Tips for Keeping Awake Behind the Wheel

Truck drivers have long days and erratic sleep schedules. Some are also getting paid based on how much work they get done, whether it be by the mile, by the hour, or a percentage of what the load pays. Staying awake and alert for long shifts is critical if you want to be a safe, productive driver. Here are some things you can do to keep yourself awake and alert when time demands it.

Avoid High Contrast Lights At Night

The stark contrast between the bright lights and pitch black will make your eyes feel sleepy all too quickly. You have the bright headlights and dashboard lights in your face but you’re sitting in a dark truck surrounded by the dark of night. That will wear you out quickly. Driving with soft red lights lighting your interior and turning your dash lights down will help in the long run. Also make sure you never look directly at headlights, only to the side..

Keep Your Emotions In Check

Maybe you had a fight with your dispatcher or a car just cut you off a little while ago. Whatever it is, you’re ticked off now and all of that frustration is going to wear you out. Let it go. The same thing goes for excitement. If you start singing at the top of your lungs because you were assigned a great load you’re going to be pulling into a rest area before long to catch a nap. Try to keep your emotions level.

Don’t Allow Yourself To Get Too Exhausted

If you keep pushing on when you’re already tired you know you’re doing something incredibly dangerous: you need sleep. When you start feeling tired try to fit in a quick nap or go to bed early. The more exhausted you are when you finally get sleep the less alert you’re going to feel when you get up.

Turn The Temperature Down

Nobody says, “I love the winter because I sleep better when I’m freezing cold.” Absolutely not! We sleep best when warm and cozy. While it’s nice turning up the cabin heat to warm up in the winter, it also makes you comfortable and a little sleepy. By keeping the temperature down in the cab to the point where it is a little chilly and borderline freezing, you’ll be just a little more alert.

Turn Off The Radios

Your CB radio, music, and talk shows can be entertaining, but also exhausting. Your mind is processing every sound it hears. The more stimulation your brain has to process, the faster you’re going to get worn out. Drive along for a while enjoying the soft hum of the engine and wheels going down the highway. You’ll feel more calm and relaxed.

Turn Your Radio Back On!

However, after a while the quiet will put you to sleep. The hum of the engine and tires can be relaxing, but maybe it’s putting you in a trance. Crank up some tunes, the CB radio, or a talk show for a short period of time and wake yourself upa little.

Avoid Large Doses Of Caffeine

Sip on coffee if you like but watch out for caffeine overload. Once you start mixing diverse stimulants such as coffee or energy drinks, you’re both putting yourself at risk health-wise while setting your body up to have a caffeine crash. Make sure not to go overboard on the coffee and energy drinks!

Avoid Large Portions Of Food

We’ve all experienced a Thanksgiving where you look around 30 minutes after the meal and half of your family and friends are asleep or getting there. A full belly makes us sleepy since your body has to work to digest that food. Eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of a few large ones. You’ll feel better for it.

Get Something To Eat!

In the right amounts at the opportune time, a snack or mini meal can provide a great energy boost. Overdo it and you’ll be pulling off for a nap. Remember that the body responds well to small meals with small snacks in between.

Take A Walk

You’d be amazed at how much of a difference a ten minute walk around a truck stop or rest area can make. Getting out frequently if not a huge hassle can be beneficial to your health and quality of work.

Take A Nap

If taking a walk doesn’t really appeal to you, then how about a thirty minute nap? It’s amazing how much of a difference a short nap can make. One or two daily short naps can really keep you awake and alert for much longer. Now would be a good point to say: there is no substitute for sleep. These are simply ways to keep your energy levels up and give yourself a helpful boost when you’re not feeling quite as sharp as you could be out there on the road.

The Value of an Education

With so many unfilled positions in truck driving right now, many people are considering joining the ranks of road warriors and getting their commercial driver’s license to start landing high-paying careers with leading haul companies. This has meant that there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of schools and training programs that are appealing to prospective drivers, offering discount rates or quick turnaround times. However, buyer beware: Many of these programs that look too good to be true often are.

