An unusually early September snowstorm is hitting the Rockies and Front Range through Wednesday from Wyoming to northern New Mexico, including Denver, Colorado.
Unpredictable weather systems can happen anytime, however snow often begins sticking to high-elevation routes in Colorado as early as mid- to late September.
According to Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), from Sept. 1 through May 31, all commercial vehicles traveling on I-70 between the Dotsero exit (mile point (MP) 133) and the Morrison exit (MP 259) must carry sufficient chains to be in compliance with the Colorado chain law.
For drivers and the public’s safety, it is important to use chains in compliance with Colorado’s chain law for commercial vehicles fitting into one of the following categories:
- Vehicles with a gross combination weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds, inclusive of a towed unit, which has a gross vehicle weight-rating of more than 10,000 pounds
- Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, or
- Vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver
The fine for not carrying chains on I-70 between mileposts 133 and 259 from September 1 to May 31 is $50 plus a $17 surcharge. Statewide, the fine for not chaining up when the chain law is in effect is $500 plus a $79 surcharge. The fine for not chaining up and subsequently blocking the highway is $1,000 plus a $157 surcharge.
At a minimum, the CDOT will notify the public of the travel restriction with erected static and electronic variable message roadway signs. Additionally, CDOT may utilize radio channels, the official CDOT travel website (www.cotrip.org/), phone message system, email, text and other automated personal notification systems.
Tire Chains Allowed in Colorado:
Metal chains must consist of two circular metal loops–one on each side of the tire–connected by not less than nine evenly spaced chain loops across the tread. Commercial vehicles that have four or more drive wheels must chain four wheels and dual tire chains are acceptable.
Alternate Traction Devices
Approved Alternate Traction Devices (ATDs) in Colorado are:
- wheel sanders, which carry enough sand to get the vehicle through the restricted area
- pneumatically driven chains, which spin under the drive wheels automatically as traction is lost, and
- textile traction device (TTD), a fabric boot which encompasses the tire. Currently, the only TTD that has been approved for use on Colorado state highways is the AutoSock.
With only two exceptions, Colorado chain law rules do not permit tire cables as alternate traction devices.
The exceptions are:
- tire cables with high strength steel cross member rollers 0.415″ or greater in diameter, which can be used on all commercial vehicles except single drive axle combinations; and
- on a tandem power drive axle commercial vehicle, where any type of cable can be used only if there are chains on the two outside tires of one of the power drive axles and cables on two or more tires of the other power drive axle.
Colorado Chain Law Levels
There are two levels for chain laws in Colorado—Level 1/Code 17 and Level 2/Code 18—and each level has specific conditions in which it can be implemented.
Chain Law Level 1/Code 17:
All single-drive axle combination commercial vehicles must chain all four drive wheels; cables are not permitted as ATDs. All other commercial vehicles must have snow tires or chains.
Level 1/Code 17 may be implemented any time there is snow covering any part of the traveled portion of pavement on an ascending grade.
Chain Law Level 2/Code 18:
All commercial vehicles must chain up. Single drive axle combination and tandem drive axle commercial vehicles must chain four drive wheels.
Auto-transports must comply to the extent possible without causing damage to hydraulic lines. Buses must chain two drive wheels to be DOT compliant.
Level 2/Code 18 may be implemented any time there is snow covering the entire traveled portion of pavement on an ascending grade, or when driving conditions dictate that this level is necessary to protect safety and to minimize road closures.
All fleets need to conduct proper and thorough pre and post trip inspections, which consists of implementing quality:
- driver training that is ongoing and consistent
- driver education, and
- driver awareness of current and changing traffic laws
All of this will help prevent being targeted by the DOT at roadside inspections and is a valuable resource to ensure a healthy fleet, and compliant safety practices.
What can fleet managers do to encourage positive driver behavior?
Since most interstate trucking companies were required to add electronic logging devices (ELDs) to their trucks, back-office management has been given an opportunity to better manage their vehicles and drivers when it comes to violations, driving habits, audits, maintenance, and more.
