting point as more transportation projects will continue to be proposed. 

Let’s look at some of the biggest transportation infrastructure projects lawmakers would like to undertake in the coming year.

Interstate 69

This massive project will one day span more than 2,400 miles from Texas to Canada. It currently features multiple disjointed sections, bringing in concerns regarding its safety and efficiency. One of the significant needs for the project is a bridge over the Ohio River that would carry a planned I-69 extension between Evansville, Indiana and Henderson, Kentucky.

Both Kentucky and Indiana have pledged to spend $850 million on the bridge but requested federal funding to speed up the process.

Hudson River Tunnel

Politicians in New York and New Jersey have long fought to get funding to repair the existing tunnel, which was damaged by saltwater intrusion during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Local leaders argue the cost is more than the two states can afford and need help from the federal government, which has, at times, supported and rejected the project. An environmental impact statement is expected to be finished soon and could give new life from the project, something Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has signaled as a priority.

Minnesota Bridges

The collapse of the I-35W bridge in 2007 remains one of the most harrowing disasters in recent memory. That bridge collapsed during rush hour traffic, killing 13 people and severely injuring countless more. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s infrastructure a poor grade and identified 46,000 bridges in deteriorating conditions. Approximately 600 of those bridges are in Minnesota; these need restoration and repairs to withstand the harsh weather and ensure another accident never happens again.

Ohio Hyperloop

Along with repairs and maintenance, there are funding requests for more ambitious projects. One is a hyperloop in the Midwest that would use a system of sealed tubes with low air pressure to transport passengers rapidly in pods mostly free of friction. Inventor Elon Musk has championed this technology that one day could dramatically improve public transportation and reduce the burden on roads, bridges, and other forms of infrastructure.

Washington Bridges and Transit

A recent Seattle Department of Transportation report found that 65% of the city’s bridges were in fair condition and 6% were poor. Lawmakers would like funding to improve the bridges, invest in public transit and a light rail, fund infrastructure projects in small and medium-sized cities throughout the state, and improve earthquake resilience.

One important project is the West Seattle Bridge, which is the most used in the city. It was closed in March 2020 after cracks were discovered, causing a ripple effect throughout the local transit ecosystem. The results are expected to worsen as more people resume commuting to work as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Finding a Path Forward

These are only a handful of essential infrastructure projects that Congress would like to complete. Major traffic centers, such as Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Austin, have different projects in the works as well, along with major interstates such as I-95 on the East Coast and I-10 in the South.

These latest budget requests, combined with the Biden administration’s proposed infrastructure spending legislation, could dramatically change the nation’s transportation system over the next several decades.

Infrastructure spending has long been seen as a positive use of public funds. These projects help create jobs, spur future economic growth, and create long-term investment opportunities. The nation’s infrastructure has been built over the last century and needs to be refreshed for today’s current world.

The COVID-19 pandemic showed that changes would come to how people work and gather. Improved electric vehicle technology, ride-sharing, and new public transit methods will also alter future needs.

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.

Pros and Cons of Employer-Paid CDL Training

Believe it or not, it’s both legal and entirely feasible for anyone in the U.S. to receive a Class A Commercial Driver’s License without any help from a private trucking school. This information can be hard to come by, however, as there are dozens of private trucking schools in most states who make a profit by convincing greenhorns the best way into trucking is through their particular programs.

What You Need to Get a CDL

That being said, there’s a lot of information and many steps required for anyone looking to acquire a CDL. As a result, going the lone-wolf route might not be in the best interest of someone looking for step-by-step assistance. If you’re attempting to get the license alone, you’ll have to do a great deal of research in order to learn what’s needed to pass the written test and then pass the truck inspection that’s required for acquiring a CDL in most states, which can be a challenge for some. The process of obtaining a CDL shares similarity with the process of attaining a regular driver’s license, with different requirements to qualify. Federal regulations require you to be at least 18 years of age before attaining a CDL. But, in order to drive a commercial vehicle across state lines (interstate travel), or haul hazardous materials (HazMat), federal regulations require you to be 21 years of age. To apply for a CDL, you must have a Social Security number assigned to you to verify your citizenship, a conventional driver’s license from your local Department of Motor Vehicles, one year of driving experience, and a good driving record.