Tractor Trailers There are some training programs being offered to would-be drivers at incredibly low rates that seem – on paper – like a great opportunity. With such a low cost of entry, trainees are signing up for these programs nationwide, but are finding that the promises that were made are rarely being fulfilled. These programs often are incredibly overbooked, meaning that it can be difficult to actually find a seat for your classroom education, let alone get any personal help or answers to questions if you need them.

Many of these low-cost programs are also providing a disservice to their students by providing training on poor quality or outdated training equipment. Many of their vehicles are high mileage or older trucks that don’t provide a realistic perspective of what a driver should expect when they get behind the wheel of a truck in a new employer’s fleet. Plus, these breakdowns can hamper students’ education – broken down trucks, combined with overfilled classes, means that there are fewer opportunities for hands-on training in the cab, resulting in less time to get familiar and comfortable with the controls and the navigation of these multi-ton machines on the roadway.

With private CDL training, class sizes are generally kept small, meaning that that each student has every opportunity to succeed, ask questions and get one-on-one attention and help to walk them through every step of their driving education. In addition, these training centers also can often accommodate special circumstances or large group trainings, perfect for trucking companies that want to train a batch of new hires together in one comprehensive training program.

Truck on BridgePrivate training schools also offer students more well maintained and modern trucks, outfitted with the latest equipment to provide them a realistic view of what driving a current-generation big-rig is like. Students training for their class A or class B CDL will also receive complete instruction on the full operation of trucks, including manual and automatic transmissions.

Drivers also aren’t locked into an employment contract that can limit their earning potential after completing a private driver training program. Many low-cost schools or on-the-job training options offer “free” training, but with a stipulation that drivers work for a specific company for a certain period of time. This can lead to low introductory wages as drivers “pay off” their training. On the other hand, private driving school graduates tend to land high-paying opportunities with benefits – often averaging $45,000 or more annually – and are even eligible for tuition reimbursement in some cases from certain employers after they have earned their license.

Shippers’ Choice has helped countless drivers earn their CDLs through their comprehensive training programs. They also have helped students from other training programs build their skills and become more versatile and skilled drivers. In fact, Shippers’ Choice is currently offering graduates of other training programs a tuition reimbursement program – they will discount their tuition by the amount you paid for training at another school, offering drivers not only a significant savings, but a great option to become a better and more knowledgeable driver. In addition, drivers won’t have to wait to schedule a road test with the state DMV after completing their training program. At Shippers’ Choice, driver testing is done on-site, providing graduates with their full CDL at the completion of the training program.

Get the most thorough, accurate and comprehensive driver’s education possible with Shippers’ Choice. With rotating class start dates and full- or part-time sessions available, their staff can take any student from rookie to expert and set them on the path to a great new career. Contact Shippers’ Choice at any of their three convenient Virginia locations to find out more about their training programs today!

Drug and Alcohol Testing Requirements After an Accident

Accidents happen – it’s the nature of the word itself, and they can happen to commercial truck drivers just the same as those in cars and SUVs. When an accident occurs involving a commercial driver, though, there are a series of rules that are mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. These rules, among other things, outline required drug and alcohol testing requirements for truck drivers. Here’s a quick guide to understanding what’s required of you in case of an accident.

Tractor Trailer AccidentDamage to a Vehicle Requiring Towing

One of the three types of accident outlined in the FMCSA’s rules is motor vehicle accidents in which at least one of the vehicles had to be towed from the scene. If you were ticketed as a result of law enforcement’s investigation into the accident, you must submit to an employer’s drug testing procedures. However, if you were not ticketed, you are not subject to an additional screening.

Accident Involving Bodily Injury Treated Off Site

For more serious accidents that involve one or more parties receiving medical treatment, the rules are similar to those involving towed vehicles. If the driver of the tractor trailer was issued a citation, he or she must undergo a drug test through their employer. However, if no tickets were issued, the testing requirements are waived.

Accident Involving a Fatality

The most serious class of accidents is those in which a person dies as a result of the collision. In these cases, regardless of whether or not the driver is ticketed, he or she must submit to an employer drug test following the accident.

Understanding Drug Testing

Following an accident, there is a very defined timeline for performing the required testing. According to the FMCSA’s requirements, the driver must undergo at least alcohol testing within eight hours of a qualifying accident. This test can be separate from the drug test, although that test must also be completed by no later than 32 hours after the accident.