ELD or telematic data management for trucking, construction, distribution industries, or corporate fleets should be formatted to highlight both efficiencies and deficiencies in simple customizable reports.
The best-practice telematics data management plan will measure the data over time to show trends and measure results. This is as simple as a Driver Scorecard for your fleet.
Create a Driver Scorecard from ELD data
ELDs gather millions of data points that include dates, time, longitude, latitude, engine power status, odometer, engine faults, critical events data, harsh braking, hard turning, hard acceleration, HOS violations, idling, speeding, and more.
Many ELD providers, including our partner Pedigree Technologies, have created driver and safety scorecards that are easy to set-up, manage, and pull reports.
For example, Pedigree driver and safety scorecards include stats, such as:
- # of HOS violations
- Idling > 20min
- Idling %
- Hard Braking event
- Speeding > 5mph
- Fuel Efficiency
- Heavy Acceleration event
These scorecards are point-based starting at 100 points and any selected stat can remove a certain amount of points based on the severity of the stat you are including in the scorecard. They can be customized further by adding a timeframe duration of the stat or distance traveled.
For example, a driver can lose 15 points for every time a hard-braking event happens every 100 miles, or a driver can lose 5 points for any Hours of Service Util. % is under 75% per day.
Scorecard reporting can be customized by timeframe (the previous 7 days or month), selected vehicle or vehicle types (semi/long-haul trucks, medium-sized trucks, construction vehicles, etc), and more.
The Pedigree ELD reporting tool also shows if the driver has performed better or worse over the previous week or month.
Does your ELD provider offer similar reporting tools? If not, learn more about Pedigree Technologies.
Use telematics data for customized video training
Using the telematics reports or driver scorecards can highlight which drivers are struggling in a given area.
For example, the driver scorecard can highlight a habit of hard acceleration and hard braking for one driver, while another driver has a habit of various HOS violations.
These red flags can immediately give the driver a defensive driving, fuel efficiency, HOS regulations, or driver ELD training in their video training schedule.
Customized training should also be measurable using quiz assessments to track driver performance and the ELD driver scorecard can be monitored for improvement after the training was completed. If their training assessment score is low or the habit continues, then the training needs to be retaken or a driver performance review could be scheduled.
Using telematics for driver incentive programs
Implementing ELD data management offers a range of cost-savings to your fleet, including decreased HOS violations and fines, decreased time spent by management monitoring driver behavior, decreased driver turnover or improved driver retention, and decreased risk of crashes and possible lower insurance premiums.
These savings can be given back to drivers through a driver incentive program.
Creating an incentive program around positive behavior has been shown to work for many fleets. Have your team discuss the various behaviors you want to reward and be creative on different ways to reward the good behavior.
For example, if a driver consistently has a great driver scorecard, or has shown improvement over time, the driver can receive a $50 gift card or add an hour of vacation time. The ideas here are endless.
Even a small investment to the driver’s benefit can go a long way.
If your fleet has a disciplinary policy, you can use the driver scorecard to measure clear expectations while drivers are on the road and what steps will be taken should a driver diverge from the policy.
Need help managing your ELD data?
Managing ELD data yourself can be confusing and stressful, and requires a much different back-office skill set than managing paper processes.
However, it does not have to be.
Whatever ELD system you have, we can manage it for you so you can start taking advantage of your ELD data.
The three areas that most violations come from are lights, tires, and brakes
Teaching a driver how to do a pre-trip and post-trip inspection is as important as teaching them how to drive the truck.
Some of the easiest things to catch during a driver inspection are also the most common violations written up on a roadside inspection.
Proper pre and post-trip inspections should take at least 30 minutes to perform thoroughly and will reduce vehicle maintenance and violation costs.
