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Professional drivers never know what they might encounter on their daily routes. But this summer, it’s a safe bet you’ll come across two of the most common danger zones on the road: railroad crossings and low bridges. Both situations require heightened awareness and vigilance to navigate safely. And failing to adhere to proper safety protocols can result in severe damage to your vehicle or cargo. If you’re not careful, these two types of hazards can lead to serious — and even life-threatening — crashes.

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It’s time to gear up for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) International Roadcheck. This year’s 72-hour safety event is set for May 14 – 16. During the Roadcheck, law enforcement personnel will inspect commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and drivers at weigh stations and inspection stations throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Last year, the CVSA inspected nearly 60,000 CMVs and drivers during the three-day Roadcheck, placing 19.3% of vehicles and 5.8% of drivers out of service (OOS).

This year, CVSA inspectors will focus on these two areas.

1. Tractor protection systems.

Inspectors will look at your vehicle’s tractor protection valve, trailer supply valve and anti-bleed back valve. An inspector will:

  • Direct you to release all brakes by pressing dash valves
  • Ask you to carefully remove the gladhands and allow air to escape
  • Ensure air stops leaking from the supply line with at least 20 psi remaining
  • Listen and/or feel for any leaking air at the gladhand couplers on the trailer
  • Request a full-service brake application
  • Listen and/or feel for leaks from both air lines
To avoid a vehicle OOS violation, test these valves properly during your pre-trip inspections.

2. Alcohol and controlled substance possession.

The possession and use of alcohol and controlled substances remains a significant safety concern for all motorists. The number of prohibited drivers on the U.S. Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse has been increasing.

During an inspection, law enforcement personnel will:

  • Observe drivers for signs of alcohol or controlled substance use and/or impairment
  • Examine the cab and trailer for alcohol or controlled substances
  • Conduct a Clearinghouse query (U.S. drivers only)

Do not possess or be under the influence of any alcohol or controlled substances. Drivers cannot use alcohol within four hours of coming on duty. Remember that marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal U.S. regulation, and any state legalization is superseded by this. Avoid marijuana and products containing CBD. CBD is unregulated and often contains THC, which may cause a positive drug test.

In addition, drivers should take these steps to avoid the most common reasons for vehicle and driver OOS violations.

  • Conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection. Pay special attention to brake systems, service brakes, tires and lights, four of the top-five vehicle OOS violations in the U.S. last year. Also, make sure all cargo is properly secured. If you find any issues during your pre-trip inspection, file a driver vehicle inspection report (DIVR).
  • Keep your logs up to date and accurate. Hours-of-service violations and false logs were the top two driver OOS violations last year.
  • Make sure your driver’s license is current and always carry your DOT medical card with you.

You leave your truck for the night and return the next morning. In between, anything could happen. How do you know your vehicle is still in tip-top shape? You won’t unless you conduct a thorough pre-trip inspection.

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As a professional driver, you face countless challenges on the road, and you can’t anticipate them all. But here’s one that’s totally within your control: keeping your cargo safe and secure.

Proper cargo securement is more than just making sure every item in your trailer or flatbed is tied down. It also involves achieving the right balance. When your cargo is evenly distributed, you’ll avoid the risk of load shifting. It’s a serious problem that makes a truck difficult to drive. It can even cause a truck to roll over.

A few ways to secure your cargo and prevent load shifting:

  • Sweep out your trailer so you start with a clean floor.
  • Inspect all securement devices (tie-downs, ratchet straps, chains, binders, cargo nets) for signs of wear and tear. Replace any damaged tie-downs and be sure to always carry more than needed just in case a replacement is needed while on the road.
  • Check the working load limit (WLL) of your tie-downs so you don’t overstress them.
  • Inspect the load you’ll be hauling. Look for the weight (which should be listed on the bill of lading) and length of your cargo.

As you load

  • Use the right number of tie-downs. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recommendations call for:
    • One tie-down for items that are 5 feet long or shorter and weigh 1,100 lbs. or less
    • Two tie-downs for
      • Items that are 5 feet long or shorter and weigh 1,100 lbs. or more
      • Items that are longer than 5 feet but shorter than 10 feet
    • Use additional tie-downs for every extra 10 foot of length
    • Unsure of how many tie-downs to use? Add an extra tie-down or two to be extra cautious.
  • Make sure all securement devices are tight but not too tight—they should snap like a rubber band.
  • Use edge protectors to prevent straps from damaging your cargo.
  • Secure any rolling cargo with chocks, wedges or cradles.
  • Distribute your load as evenly as possible and try to secure cargo to fixed points inside your trailer or on a flatbed.