Federal drug testing screens samples for five classes of adulterants – marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamines, phencyclidine (aka PCP) and opiates, including opium and codeine variations. These tests will be performed by a professional laboratory using urinalysis, which is the only testing method recognized by the Department of Transportation. If a sample returns a positive indicator, the lab’s medical review officer will contact the driver directly to determine if there are extenuating circumstances that may have caused a false result. If there are no legitimate explanations, the officer will report the test results to the driver’s employer.

While accidents aren’t always preventable, drug use is 100 percent preventable. The use of drugs – in addition to being illegal in nearly all circumstances – can be a contributing factor in accidents on the road. The best way to prevent failing a drug test is to abstain from using drugs, which also contributes to a safer experience for all drivers on the road.

Shippers’ Choice emphasizes a drug-free lifestyle for drivers as part of our extensive training for new drivers. We also walk drivers through their obligations in case of an accident, as well as the best defensive driving practices to help prevent collisions in the first place. For more information on training with Shippers’ Choice, contact us today and get started on finding your next career!

Changes Proposed to Trailer Lengths, Rest Rules

Members of Congress are currently working on pushing legislation through both the Senate and House of Representatives that contains two notable proposals that have the potential to change rules and regulations in the commercial driving industry. The first would raise the length limit for double trailer hauling, while the second would change rest regulations for drivers.

Double TrailerThe trailering changes would raise the length limitations for double trailer hauling from two 28-footers to two 33-foot trailers, according to a recent USA Today article. Currently a vast majority of states – 39 – ban this truck configuration, making this change a significant shift in rules nationwide. The other proposal would amend the currently suspended law that would require drivers rest for 34 hours after working 70 hours, removing an additional provision that would prohibit driving from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. for 48 hours following the break period.

These changes were included on the House version of the appropriations bill for the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development departments, and the Senate is currently taking up their own draft of the legislation as lobbyists and senators on both sides of the issue make their cases. Those in favor of the changes point to the ability to do more with less, as these longer trailers would add capacity to existing routes and reduce the number of trips needed for hauling. Carriers also say the changes would allow them to do more with less, pointing to the current driver shortage, and that the lessened volume of traffic would reduce emissions over time as fewer trips are needed to transport goods.

On the other side, those opposed to the legislation have expressed concerns with the larger trailers on narrow or winding roadways. Opponents also point to increases in trucking fatalities in recent years that changes in rest rules and larger, and potentially heavier trucks could exacerbate. In addition, Go By Truck Global News recently reported that executives from 15 carriers recently signed a letter to the Senate asking them to reject the changes, pointing to the additional wear and tear on the nation’s infrastructure and the potential threat of these larger haulers to small and mid-sized carrier firms.

At Shippers’ Choice, we’re ready to adjust our training programs to any changes that may be made, and help ensure that all graduates of our training program are fully prepared to handle their vehicles safely and effectively on the road ahead. We also are doing our part to help reduce the driver shortage by providing high-quality classroom and hands-on training, making all our program participants into some of the best driving candidates available for their future careers as truck drivers. Contact us today and find out how you can start training for your future on the road!

Veterans: Trucking Could be the Perfect Career for You!

Through their service, veterans have served and protected this country and our interests, both domestic and abroad. During their duties, military members have learned a number of useful skills and talents, including a commitment to performing their duties to the best of their ability and working diligently to get the job done. These traits – and many more – make veterans appealing candidates for trucking companies.

In fact, in recent months and weeks, many companies have announced expansions in their campaigns to hire and grow their veteran workforce. As Arkansas’ KTHV reported last month, Walmart has more than doubled down on its efforts to hire more veterans to its workforce, including truck drivers. The company’s existing program has hired more than 92,000 veterans since 2013, and the company has now committed to trying to hire 250,000 total veterans by the end of the decade.

Veteran Truck DriversThe trend isn’t unique to retailers, though. For example, J.B. Hunt has been actively working to hire veterans to its team of drivers, and has been doing so successfully. Since committing to hire 10,000 veterans by 2020 just last year, the company has hired countless vets. According to J.B. Hunt’s veterans page, former military members now represent nearly 20 percent of the company’s workforce.