This guide was developed based on what DOT inspectors look for at roadside and what maintenance often look for before releasing a vehicle. We will focus on the major sections and important details a driver should inspect, including the:
- Front of the vehicle
- Wheels and axles
- Lights, tires, leaks, and brakes
- Side of the truck and trailer
Front of the vehicle
Drivers should look for any intersecting cracks or large rock chips on the windshield, especially in the driver’s line of sight.
Honking the horn, whether that is the air horn or steering wheel city-horn, and turning on the windshield wiper is a simple step to make sure they are working properly.
Then, turn on all lights, which include the three marker lights at the top of the cab, clearance lights, and headlights. Test your high-beams, turn signals, and four-way flashers.
Open the hood and look for any obvious defects.
An easy part for DOT inspectors to check is the pitman arm and steering linkage. If there is any amount of play or looseness where the two gears of the pitman arm meet, it is considered an out-of-service violation and drivers will have to park until it is fixed. Sometimes, if rust is appearing here, it is a good indication that it is not tight.
Finally, check the suspension components. If it looks like your vehicle is leaning to one side, it is a good indicator that there is something wrong with the suspension components.
Wheels and axles
For wheels, check for cracks and loose or missing lug-nuts or wheel fasteners, and look for leaking hub grease.
It is an out-of-service violation for lug-nuts when:
- 10-lug wheels: 3 are missing anywhere or 2 adjacent to each other, or
- 8-lug wheels: 2 are missing anywhere
The steer axle is at the front of the power unit and has specific criteria that is different than other axles.
For example, to be in compliance, your required tire tread depth of a steer axle is higher compared to other axles, which are 4/32” depth and, 2/32” depth, respectively.
After the steer axle, we will move back to the drive axles. The first set of drive axles are either a single axle or group of axles that provide power to help move the truck down the road.
Trailer axles are at the back of the trailer. Some of these axles have sliding or tandem axles to help distribute the weight, to stay within regulations of maximum weight for a tandem axle.
If you are adjusting weight by sliding the tandem axles, you want to slide the axles toward the over-weight location. For example, if you are overweight at the rear of the trailer, then sliding the tandem axles further to the rear will help distribute the weight to the forward drive axles.
Tandem axles have notches on each axle. Each notch moves about 250 to 300 pounds to the other group of axles. Drivers may show up at a weigh station and find that they are more overweight then they were before, and that is because they are sliding the axles the wrong direction.
Lights, tires, leaks, and brakes
The three areas that most violations come from are lights, tires, and brakes. For example, low tread depth, damaged sidewalls, and inoperable light are easily visible and usually do not wear out on one trip.
It is important to check for flat or underinflated tires, fluids leaking, that all required lights are working properly, measure brake pushrod travel distance, brake pad thickness, and check brake can, hoses, and rotor surfaces.
It is an out-of-service violation for tires if:
- Underinflated tires are 50% or less of the sidewall rating
- There is a noticeable leak heard or felt in a tire
- The sidewall is cut, worn, or damaged
- There is a visual bump or bulge on any part of the tire, and
- If there is exposed belt or cord material
Leaks can come from the fuel tank, so make sure that it is securely mounted, and the fuel cap is the proper cap and is tight. Sometimes the cap is missing after fueling the truck because the driver forgot to put it back on. Be sure to check reefer trailers and auxiliary power unit tanks as well.
Side of the truck and trailer
Make sure that the air and electric lines are not lying on the deck area. The lines will rub while driving and eventually wear a hole in the lines, causing an air leak and the brake system to not work properly or even failing.
For 5th wheel assembly, make sure all components are secure, there are no cracks or damaged parts, and bolt tightness. Also, check for any rust driplines by the bolts. Rust will eventually cause bolts to be loose.
On the trailer, check for any damage on the trailer, trailer lights are working, any cargo securement devices are properly placed and tightened, and that there is a spare tire and tire chains secured properly.
Vehicle maintenance costs can be a huge line item for fleet companies and at times, hard to keep under control. Routine maintenance of your vehicles is a necessity to ensure that your biggest assets always stay on the road.
