SLEEP APNEA / BMI

I want to try to clear up a lot of rumors that I continue to hear about Body Mass Index (BMI). Uncle Lennie and I have discussed BMI, and its direct correlation with Sleep Apnea a couple of times on the blog.  The most widespread rumor I continue to hear is that truck drivers continue to believe that they will eventually lose their CDL because they are too fat!  This is absolutely false!

Just because your BMI may be considered high, doesn’t mean you will lose your job.  It may just mean that eventually, the FMCSA will require you to be tested for Sleep Apnea.  If you are diagnosed with Sleep Apnea you will not lose your CDL!  You will just be required at that point to carry a CPAP machine in the truck.

The FMCSA says that nearly one-third of drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles suffer from mild to severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea.  Most of those drivers suffer from sleep apnea, because they are considered to be overweight, based on their BMI.  They are concerned about this because they believe that Sleep Apnea leads to fatigued drivers, which leads to increased risk of accidents.

There is some discussion on what is considered a high BMI.  Some say that drivers should be tested for sleep apnea if they have a BMI that is higher than 30.  Some say testing should occur when a drivers BMI reaches 33.  To put this in perspective for you, I am about 6 feet tall, and 218 pounds.  If you have ever met me, you would probably consider me average size.  My BMI is on the borderline (between 29 and 30) of overweight and obese.  That was a big surprise to me.  So if you think that it won’t apply to you, guess again.

Testing for Sleep Apnea is not mandatory yet.  But I would bet that soon it will be.  The FMCSA is really pushing this issue.  Like I said, fatigued driving leads to more accidents.  But let me make it clear that just because you have a high BMI, doesn’t mean you will lose your CDL!  Have a great day, and GO MERCER!


IMTA 2009 FLEET SAFETY CONTEST

Everyone get ready for a big pat on the back.  Mercer Transportation has been named the winner of the Indiana Motor Truck Associations 2009 Fleet Safety Contest in the 5,000,001 to 10,000,000 mile division.  Thanks for all that you do for the company, and helping us prove that we are the best Owner-Operator company!


ACCIDENT 101

I read a disturbing story this morning in the Louisville Courier Journal concerning the tragic multiple-fatality accident that occurred several weeks ago on I-65 near Munfordville, KY. You may recall that a loaded tractor trailer crossed the median and struck a van, with horrific results. This morning’s story suggests that the driver of the big truck may have been speeding and talking on a cell phone immediately prior to the accident.

The purpose of this is not to reinvestigate or even analyze that accident. Regardless of fault, it was terrible and many lives will never be the same because of it. I literally pray every night that none of our folks are ever involved in anything like this.  It is important to me that each of you return safely to your families after every working tour. We don’t want anyone hurt or killed as the result of our trucking operations.

With that in mind, I want everyone to always be in complete and safe control of the things you can control. Remember, you control your speed, you control your following distance, you control when and how you change lanes. You control the securement and protection of your cargo, you control the upkeep and general maintenance of your equipment. You control the amount of rest you get, you control your diet and general health, and you control the level of distractions in your cab. You control your personal conduct with the general public, with customers and with law enforcement. In short, regardless of the economy, CSA 2010 or anything else, you can control, and must control, the majority of what goes on around you every day.

What you can’t control is what other motorists do around you. However, by mastering what you can control, in many cases you will be able to either avoid or at least mitigate the mistakes of others. You must fully recognize what you can control and constantly exercise that control to the best of your ability.

Many of you have heard me say this, but it is worth repeating here again: When you have an accident, time stops. It is what it is at that point. In a serious accident investigation, logbooks, receipts, ECM’s, cell phone records, equipment condition, cargo securement, driver condition and health as well as previous driver activity will all be under the microscope by Mercer, our insurance carrier, plaintiff counsel, Federal and state authorities and the press.  If you did not safely control the items that you had control over, the ultimate outcome will not be pretty. Or pleasant. Or cheap.

Understand what you can control and do your absolute best every day to exercise that control. Be safe.


CROSS BORDER TRUCKING PROGRAM, PART 2

If you have followed my posts on the Cross-Border Trucking Program, which allows Mexican trucks to enter the United States, then this link is a must read.  Click on the link below to see why quite a few congressmen are against the program.  It is definitely a step in the right direction.

http://www.defazio.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=573


WE WANT YOUR OLD STRAPS

As most of you know, under both SafeStat and CSA 2010, cargo securement is a major deal.  It is important that every driver uses the correct number and type of cargo securement devices and that they are not defective. Many of our write ups for securement violations come from defective 4″ straps. Drivers tend to hang onto 4″ straps longer than they should, often citing cost as the reason.  We want that to change.

Effective immediately, the Mercer Company Store will sell 4″x30′ straps for $10.00. No limit. But it gets better: If you turn in a used 4″ strap, the new one will cost you $8.00.  Again, no limit.  We want defective straps off of all Mercer units. This is open to Mercer drivers and contractors only.  This is your chance eliminate defective strap write ups in a pretty cost effective way. Go for it.