C.R England is also proudly recognizing the veterans in its ranks as well. Last year, the company added 10 new trucks to the fleet as part of its “Honored Veterans” fleet of trucks. To qualify as a driver in one of these vehicles, drivers must have a clean safety record and served at least one tour of duty in a branch of the armed services. Six brand new 2016 model Freightliner trucks were added just last month to further expand the company’s program, according to Commercial Carrier Journal. In addition, C.R. England successfully committed to hiring 350 new veterans last year, and now continues to promote adding new vets to its team of road warriors.

In addition, many veterans are eligible for training reimbursements through the GI Bill. The Department of Veterans Affairs lists truck driving as one of the acceptable non-collegiate training programs that veterans can participate in, depending on which program you may qualify for. Find out more about what benefits you may be eligible for on the VA’s website.

Whether you’re looking to transition back to civilian life or want to make a career change, the training programs at Shippers’ Choice can help you earn your CDL and get on the road to new opportunities. Contact us today and learn more about how you can start earning more and find a new career with truck driving!

Encouraging Women to Join the Trucking Workforce

For decades, driving tractor trailers has been a career choice broadly dominated by men. While attitudes have changed in many other employment fields, trucking still lags behind in terms of gender diversity. However, at least one large trucking company is making a concerted effort to help encourage more women to join the open road and jump behind the wheel of a rig.

Woman Truck DriverIn a recent Fortune article, the magazine covered Ryder Dedicated’s recent efforts to encourage women drivers to come aboard – in part, as an effort to help diminish the current driver shortage and in part to help promote a more accessible career option for women everywhere. Working with national nonprofit organization Women in Trucking, Ryder has been developing ways to make trucks more accessible for women. This includes designing more adjustable pedal and seat configurations and lower step heights to climb into the cab.

The two organizations are also working to promote the use of new and improved technology in cabs to encourage more women drivers to join the workforce. For example, automatic transmissions – which we covered in our last post – offer a more comfortable and less strenuous driving experience, making for a more comfortable and relaxed ride for drivers. In addition, as trucks serve as the home away from home for many drivers, the organizations are looking to encourage truck manufacturers to improve onboard security systems to create a more effective deterrent for would-be invaders at truck stops.

Women in Trucking continues to promote efforts to make the road more accessible for women drivers through its ongoing efforts, including scholarships and support on helping women navigate the process of training and earning their license. The organization is supported by numerous leading companies and truck manufacturers, including Great Dane, Freightliner and J.B. Hunt, and offers a number of professional resources and an annual conference for women drivers.

Shippers’ Choice can help drivers of all ages and genders get comfortable behind the wheel and earn their commercial driver’s license. Find out more and get started with your new career by contacting us today!

Roadway Innovations Keep Driving Forward

Earlier this week, Samsung released images and news on its prototype safety truck. The enhanced vehicle’s most talked-about feature is the “clear truck” capability, which allows drivers following the truck to see conditions on the road ahead on rear-mounted screens that livestreams footage from a front-facing camera in the cab. While it’s not readily available and the prototype is no longer operational, it has the potential to be a real game-changer for roadway safety.

Truck SunsetThis is far from the only new technology that has impacted the hauling industry over the years. From the advent of trucking, vehicles have been dramatically refined and improved, offering better performance, improved safety and enhanced driver amenities. For example, the invention of the CB radio provided a means for truckers to communicate with one another on the road, allowing them to inform other drivers of road conditions ahead or just engage in friendly conversation during the drive.

Technology has continued to advance in the spirit of safety and efficiency. One such innovation is the addition of trailer skirts on many vehicles. These simple-looking devices are added between the hitching point of the trailer and its wheels and improve the fuel efficiency of trucks on the road by between 4 and 7 percent, depending on typical driving conditions.

Automatic transmissions have also made their way into the cabs of semi-trucks in recent years. Previously dominant only in the realm of passenger vehicles, these transmissions provide an easier segue for those looking to enter the industry, which is key with so many open positions currently available. The automated-manual transmission has been surging lately, so much so that Fleet Equipment Magazine named it the biggest equipment trend of 2014.