An experienced and knowledgeable vehicle maintenance partner can make all the difference.
CNS can effectively manage your vehicle maintenance to meet your specific driving demands. We effortlessly handle an unlimited number of preventive maintenance schedules for all the vehicles in your fleet.
Serving your customers is your business; maintaining your fleet should be ours. Depend on CNS to keep your vehicles on the road and benefit from our expertise and gain a partnership that is dedicated to your success.
Reducing driver turnover = Improved safety and reduced violation costs
Trucking has had a high driver turnover rate for decades and continues to climb above 90% for larger carriers and around 73% for smaller carriers.
Much of the driver turnover problem is caused by a large percentage of drivers leaving within the first 90 days of on-boarding with a new company.
While a complete hiring program includes a strong driver qualification process seeking stable drivers, meeting driver needs, healthy company culture, competitive driver pay, and more, carriers may solve a big part of the driver retention puzzle by focusing on a successful driver training program.
This includes covering important orientation and safety training quickly and, in many cases, across multiple locations to make sure all drivers are being adequately prepared.
Before we look at what a successful driver training program looks like…
Why is reducing driver turnover so important?
Reducing high driver turnover improves fleet safety and violation costs
A data firm, Vigillo, recently completed an analysis of driver turnover as they monitored FMCSA violations and crashes for nearly 2,000 trucking fleets in the United States.
Their analysis found that a group of fleets with high driver turnover had 1,177 total crashes. The low driver turnover group had just 303 total crashes.
“There is a pretty strong correlation between the safety culture that exists at a motor carrier, which can be measured in CSA, and turnover rates,” said Vigillo CEO Steve Bryan.
Their data revealed that fleets with high driver turnover had:
- 189% more driver out-of-service rate
- 300% more vehicle out-of-service rate
- 181% more hours-of-service violations
- 224% more crash indicators
- 640% more hazmat violations, and
- 182% more controlled substance violations
According to FMCSA annual violation data, fleets regulated by the DOT have paid over $27 million annually in fines, which breaks down to an average of $5,074 per case for violations. With HAZMAT, this average nearly doubles.
Many of these violations will also place the truck out-of-service until the issues are fixed. Being placed out-of-service for 10 hours while a maintenance shop is fixing the truck can cost a fleet around $900 more.
This is why it is so important for fleets to reduce high driver turnover.
But how? A successful driver training program is a critical starting point.
What is included in a Successful Driving Training Program?
On-the-job training and orientation
On-the-job driver training
Some fleets, such as Crete Carriers and Shaffer Trucking, require several weeks on-the-job training with senior driver evaluators.
New drivers are evaluated carefully on their ability to maintain control of the tractor, shifting gears properly, backing the trailer correctly, paperwork preparation, and interaction with customers.
On-the-job training is intended to provide drivers with an accurate picture of the life that professional drivers lead.
Orientation is standard across all companies, but fleets with lower driver turnover are using it to reveal their company culture and help drivers smoothly transition into the new company.
A company handbook should be issued and covered during orientation along with more information on basic paperwork preparation, company safety policies, rules for logbook preparation, and handling hazardous materials.
Orientation should have an emphasis on communication, company expectations and the role of a truck driver. Drivers need to know they have somewhere to turn for help, including Safety Managers, HR staff, or even co-workers..
This is also the opportunity to pass out company swag, such as hats, insulated coffee mugs, shirts, and more.
Near-term customized video training
Each driver comes with their own experiences, skills, and flaws. A strong driver qualification process, on-the-job training, and driver orientation can highlight areas where a new driver can improve.
For example, if driver trainers notice a habit of hard acceleration or hard braking, they should make sure a video training schedule includes driving fundamentals and defensive driving topics.
Similarly, if there is a pattern of logbook errors, include logbook training and hours of service rules into their video training schedule.