As you drive

  • Inspect your cargo within the first 50 miles, then every 3 hours, 150 miles or at change of duty. Make sure nothing has shifted or moved. Tighten any loose tie-downs.
  • Drive safely. Take tight curves slowly. Avoid harsh braking. Slow down in inclement weather.

Remember, proper cargo securement is the driver’s responsibility. Take the time to balance your load, drive safely, and check your load in transport to keep you and your cargo safe.


It typically begins with a simple yawn. Next thing you know, your eyes feel heavy. You find yourself turning up the radio or opening a window. Then you realize you forgot the last few miles you drove and wonder how you traveled so far without realizing it.

What’s happening? It’s fatigue, and it’s one of the most common and dangerous safety risks for professional drivers. About 65% of truck drivers say they feel fatigued while driving, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. What’s worse, fatigue plays a role in 31% of all deadly truck crashes, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The good news is that staying more alert while driving is well within your control. Try one or more of these seven smart strategies to beat fatigue behind the wheel. You may just save a life!

1. Take your breaks. Always follow Hours of Service (HOS) regulations and take a minimum of 30-minute breaks every 8 hours. Try to find your own rhythm. For example, you may be more alert if you take shorter breaks every two-to-three hours instead of “saving” your break for that eighth hour on the road.

2. Get your sleep. Aim to sleep for seven to eight hours every night. If possible, avoid or limit driving mid-afternoon (between 2 – 4 p.m.) or overnight (between midnight – 6 a.m.), times when the body is naturally drowsy.

3. Watch what you eat and drink. Skip fast food, vending machines, and other types of food that lack nutrition. Instead, pack healthier meals. Choose fruits, vegetables, nuts or string cheese for snacks. Don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed. But don’t go to bed hungry, either. Avoid sodas and other sugary drinks. Choose water instead so you can stay hydrated.

4. Stay active and fit. While you can’t exercise while driving, you can add some physical activity during your breaks and during your off time. Take a brisk walk. Do some stretching exercises. Aim for 20 minutes of physical activity at least three days a week. Being physically fit lowers your chances of fatigue.

5. Check your medicines. Sleeping pills, allergy medications and cold medications can make you drowsy. Avoid or limit them whenever possible. Always ensure you discuss any medications and their side effects with your doctor.

6. Avoid the traps. Many drivers think that they can fight fatigue by smoking, turning up the radio, or opening a window. Those activities may refresh you for a few seconds, but they won’t keep you alert for the long haul. If tired, do the right thing, pull to a safe area, and take a break!

7. Don’t tough it out. If you start yawning, making sudden lane changes or start to grow irritable, it’s a good bet you’re tired. Find a safe, legal place to park, such as a truck stop or well-lit rest area, and take a break.

No matter where your routes take you this holiday season (over the river and through the woods?), you’ll likely run into more than just Santa Claus on his sleigh.

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More than 40% of truck drivers now live in a state that has legalized the use of marijuana, according to an American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) report. However, federal law still prohibits the use of marijuana by CMV drivers who engage in interstate travel.

That means when it comes to the use of cannabis products, professional drivers must say no.

Unfortunately, not everyone is getting the message. The number of positive tests for recreational marijuana among truck drivers increased by 31% over the past year. That’s according to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Drug and Alcohol (D&A) Clearinghouse pulled by Fleet Owner in June.

Clearing the confusion

Make no mistake, marijuana is a serious safety threat. Cannabis products significantly impair a truck driver’s judgment, motor coordination and reaction time. Studies have found a direct relationship between the blood concentration of THC (the primary psychoactive component of marijuana) and impaired driving.

As a result, truck drivers must avoid all types of marijuana and CBD products for recreational or medical reasons.

Making roads safer

The FMCSA’s D&A Clearinghouse is designed to improve public safety on the roadway by helping to ensure any CDL drivers that violate the FMCSA D&A policy are kept off the road. The Clearinghouse is a secure online database that provides real-time, historical data of any FMCSA D&A policy violations.

Companies that employ CDL truck drivers must query the database at the time of employment and at least once every 12 months to see whether a driver’s status has changed. Drivers who test positive for alcohol, marijuana, amphetamines or other prohibited controlled substances without a proper medical prescription must complete the FMCSA’s Return-to-Duty process before returning to any safety-sensitive job functions. The process includes meeting with a Department of Transportation-approved substance abuse professional (SAP) and undergoing Return-to-Duty testing and subsequent follow-up drug tests as determined by the SAP.