Depending on the state where you’ll apply for your CDL, it’s possible your DMV has already published a guide to getting your CDL, like this one created by the state of Texas. Make sure to check your DMV web page concerning CDLs to see if it’s published a similar resource for your state.

To make a long story short, the cheapest way to get your CDL will always be to do it yourself, without putting money down on a private program. On the other hand, there are still potential benefits to the other two options available to new drivers, which are to: 1) Attend a private CDL training program, or 2) Participate in Employer-Paid CDL Training.

The Potential Benefits of Private CDL Training Programs

Many CDL training programs have connections in place that can make it easier for recent graduates of the program to get jobs with carriers. There’s also a very high demand for truck drivers in most states, so most individuals who receive a CDL shouldn’t have too much trouble finding employment in general. With that in mind, tuition for driving school can range from $3,000 to $6,000, making it a significantly larger investment than applying for a CDL on your own, and the most expensive way to get into trucking on average. While many students find it relatively easy to get student loans for their CDL program, interest rates in America have been on the rise in recent years, making private programs a pretty large price to pay for the convenience.

Employer-Paid CDL Training

These programs are more difficult to generalize about, as they’re slightly less well-regulated when compared to true-to-form private driving schools and can differ widely when it comes to day-to-day life in training. While you won’t have to put any money down up front in order to get your CDL, in most cases, receiving training from an employer comes with a requirement that you work for that same company for a minimum amount of time, and being terminated from that position or accepting another can come with financial penalties. If you begin, and then fail to complete Employer-Paid CDL training, it’s likely you’ll have to pay whatever amount that company values the cost of training.

The long and short of this is Employer-Paid CDL training can be an inexpensive and efficient way to get into trucking, but it also carries a great deal of risk. Prime Inc. is a huge trucking company in America that trains thousands of drivers every year; recently, it had to pay $28 million to drivers who participated in their paid apprenticeship program as a result of unfair underpayment to new graduates of their program.

Lawsuits like this aren’t overwhelmingly common, but participating in Employer-Paid CDL training programs inherently gives a lot of power to the employer and can make it difficult for new drivers to have a good understanding of what employment could look like with other companies, essentially reducing their access to the financial cushion afforded by the free market. In general, if you’re seriously considering Employer-Paid CDL training, it’s highly advised that you get a hold of someone who’s participated in that same program before you enroll.

How You Can Get Started

If you need private financing for a truck after you’ve finished your CDL program, consider contacting us at Mission Financial, where we can offer you a direct loan at a competitive rate. Make sure to visit our blog to keep up with recent trucking news as well.

Truck Driver Sun Damage – The Gritty Reality of Decades on the Road

While being a truck driver is one of the highest-paying jobs that doesn’t require a college degree, living the trucker life doesn’t come without challenges. Considering the long hours, and weeks that truckers often spend away from their families, it’s a career path that might not suit everyone equally.

One of the things that many people don’t consider before getting involved in trucking is the effect it might have on your body— your skin to be specific. Reports have surfaced throughout the years that show how dramatic the impact of sun damage can be on a truck driver’s skin..

It’s likely you’ve seen the image that began circulating a couple years ago that showed a truck driver whose face looked very different on his left side compared to his right. The side that faced his window looked almost 10 years older, with heavy wrinkles that had resulted from years and years of damage from the sun.

If you’re a truck driver, there is a significant chance that you’ll have to manage your sun exposure over the course of your career— but just how big of an impact does this exposure have on your overall health?