All custom schedules should be accompanied by common new driver training, such as reviewing common maintenance and pre-trip inspection training, what to expect during a roadside inspection and how to treat inspectors, highlight drug testing processes and marijuana regulations, seasonal safe driving tips, cargo securement training, etc.
Customized training should also be measurable using quiz assessments to track driver performance. If their assessment score is low, then the training needs to be retaken.
Focusing on new technology
The idea that trucking is as simple as, “get in a truck and drive,” is such an old idea. Trucking is a sophisticated job that drivers are doing, and technology has made it even more complex.
Today, new technology and equipment analyzes and optimizes nearly every facet of fleet efficiency. This includes electronic logging devices, dashcams, and fleet management software that driver must be trained to use.
According to a recent KeepTruckin survey, only 21% of drivers are happy with the quality of their ELD solution, and 73% of drivers experience one or more ELD issue per week.
This is why driver training and new driver onboarding is so crucial. In the first few months of their employment, a driver may feel frustrated with your ELD solution and quit.
Fleets need to make sure that drivers thoroughly understand the ELD they are using and new drivers should have their first several logs audited to ensure they are following company policy and Federal guidelines.
Company managers should be able to use their ELD reports to highlight negative driver habits and customize driver training programs to correct issues before they become an expensive problem.
What else can be done to reduce driver turnover?
Going beyond driver training to reduce high driver turnover
A successful driver training program is complicated.
It includes clear communication from:
- driver orientation
- driver qualification file management
- ELD reports and management
- on-the-job training
- customized driver training, and
- driver training that includes a video platform, in-person training, and regular safety meetings
Managing everything on your own is overwhelming and missing any little detail can lead to audits, fines, and high driver turnover and having someone handle your driver training can be helpful, but may not be enough.
What if there was a complete and affordable DOT Compliance Program to handle all the tedious and difficult office paperwork?
DOT Compliance Programs (PSM)
At CNS, our DOT Compliance Programs focus on Proactive Safety Management (PSM),a mindset that will ensure your fleet’s safety and compliance is always in order and ahead of the FMCSA.
Our PSM Motor Carrier Program includes:
- ELD management
- Driver Qualification File Management
- New driver on-boarding
- Driver safety meetings
- CSA score management
- Policies and handbooks
- Vehicle maintenance
- and more
GCWR vs. GVWR
“Know before you tow,” is an easy way to remind drivers and fleet managers to check their vehicles Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) before putting drivers and vehicles on the road.
At times it can be difficult to determine the GCWR and you may need to take into account the GVWR as well.
What is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)?
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is determined by the manufacturer and takes into account the base curb weight of the vehicle plus the weight of any optional accessories, cargo and passengers.
You should never load a vehicle beyond the listed gross vehicle weight rating.
What is the Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR)?
The Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) is the maximum safe weight of both:
- the loaded tow vehicle, and
- the loaded trailer
But what is so important about the GCWR? Here we answer your questions.
Where can I find the maximum GCWR for my vehicle?
Manufacturers determine the maximum weight rating for each vehicle, and it can be found on your vehicle placard. However, if this information is not available, it is possible to calculate your own.
How can I calculate my vehicle’s Gross Combination Weight?
You can use the use the following formulas to calculate your vehicle’s GCWR:
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT (GVW):
Vehicle Base Curb Weight
(vehicle + full fuel tank + standard equipment, but NOT passengers)
(cargo + extra equipment + trailer tongue)
LOADED TRAILER WEIGHT (LTW):
Weight of empty trailer
Weight of anything on or inside trailer
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT (GCW)
GVW + LTW (above numbers) = GCW
How do I find the actual weights of these separate items?
A local public scale is needed to weigh either the separate items or weigh a fully loaded vehicle and trailer.
What are the problems with exceeding the GCWR?
- You may damage your vehicle or your trailer by exceeding the weight limits.
- You put your safety and the safety of others at risk.
- You risk being unable to control your loaded vehicle. Slowing and stopping becomes difficult or impossible.
What kind of brakes do I need to manage my vehicle and trailer load?