FMCSA WILL REQUIRE EOBRS

Some big news today, as I read that the FMCSA is working on a plan, that will require companies to equip all trucks in their fleet with Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBRs, or Black Box).  This plan will go into effect on June 1st, 2012.

The EOBRs will only be required by the FMCSA if the carrier violates the H.O.S. rules more than 10 percent of the time.  It is believed that carriers that frequently violate H.O.S. rules have a much higher risk of causing a crash.  Along with CSA 2010, the FMCSA will use this to crack down on unsafe drivers, and carriers.

I know that most of you have very strong opinions about this issue.  I expect the comment section to be hopping today.  Keep in mind that I do not know how this plan is going to effect us as an Owner-Operator company, or you as an Owner-Operator. The big question would first be, where do O/O’s find the money to put an EOBR in their truck?  As soon as we can gather some more info, we will update you all.  Stay safe, and go Mercer!

Here are some related links:

http://www.trucknews.com/issues/story.aspx?aid=1000366347

http://www.thetrucker.com/News/Stories/2010/4/2/DOTissuesrulerequiringEOBRsforcompanieswithseriousHOSviolations.aspx

http://www.truckinginfo.com/news/news-detail.asp?news_id=69964


GETTING A HANDLE ON CSA 2010

Our MATS contractor session at Mercer was well-attended and a bunch of you asked some great questions. I think nearly everyone walked out with a better understanding of what this CSA 2010 animal is and how to deal with it. A special thanks goes out to Jerry Kiefer of the Federal DOT for making himself available for questions during the session and later during the Wednesday evening festivities. CSA 2010 is industry-changing and the future of every driver depends on how sucessfully he or she can adapt to it. Remember, the bar is high. The same is true for motor carriers.

Hopefully, a number of you were able to attend the CSA 2010 seminars at MATS which were put on by the FMCSA. The seminar leader, Steve Piwowarski, is the point man on CSA 2010 and was very informative. I have heard him over the years at other meetings and know that he is committed to getting this thing right. I was fortunate to be able to spend a little time with him prior to the first session to voice some of our concerns about the program. They are listening to motor carriers, drivers, and other interested parties as they continue to develop the finished product. It is important to understand, however, that CSA 2010 demands absolute compliance with FMCSA regs and that won’t change. I expect to see perhaps some point value adjustments, but I don’t expect to see any gray area whatsoever on compliance with speed limits, cargo securement or hours of service.  People who can’t figure that out, or refuse to, will no longer be a part of trucking, at Mercer or anyplace else.

Many of you have dropped by my office (some by “special invitation”) to see the CSA 2010 format and to see where you stack up. It’s funny how those folks that have the least problems with this are the ones that worry about it the most. That’s probably why they have the least problems (as well as no accidents and clean MVR’s). Go figure.

Motor carriers are beginning to apply CSA 2010 to their respective safety policies. Some are pretty harsh. We are seeing several who are terminating drivers for anything but a clean inspection. Hopefully it won’t come to that at Mercer, but I can’t guarantee it at this point.  I am in the draft phase of the CSA 2010 changes to Mercer’s safety policy and we are currently looking at what effect these proposed changes will have on the size of our fleet.  Write ups will cost drivers and motor carriers CSA 2010 points. The reality is that it won’t take very many before there is a problem.  Particularly if the write up is for speeding, load securement or a log violation. 

Remember, the time to get clean inspections is now. Speed limits mean what they say, there is no allowance for a couple of mph over. It is not about not getting a ticket, you cannot get a write up. They count. Warnings count. Everything counts.  The bar is high.


SAFETY IN THE SLEEPER BERTH

I can’t take credit for this piece. My good friend Carolyn Brown-Holder #6021 has been beating me up to write something about this for quite a few months now. Carolyn and hubby Lee Wayne Holder (yep, ol Bo Weevil) have a smoke detector in their sleeper berth and highly recommend everyone equip theirs, as well.  Anyone who has seen a truck fire knows how quickly they go. I remember one here which caught fire in the inspection lane at night several years ago. The Kenworth had an electrical overload under the dash.  In less than a minute, the cab was consumed by flames. We caught the entire event on security camera video. Fortunately, the driver was inside taking a shower at the time. Despite an eight minute response from Louisville’s Bravest, the truck was gone.

Since talking to Carolyn about this, I have had quite a few great ideas come from other drivers. It seems that quite a few of you folks have smoke detectors. Several drivers have recommended also having a carbon monoxide detector in the sleeper due to so many people having portable gas generators on their trucks and operating them at truck stops. That could be a real danger to anyone parked alongside.  It seems that several of our folks also carry multiple fire extinguishers. They have the mounted unit as required by FMCSA regs, but also have anywhere from one to three more in the sleeper berth. Great idea. Getting to the mounted one could be a real problem if you have a dash fire and you are in the sleeper berth.