A Potentially Deadly Illness

In addition to the superficial drawbacks, the trucker tan can cause serious health issues. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, and it’s easy to get huge doses of UV radiation as a trucker. Research has found skin cancer to be the single most common form of cancer in the United States, with one in five Americans being diagnosed with the condition in their lifetime.

Despite popular belief that the numbers must be higher in southern states, the truth is quite the opposite. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data shows that northern states (like Washington, Oregon, and Vermont) have a higher rate of melanoma diagnosis than southern states on the whole. In fact, Texas is one of the states with the lowest number of skin cancer diagnoses per year.

New England Journal of Medicine’s Trucker Photo

To make a point and hopefully give you the incentive to take proper measures to protect yourself from the UV rays, here is the photo mentioned above. It was taken for a New England Journal of Medicine study on dermatoheliosis (aging that results from UV ray exposure). It shows a 69 years old trucker suffering from unilateral dermatoheliosis, the result of his 28 years spent behind the wheel.

Image by New England Journal of Medicine

For U.S. Drivers, the Left Side of the Body Is at Risk

UV exposure in the left arm is five times greater than the right for truck drivers. Exposure on the left side of the face is a staggering 20 times greater than the right. This results in wrinkles, sagging, and brown spots on the left side of the face.

Research also suggests that all types of skin cancer are more prevalent on the left side of the body. About 75% of melanomas are diagnosed on the left side, according to skincancer.net.

Hot or Cold Weather Doesn’t Matter

UV skin damage doesn’t progress only on hot summer days. To understand why that is, it’s important to understand how UV rays function.

There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. The latter causes the skin to tan, but the former, UVA, has much more penetrating power and is the one that causes premature skin aging.

Windows and cloud cover aren’t effective in blocking out UV rays, and when there’s snow on the ground, the UVA rays are reflected by the snow (something skiers should be very familiar with). The information above indicates that drivers need to take measures to protect themselves from permanent skin damage, premature aging, and in the worst case, cancer.

How Do I Avoid UV Radiation Damage as a Truck Driver?

Use Sunscreen

Sunscreen is the go-to way to prevent sun damage to the skin. Sadly, it’s often underutilized by truckers. It’s strongly advised to put a layer of sunscreen on before every trip, whether it is up North or down South. Even though you may not be seeing any significant damage, you risk premature aging and skin cancer in the long run.

Wear Long Sleeve Shirts, Hat, and Sunglasses

When it comes to sun damage, it is all about layers of protection. Wearing clothing that covers more of your body will naturally provide more layers of protection. A long-sleeved shirt is an obvious choice here, but if you do not stand wearing one during the summer, get a sun-protective sleeve for your driving arm.

The same goes for sunglasses – get ones comfortable to wear while offering protection for your eyes.

Keep the Window Up

Many truckers tend to drive with their windows rolled down because it feels refreshing – but it is more dangerous than you thought. It is even more dangerous if you prefer to drive with the arm on the window ledge, as it will be directly exposed to sunlight.

Avoid Driving in Peak Sunlight Hours

If your route allows for driving outside peak hours, we suggest going for it. Peak hours vary from state to state; however, it has generally been taken to be from 10 a.m. to around 2 p.m.

Get Your Windows Tinted

Some types of window films have been proven to offer the same protection as sunscreen. Additionally, tinted windows will keep the temperature lower inside the cab, reduce the glare effect, and provide some additional privacy during sunny days.

However, a disclaimer is in order here: Tinted windows are illegal in some states, so be sure to check the state’s laws before getting your truck windows done. Untinted UV window shields are an alternative option that can be used everywhere, however.

Get Frequent Check-Ups with a Dermatologist

If you’ve been on the road for some time, it’s likely you’ve been affected by UV rays to some degree. The obvious signs are permanent tan lines on your body, tick patches of skin, rapid face aging, freckles, and appearance of moles. Scheduling frequent check-ups at a dermatologist will give you peace of mind and guidance to protect your health and youth.

