Truck Drivers - Watch Where You're Going!

Tanker Truck on the Highway
Tanker Truck on the Highway

Remember maps? Those huge sheets of paper had colorful graphic representations of geographic areas and showed the locations of cities, towns, highways, streets, mountains, bodies of water and a host of other information for the traveler. Using the map scale, a driver could estimate the distance and time needed for a journey and elect to choose a route that went around a busy city or one that didn’t climb a steep mountain range. (The one thing that few drivers couldn’t do with a map was get it refolded to its original convenient glove-box size.)

Truckers’ maps went beyond common road atlases by including additional job-specific details such as the locations of weigh stations, low overhead clearances and non-truck routes. (Plus they came bound in book form--no refolding needed!)

Truck Driving Maps Go Electronic

[ic-l]Increasingly, drivers are getting guidance not from paper maps but from electronic devices. Global positioning systems (GPS) use satellites to tell drivers where they are, where they are going and what lies ahead.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) wants commercial vehicle drivers to realize that not all navigation systems are the same. Just as truckers’ maps differed from common road atlases, so do GPS systems.

A typical system that a consumer might buy at an electronics or auto parts store may not have software programming to show low bridges, hazmat routes and other information relevant to commercial motor vehicle operators.

Paying attention to warnings can spare you a hefty fine for pulling your 30-ton tanker down a road restricted to a weight one third of that.

The FMCSA believes it is critical for truck and bus drivers to use the right navigation system when operating a commercial motor vehicle. If you use a navigation system that does not provide important route restrictions such as low bridge overpasses the shortcut you thought would save you time and fuel may end up more expensive than you had anticipated. A wrong turn or unnecessary mile can cost you time, money and patience.

Commercial Motor Vehicle navigation systems differ because they:

  • Take into account road widths which can affect speed limits
  • Report road, weather and traffic conditions that could cause delays
  • Alert drivers to elevations that can make driving a challenge

The FMCSA has created a visor card specifically for truck and bus drivers on how to choose the right navigation system intended for them. The visor card gives tips for safe use of navigation systems. It’s pictured here and you can also download it free-of-charge from The visor card provides tips on selecting the proper navigation system designed for trucks and buses.

A navigation system has to be used properly to give good results. The information you get out of it is only as good as the information you put in it. The FMCSA visor card shows how to input data. For example, in order for the system to provide you with the appropriate route, you should enter all relevant information such as:

  • Vehicle's length, width and height;
  • Axle weight; and
  • Any hazardous materials being hauled.

Drive Smarter, Be Safer

Give yourself every advantage by selecting a route that doesn’t throw avoidable obstacles in your path. Follow the recommended route and obey traffic, clearance and warning signs.

And it goes without saying: don’t drive while using a cell phone or texting. By planning your route and paying attention to your driving you can have a safe and efficient run.

Hot Shot Drivers Are In Demand in the Eagle Ford Shale

The Eagle Ford Shale has brought a lot of opportunities for the oil and gas industry. There is plenty of work for everyone - especially Hot Shot truck drivers. Hot Shot drivers in South Texas are called by oil and gas companies to pick up loads from the drilling rig and deliver them somewhere else, or to bring much needed supplies to the rig to keep drilling and fracking productive. If a tool breaks, the crew is forced to stop drilling or producing until another one is delivered. Time is money and a crew sitting around waiting for a tool is not productive, so Hot Shot drivers that are reliable are a crucial part of the business. Good drivers build great relationships with crews to ensure they get more loads to keep busy.

Hot Shot Drivers Have Unpredictable Schedules

Hot Shot drivers are a different breed. Unlike regular drivers whose runs and loads are scheduled days, weeks and even months at a time in advance, Hot Shot drivers must be ready to go in a moment’s notice. They have to be skilled and flexible, ready to haul thousands of pounds of pipe one day, a small one-pound express package the next. Runs can range from across town to halfway across the state of Texas.

Unfortunately, drilling crews can be very demanding. Drivers can be put in very awkward situations to take loads even if they are over their hours, and more driving would put them in violation of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) hours of service rules.

Don't Risk Your License

As a Hot Shot driver you can either be the hero or the goat to these drilling crews. If you refuse a load, they have to call someone else and if that person is more available than you, you may think that's the one who will get more calls. Turning down work in order to stay within hours of service limits may seem risky, but driving past your allowed hours in a 24 hour period is riskier. It’s foolish and unsafe. All drivers, even Hot Shotters, are responsible for their log books being up-to-date and that they comply with FMCSR regulations. Remember, if you’re running illegally it’s your driving record and reputation that is at stake. It may seem you are making more money but all it takes is one DOT audit with a couple of log book violations on your Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) status to take that away.

Let your customers know you are a safe and competent driver who follows the rules. If you set that standard from the beginning they will respect you and recognize you as a real professional. And who do you think they’d rather work with to transport their expensive equipment, or to meet their critical deadline?

Personal Safety in the Eagle Ford Oilfield

The Eagle Ford Oilfield is a busy workplace. The work itself can be hazardous, involving expensive heavy machinery and tools, all of which merit your undivided attention. Regulations of the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration and company policies are designed to protect worker health and safety. However, the most important guardian of your personal safety in the workplace is YOU.

Personal Safety Tips

Here are some simple steps for personal safety around commercial motor vehicles. They'll help you to avoid non-driving motor vehicle-related accidents.

  • As you approach the vehicle, take a look around. Make sure it's secure. Don’t get under, in front of or behind a truck or piece of heavy equipment if there’s any chance at all that it could move.
  • Be aware of the condition of the vehicle. Now would be a better time to notice a defect than when you’re miles down the road or in the middle of a critical operation.
  • If this is an unfamiliar vehicle for you, look around and identify the location of all the controls. Make sure that there are no loose objects that could hit you if you start or stop abruptly. Adjust the seat so that you can reach the controls easily.
  • Do a little personal inventory. Are you fit to operate a heavy truck or piece heavy equipment? If you’re too fatigued, hung over, distracted or preoccupied to perform safely, you’re putting yourself as well as others at risk.
  • Fasten your safety belt.

Get in the habit of using the Three-Point Stance to enter and exit a vehicle safely. Have at least three points of contact. Use both hands and one foot, or both feet and one hand.

  1. As you approach the vehicle cab, eyeball the footholds. Dirt or grease could cause you to slip and fall.
  2. Enter the cab with one foot on the ground, one on the truck’s foothold and one hand on the handhold.
  3. Exit by climbing out backward, as if you were using a ladder. Never jump out of the cab.

Practice being safe around cargo. A load can shift while in transit, so use caution when you open cargo doors or release tiedowns. Open only one side of a van trailer and stand behind the other latched door. This will give you some protection from any falling cargo.

Use caution around forklifts. The only one who should be in or on a forklift is the forklift driver.

Don’t listen to music and don’t wear earbuds while you’re in the field. You should be listening for the sounds of moving and approaching equipment or instructions from team members and supervisors. Do follow your company policies regarding wearing hearing protection in the workplace.

Be Alert and Aware in the Workplace

A little extra awareness of yourself, your equipment and your environment can go a long way toward ensuring the personal safety of you and your coworkers around commercial motor vehicles.