CDL drivers who want to view their records must register and create an account with the Clearinghouse using the link below. Drivers must also use the Clearinghouse to give employers additional electronic consent to view any records found. Refusal to provide consent will prohibit the driver from performing any safety-sensitive functions. Employers, testing facilities and SAPs are required to report any FMCSA D&A policy violations to the FMCSA Clearinghouse. Drivers will receive notification by mail or email every time their record is modified.

To register, visit clearinghouse.fmsca.dot.gov/register. You’ll need your CDL number, birthdate, full name and Social Security number.

Do you yawn often or feel drowsy when driving during daylight hours? Do you snore while sleeping? Do you have frequent headaches? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA.

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Class is in, and it’s not just students who need a back-to-school refresher. So do professional drivers who must adapt to new routines to keep themselves, their cargo and school children safe on the roads.

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When you press the brake pedal on your truck, you expect an instant response. Yet any number of issues can cause your vehicle’s braking systems to fail, increasing your risk of a serious accident while putting you and your cargo in danger. That’s why maintaining your truck’s braking system is so important and a major part of your Pre-Trip Inspection.

To ensure brake safety every day of the year, here are 10 tips to help ensure your brake linings and pads are ready for the road:

1. Inspect all the parts of the brake linings and pads that you can see during pre- and post-trip inspections.

2. Check for signs of missing or damaged brake lining, such as grooves in the drum from rivet contact.

3. Look at the shoe-to-drum clearance and ensure that there is adequate lining on the shoe.

4. Try to find any signs of leaks from the hub or other components that may contaminate the lining or pad surface.

5. Look for any missing lining blocks.

6. Scan for visible cracks or voids in the lining block.

7. Check for any exposed rivets or lining blocks that look loose on the shoe.

8. On disc brakes, pay close attention to the condition of the rotor. Look for either metal-to-metal contact or heavily rusted rotors across the entire friction surface on either side.

9. Make any repairs in accordance with the brake manufacturer’s requirements and guidelines.

10. Note any brake lining or pad-related issues in your driver vehicle inspection reports and report them to the motor carrier.

In addition, always check for these brake-related items during pre- and post-trip inspections:

  • Any missing, non-functioning, loose or cracked parts
  • Audible air leaks coming from around the brake components and lines
  • Slack adjusters that are different lengths
  • Air pressure below 90-100 psi
  • Rust holes or broken springs in the brake housing section of the parking brake
  • Malfunctioning ABS warning lamps

Remember, a properly conducted pre-trip inspection will go a long way toward passing a brake inspection — and keeping you and those around you safe.

Speeding alone has caused more than one-quarter of all deaths from motor vehicle accidents since 2008, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Prepare for the presence of law enforcement. Follow these six best practices and take a giant step toward avoiding warnings, citations or accidents on the road every week of the year.

1. Drive under the posted speed limit. Excessive speed is the most frequent driver-related crash factor in CMVs and passenger cars, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

2. Keep your eyes on the road. Don’t use a cell phone while driving; avoid distractions like eating or changing radio stations. Distracted driving claimed 3,522 lives in 2021, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

3. Wear your seatbelt. It’s the law in all 50 states. Seatbelts save nearly 15,000 lives each year on average, says NHTSA.

4. Avoid alcohol or drugs. Drunk driving alone caused 13,384 deaths in 2021, says NHTSA.

5. Check your aggression. Law enforcement officers will look for tailgating, improper lane changes, improper passing and other aggressive driving behaviors. And remember to always drive defensively.

6. Follow the rules of the road. Watch for work zone speed limits, stop signs and stoplights, pedestrian crossings and other traffic control devices, and always obey them.

Professional drivers, get ready to share the road. Nearly 85% of Americans expect to travel this summer, according to a 2023 travel survey from The Vacationer. And 100 million people plan to take a road trip of 250 miles or more.

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Drivers must ensure their vehicles are in top working order every day of the year by completing pre- during, and post-trip inspections and reporting any concerns to their management for remediation. To pass your next inspection and ensure your anti-lock braking system (ABS) is violation-free and your cargo is properly secured, follow these tips that every driver needs to know.

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You may know the saying, “April showers bring May flowers”, but these same wet conditions also create a variety of dangerous road hazards for professional drivers. In fact, flooding is now ranked as the second deadliest weather hazard in the U.S. each year, according to the National Weather Service. (Excessive heat is currently listed as the Number 1 deadliest U.S. weather hazard).