A couple of you guys reminded me to tell everyone to take out your fire extinguisher from the mounted bracket every month or so and gently shake it up. That allows it to maintain its charge for a longer period of time. Good tip, especially since we seem to be getting fire extinguishers looked at a lot more these days.

Finally, for personal protection, a lot of you folks carry a can or two of wasp spray in the truck. It works better than pepper spray because it can be sprayed accurately from a greater distance. The result to the eyes is the same, or worse. Something to think about.

Thanks, Carolyn, for making me get off my dead tail and write something useful. These are the things that save lives.


CSA 2010 INFO AT MERCER DURING TRUCKSHOW

As most of you are aware, the Mid-America Trucking Show will be held in Louisville Thursday March 25 through Saturday March 27.  I will leave it to Recruiting and others to discuss all the Mercer-related events, but there are two things here that everyone attending should be aware of:

First, the General Management Group will hold their annual question and answer session at  9:00AM on Wednesday morning March 24 in the main orientation classroom near Recruiting. They have asked me host a short discussion of CSA 2010 at the beginning of the session. In addition, the new orientation video on CSA 2010 will be shown throughout the day in the small orientation classroom across the hall. I will be available for group discussions throughout the day.

On Wednesday afternoon, probably around 2:00 or so, we will have a general session on CSA 2010. We will try to have it in the large classroom unless the crowd size forces us into the warehouse prior to the evening activities. My friend (and former Mercer employee) Jerry Kiefer will host a session on CSA 2010. Jerry is a Federal DOT officer who is in charge of training the various law enforcement agencies around the country on CSA 2010. This is a private event for Mercer folks only. We will have more on this as we get closer to the date.

It is important that everyone educates themselves about CSA 2010.  As I’ve said many times, this is industry-changing stuff. You must get clean inspections. Any writeup or warning counts against both Mercer and you personally. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible. Run legal, be safe.


STAYING UNDER THE CSA 2010 RADAR

Judging from the calls I get and the large number of drivers who have stopped by my office, more folks are taking the time to educate themselves about CSA 2010 and adjust their driving habits to effectively operate within this new reality. Those who don’t, or won’t, will be out of the industry.  I think everyone is starting to figure that out.  Here are a few more thoughts to share:

First, CSA 2010 will have absolutely no effect on 42% of Mercer drivers. These ladies and gentlemen go about their business every day without tickets, accidents or DOT violation writeups. Talk about low profile, these drivers have it figured out and are already dealing with it effectively.  They are going to be fine.

For everybody else, there are some common sense things that can be done to minimize the likelihood of having a bad encounter with CSA 2010 on the roadside. First, don’t speed. The majority of our inspections come from a driver being pulled over for speeding. Under CSA 2010, 55mph doesn’t mean 59mph, or 62mph. It means 55mph. The same with 65mph. It is not 68mph, or 73mph. It means 65mph. You don’t “get” 5mph anymore, or 7mph, or 1mph. The speed limit means what it says as far as commercial drivers are concerned. Going “with the flow of traffic” no longer cuts it. If you just can’t keep your foot out of it, I strongly suggest you go by your dealer and have it speed-governed at 65mph. That’s how important not getting a “speeding” writeup is going to be. Remember, it’s the writeup, not whether or not you get a ticket.

Wear your seatbelt. Cops look for that. Under CSA 2010, it also counts. If the officer can’t see that it is being worn properly, the unit has just become an inspection target. I’d stick an orange piece of reflective tape on it so there wouldn’t be any doubt. Seriously.  Get the dark tint off your windows. That  counts on CSA 2010 scores. Trucks with dark window tint aren’t cool, they are targets for law enforcement. We don’t need targets at Mercer. That’s a hint. Keep your log current to the last duty change. That means start your day. Don’t count on getting a green on PrePass. They shut them off to keep drivers honest. If you can’t resist the temptation to gamble with it, I suggest you turn in your PrePass.

On a sunny day, the dirty truck always gets looked at first. Especially the wheels. Dirty engines get more attention than clean engines.  Dirty straps get added attention. Clean straps don’t. Dunnage across the landing gear always gets a special look, as does the first pallet or bundle on the load. No matter how legal you think you got it, my advice is to put one more on the front. Always. No matter what.  At night, a burnt out or non-functioning light is screaming, “Please inspect me!” Straps with cuts are junk. Missing retroreflective tape is a cop magnet.

The three most frequent writeups at Mercer are speeding, defective or missing load securement, and logs not current. Law enforcement knows this about our fleet because they have access to it just like we do.  When they see a Mercer unit, they know that statistically there is a good chance that they can write one of those violations. Avoid those three, don’t draw attention with window tint, no seatbelt use or defective lighting, and the odds of having a good day increase significantly.  Remember, 42% of our drivers have already figured that out.  It is not impossible. We have folks that do it every day.