With emissions standards proposed earlier this month that seek to slash vehicles’ fuel consumption and waste emissions, fuel efficiency is likely to become the next area of innovation for truckers on the road. Increasing mileage that trucks can travel between refueling would be a great boon for drivers, who could potentially save on time and fuel costs – if the technology can be implemented affordably and effectively. Time will tell how these advancements go, but there’s one thing to be sure of: There’s always something new on the road ahead.

At Shippers’ Choice, we keep aware of the latest innovations and changes in technology, as well as new requirements, safety updates and changes in standards to keep our students apprised of the most up-to-date information available as part of our comprehensive training programs. Find out what’s next on the road ahead for you, and contact us today to explore an exciting new career in trucking!

Weathering the Storm: Driving Tips for Heavy Weather

June lies in the heart of tornado season. With rapid temperature fluctuations, spring and early summer showers, and fast-moving cold and warm fronts a regular part of the forecast, high-energy storms with the potential for high winds and even twisters are an ever-present possibility. With many driving routes traveling through the heartland, drivers on the roads should be vigilant and mindful of these potential driving hazards at all times. Here are a few tips to keep in mind in case you come face to face with a serious storm front.

Thunderstorm RoadBe aware of the forecast

Whether you’re checking the conditions ahead from your smartphone while taking a meal or refueling break or keeping the radio tuned to a National Weather Service channel, staying aware of your surroundings and the forecast on the roads in front of you give you a bit of time to prepare for potentially inclement conditions. Storms can form quickly, and sometimes with very little notice, so if you see grey skies on the horizon, be sure to see if severe conditions are possible or expected.

Avoid bridges

In situations where you are expecting high winds, one thing you can do is avoid bridges and high crossings if your route allows. On bridges, wind can travel sometimes faster than usual using the geography around and the open space above and below the roadway to create more powerful gusts. These increased speeds can raise the potential for your trailer to be blown over. Even worse, depending on the crossing, such a toppling could lead to you and your trailer falling an even more significant distance than on open terrain.

Ready for rain

Torrential rainfall is a common feature of many powerful thunderstorms. To make sure you’re as prepared as can be, check both your wipers and your washer fluid regularly to make sure that you can keep your windshield clear in stormy weather. There are many products on the market that can help treat your windshield to repel water, while other cleaning products will ensure that your interior is smudge free in harsh visibility conditions.

Be prepared for hail

Hail generally is brief, but can be damaging in large sizes. If possible, riding out the storm off the road is best, positioning your truck to face away from the direction the storm is blowing in from, says CDL Life. Although they may seem a good place to ride out storms, avoid parking under overpasses because of the potential for amplified wind speeds, as mentioned above.  Hail without rain is also a common indicator of tornadoes, so keep a watch for funnel clouds!

Don’t trust flooded areas

Although this may seem like it goes without saying, you should avoid traversing flooded roadways. What may appear to be only a small amount of water may actually be several feet deep, not to mention the potential for a turbulent current that could wash your truck off the road. High water can also hide other hazards, like downed power lines or hidden potholes or other debris, and should be avoided at all times.

Slow and steady

Lastly, one of the best defenses is driving defensively. Be aware of your surroundings at all times during stormy weather, and leave yourself some additional space between other vehicles whenever possible. Wet roads can make stopping difficult at times, and swirling and blowing winds can cause vehicles large and small alike to drift suddenly out of their lanes. Keep your hands steady on the wheel, check mirrors regularly and slow your speed to be ready to adjust to the changing conditions.

While rain and storms are a regular part of the job, there’s no reason to treat them as a routine ordeal as dangerous conditions can arise at any time. The professional team of experienced instructors at Shippers’ Choice have years of experience on the road and in all manner of weather conditions. If you’re just starting out with driving, they can help you prepare for the unexpected as part of their training programs. Find out more by contacting us today or stopping by one of our three convenient locations!

What to Expect During a Roadside Inspection

One of the many occurrences on a trucker’s journey is inevitably a roadside checkpoint set up to inspect and review a truck’s documentation and safety. These checkpoints follow a very standardized series of inspections, based on the North American Standard Inspection Program requirements set forth by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Here is a quick overview of what to expect during a typical review.