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As a professional driver, you rely on your truck to operate at peak performance to keep you and those around you safe. That’s why it’s so important to conduct thorough pre-trip and post-trip inspections — and even check in on your truck and its load during your travels while at a weigh station or rest stop.

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You’re due at your destination in an hour, but traffic has slowed to a crawl. You just got cut off — twice. You’re already feeling worn out. And now rain clouds are gathering overhead. As a truck driver, you face these types of situations all the time. The more prepared you are to handle them, the healthier you’ll be.

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You climb in and out of your cab constantly. You may even be required to climb into the trailer or on top of a flatbed to secure the load you are transporting. This is done so often, that you probably don’t think of the risk involved. But move too fast or carelessly, and you could end up out of service with a serious injury.

Trips, slips, and falls cause around 100,000 work-related injuries a year for professional drivers. They also keep workers off the job for an average of 24 days, according to National Safety Council data. Wintertime is an especially dangerous time for falls due to weather hazards like snow, sleet and ice that impact the central and northern regions of the U.S.

You can avoid trips, slips, and falls by following a few basic steps:

1. Use the three points of contact rule. The three points of contact rule will give you the most stability every time you enter and exit your truck, reducing your risk of a slip, trip or fall. Three points means that you should have two hands and one foot — or two feet and one hand — in contact with your truck at all times. When you climb up or down, grab onto fixed items, such as door handles, the door frame, steps or your steering wheel. Don’t rely on tires or wheel hubs to climb out.

2. Don’t climb and carry. Avoid the temptation to hold anything — a coffee cup, smartphone or logbook — in your free hand when you enter and exit the truck. Doing so will prevent you from effectively using the Three Points of Contact Rule. Always place your items into the cab before attempting to enter your truck.

3. Move slowly and deliberately. While jumping out of your cab may save time, you must never do it. Jumping puts extra strain on your back and joints, which can cause you pain and create injuries over the long term. Jumping also puts you at risk for ankle, shoulder and knee injuries that may occur if you fall awkwardly.

4. Look before you leave the cab. Make sure your vehicle’s handles and steps are clear of ice, snow and other hazards. Park in well-lit areas and on level surfaces so you can climb out of your truck safely. Look for objects blocking your path and move them out of the way.

5. Wear proper footwear. Choose non-slip footwear. Waterproof work boots with textured treads are always a good option.

6. Pay attention. Focus on climbing up and down the stairs only. Don’t look at your phone or other objects. Avoid distractions.

Last year, more than 100 million people hit the nation’s highways between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). Experts predict that this year’s holiday traffic patterns will be just as active.

But for professional truck drivers, crowded roads aren’t the only potential holiday headache. So too are jam-packed parking areas.

Right now, a lack of available truck parking nationwide ranks as the No. 1 industry concern among truckers, according to the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual survey. And with the holidays bringing more truck traffic due to increased package deliveries and returns, it could be harder than ever to find a safe place to park.

These five tips can help you survive the holiday season, find safe parking, and protect yourself, your vehicle, and your cargo.

1. Plan Ahead

“Good dispatch at the beginning of the day will save you time throughout the entire day,” says Chuck Pagesy, Director of Safety at Penske. Look at your route at the start of the day, and identify safe parking areas close to your destination. Start your route early if possible—truck stops can reach capacity as early as 7 p.m. Consider reserving a parking spot in advance.

2. Watch Your Hours of Service (HOS)

If you wait until the last minute to find parking, you could run out of hours. Keep an eye on your HOS throughout the day to reduce the risk of a potential violation.

3. Choose Wisely

Always park in well-lit areas. If possible, choose a spot you can pull in and out of easily without needing to back up. Avoid spots where other trucks are parked at odd angles or over the painted lines. Try not to park at the end of a row, which is where collisions are more likely.

4. Know Where Not To Park

Do not park on the shoulder of the highway or on offramps and onramps.

5. Lock It Up

Lock all doors and hide valuables such as wallets and smartphones. Close all windows. Consider using window shades. Make sure your cargo is secure. Dash cams may also help deter thieves.

Bonus Tip:

If you have a breakdown or need to pull over for any reason this holiday season, remember to wear a high-visibility safety vest. This will increase the chances you’ll be seen by oncoming drivers.

What do you get when you add up the early sunsets of autumn with the end of Daylight Saving time? A lot more hours of driving in the dark.

Nighttime driving creates many additional hazards for professional truck drivers. While only 25% of all driving in the U.S. happens at night, half of all fatal crashes occur after dark, says the National Safety Council (NSC).

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