Final Words

Although trucking has its pros and cons, driver health will always be an issue. Plenty of drivers don’t pay attention to their well-being until it is too late, but that doesn’t have to be your fate. Sun damage is only one of the health issues truckers face every day on the road, and it only takes a little extra effort to increase your quality of life on the job.

Guest post written for Mission Financial by Mile D. from TruckerJobUSA.com

 

How Truckers Can Avoid Cargo Theft

 

According to SensiGuard’s quarterly cargo theft analysis, cargo theft is on the rise in value and in volume. In Q1 of 2019, 144 cargo thefts were reported across the U.S. These thefts averaged a value of $116,717 per theft, with one theft valuing at over $1 million. SensiGuard states that these recorded thefts represent a one percent increase in value and a 25 percent increase in cargo theft volume from Q1 of 2018. The report also states that the most targeted freight for theft is categorized as “miscellaneous freight.” Mainly consisting of mixed load shipments on their way to big box stores across the country, this miscellaneous freight and electronics have the two most reported thefts.

The rise in cargo theft means that it is more important than ever to keep packages safe and secure while on the road, at truck stops, and in parking lots. Here are a few ways to keep cargo thieves at bay.

Keep Drop Off Locations Private

It may seem harmless to mention your drop off locations to family or friends. You may even do so as an added safety precaution or to give your loved ones peace of mind. However, if this information falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to compromised cargo. Cargo thieves may be targeting you through CB correspondence, social media, or even casual conversations at a truck stop. To ensure thieves are unable to trace you, be sure to keep your drop off location as private as possible.

Use Tracking Technology

While it isn’t a good idea to mention your drop off locations on social media or messenger apps, using technology is a great way to keep track of your truck in the event of a theft. There are a variety of tools available to track your truck and pinpoint its location using GPS. Geofencing apps that send a security alarm if a truck is traveling outside its given route is another great option for truckers. It is even possible to utilize immobilization technology to disable your truck until it is found.

Don’t Forget Low-Tech Devices

Padlocks, king pin locks, huck bolts, glad hand locks and seals, and air brake valves are all great low-tech ways to keep your truck and cargo safe while in route. These devices can help prevent thieves from breaking into your truck and can even work as a deterrent to stop them from trying in the first place.

Know When and Where to be Alert

As a trucker, it is important to always be aware of your surroundings. This means to stay alert and notice when you are being followed. It is also important to know when and where most crimes take place. According to Overdrive, most truck theft crimes happen on the weekend. In fact, Friday is the most common day to experience truck or cargo theft. Additionally, Georgia, California, Florida, and New Jersey experience the most cargo thefts each year, with California having the highest theft rates in the country.

Practice Safety in Parking Lots

Even when parked, it is important to stay aware of your surroundings. When in a parking lot, be sure to always keep the truck locked and in a well-lit, secure area. Even when you are out of your truck, be aware of who is around and who seems to be paying attention to your truck. Additionally, make sure you are not being followed when you exit a facility to walk back to your truck.

Perform Thorough Background Checks

Because inside cargo theft is a growing concern in the trucking industry, it is important for freight owners and employers to perform thorough screenings and background checks on all potential employees. This should especially include a full criminal record check. This can help employers lower their chances of inside cargo theft and make sure to hire honest employees.

Follow the 200-Mile Rule

Since thieves are known to follow a load as it is leaving the yard, it is important to follow the 200-mile rule. This rule encourages drivers to wait at least 200 miles before stopping for fuel, food, or breaks after picking up cargo. Many thieves expect trucks to make an early stop and will follow nearby, so waiting at least 200 miles will lower the risk of theft at your first stop.

The Trucker’s Safety Comes First

Even with cargo theft on the rise across the country, it is an avoidable crime. By following training procedures and being cautious on the road, you can deliver your cargo to its destination safely each time. However, it is important to remember that the driver’s safety is the top priority on every route. When it comes to protecting cargo, no trucker should be expected or feel obligated to protect the shipment over themselves.

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