Level Up

There are seven tiers of inspection that can occur, though not every driver will experience each. The standard full inspection is known as a Level I inspection, and covers a driver and his or her vehicle from end to end. A Level II inspection is a walk-around inspection of the vehicle and driver’s documentation, which is less intensive than the Level I inspection. Level III inspection is only a review of the driver’s credentials, while Level IV is reserved for special inspections that may be needed. The Level V inspection covers just the vehicle, and is a common inspection held for vehicles while at a fleet lot. Level VI inspections are reserved for transuranic waste or radioactive materials. The last inspection, Level VII, is held for inspections that may be mandated within specific jurisdictions.

What Can You Expect?Truck at Weigh Station

For a typical full (Level I), Level II or Level III inspection, drivers will be asked to provide all appropriate paperwork to the inspector, including license, medical examiner’s certificate, record of duty status, hours of service logs, and daily and periodic inspection reports.  Level I, II and V inspections then move on to include full inspections of all exterior components of the vehicle, including brake and fuel systems, trailer(s) exhaust and many other items. Level I and V inspections also include checking under the vehicle components, including axels and movement of the fifth wheel. A full checklist overview is available in the CVSA’s inspection program brochure.

Passing an Inspection

Keeping up on your paperwork and routine vehicle inspections and maintenance is the best way to ensure your vehicle will pass a full NAS review. After you have completed a satisfactory full Level I inspection, you will receive a CVSA decal for your vehicle which is good for up to three months. If you are stopped at a checkpoint for inspection with an active and valid decal, you typically will not be required to submit to a reinspection unless there is a noticeable violation or a special circumstance, like a required Level IV inspection or a quality assurance or special jurisdictional review program in effect.

As new drivers become more familiar with the process, inspections become less and less of a worry and more an opportunity to prove to both yourself and the inspector that you are a safe and conscientious driver on the roadway. At Shippers’ Choice, we help prepare new drivers for these regular road occurrences as well as the necessary details of inspection and paperwork processes. Contact us and get started today and learn more about the ways of the road and how you can be a part of the exciting trucking industry.

Becoming a Truck Driver Benefits the Economy

There are many compelling reasons to explore a new career behind the wheel of one of the nation’s hundreds of thousands of hauling trucks. The flexible scheduling, the pay, the ability to see new sights – these are all great reasons that hundreds of new drivers consider when exploring joining the ranks of the road elite. However, the trucking industry has another reason that may compel you: The driver shortage has already and is going to continue to impact the prices of goods at stores near you.

Tractor Trailers According to a recent article in Fortune Magazine, the current lack of drivers is a mounting issue, with nearly 40,000 open positions currently unfilled by industry estimates. As a result, the costs of doing business for companies that need to ship their goods have continued to rise. A portion of this is due to the increasing drive for trucking firms to incentivize their existing driver base to stay through improved benefits, flexible scheduling and increased pay.

These same retention and hiring efforts means that those entering the field have a plethora of opportunities available for them. CEO Andy Ahern of Ahern and Associates trucking consultancy notes in Fortune that salaries for drivers have likely risen nearly $10,000 on average from the $40,000 median pay reported in the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers. CNBC adds that long-haul drivers with endorsements for specialized or hazardous towing can earn even more, often in excess of $70,000.

The industry has also been spending time investing in other updates to appeal to younger drivers. For example, the CNBC report notes that many companies are investing in trucks with automatic transmissions that provide a simpler driving experience. There are also new designs being proposed in cab construction to afford drivers more homey amenities, like a kitchenette or pet area to bring a canine or feline friend on the road. Companies are also rapidly adding trailer skirts and improving truck contouring to further improve efficiency, leading to cost savings over the lifetime of the truck’s service.

While automated truck-driving systems are in development now, it will still be many years, if not decades, before the technology is readily available, affordable and approved for use on roadways. Until then, the opportunities for those looking to start a new, exciting and high-paying career need to turn no further than trucking. Shippers’ Choice can help get you on the road to your new job. Contact us today to get started and find out more about our training programs.