It’s important to note that vehicle brakes are only rated for the Gross Vehicle Weight, NOT the combined weight.
If the Gross Combined Weight surpasses the Gross Vehicle Weight, you should use separate trailer brakes.
Why is it important to know the GCW?
Single-unit vehicles, by themselves, may not qualify as a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV). However, the addition of a trailer—or any weight—may put the vehicle over the threshold, causing it to be considered a CMV.
With the additional weight, this vehicle combination may now require the driver to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), therefore, it is important to know the Gross Combined Weight to ensure that the driver has the proper license.
Knowing your vehicle’s Gross Combined Weight Rating is more than just a policy, it’s also a way to ensure safety is upheld for all drivers on the road.
Study to reduce trucking accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are an unfortunate by-product of driving and fatal crashes among large trucks have risen steadily in the past decade.
The FMCSA seeks to reverse this trend by conducting a study aimed at identifying and reducing factors that contribute to these fatal truck accidents.
Previous crash study findings
In a 2001-2003 Large Truck Crash Causal Factors Study (LTCCFS), the FMCSA gained vital information on crash factors. The study found that, when fault was assigned to the large truck, the cause of a vast majority of crashes were driver related. In these cases, it was determined that either driver action or inaction resulted in the crash.
Following this 2001-2003 study, fatal crashes decreased, hitting a low in 2009. However, since 2009, fatal crashes began to increase at a steady rate. By 2018, large truck crashes with at least one fatality or evident injury had increased by 52.6% compared to the 2009 figures.
This continued increase in fatal large truck crashes has the FMCSA seeking answers and calling for a new study to be conducted in an effort to reduce crash factors.
Industry changes may impact crash statistics
It’s been fifteen years since the original crash study. Technology has changed. Driver behavior has shifted. Roadways have been redesigned. And vehicle safety guidelines have been revised. Any one or all these changes could affect driver performance.
Because there are so many potential factors, a new study is needed to determine which factors are indeed contributing to fatal and injurious crashes. The new in-depth study is intended to evaluate crash factors, identify trends and develop safety improvement policies.
Potential new crash factors that need to be assessed in this proposed study include:
- cell phone and texting distractions
- driver restraint use
- in-cab navigation systems
- fleet management systems
- automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems
Data collection through driver assistance systems
The previous study was conducted via data collection by a two-person team through interviews and investigations of up to 1,000 elements of a crash. One goal of this new study is that the current driver assistance systems installed in many fleets will provide additional useful data.
FMCSA calls for proposals to conduct new study
The FMCSA seeks industry input in designing their new study and are currently accepting submission of comments and related materials so they can plan how to design and conduct this new large truck crash factor study.
Visit www.regulations.gov and follow the instructions to submit any suggestions.
Per the FMCSA request for information, submissions should answer these questions:
- Should FMCSA pursue a nationally representative sampling approach or can convenience sampling serve the needs?
- What type of study are you recommending (e.g., nationally representative vs. convenience sampling), and what are the pros and cons of this approach?
- How important is it for the new study results to be comparable with findings of the original LTCCS?
- What other sources of data can enrich the new study? How can they be identified and included?
Submissions are open until March 16, 2020.
Use Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) Docket ID FMCSA-2019-0277 when submitting proposals, comments, and materials.
Submit via the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking portal: Visit www.regulations.gov and follow the on-line instructions for submissions
- Mail: Docket Management Facility; US Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001
- Hand delivery or courier: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., ET, Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays
- Fax: 1-202-493-2251
Hopefully, with enhanced data collection, and the support of submissions from the industry, the sobering upward trend of fatal large truck crashes can be reversed and reduced to create a safer roadway for everyone.
Safety is our priority
Safety is the most important thing when it comes to truck driving. We offer a long list of DOT related training for all levels of experience, including full new driver training, defensive driving, accident procedures, full CDL driver training and so much more.
In any of our DOT training programs, safety is our priority.