How tall am I? How wide am I? How heavy am I? These are questions we do not often want to ask ourselves, but in the transportation industry, they are important questions that pertain to our equipment, our loads and our destinations. It is...
How tall am I? How wide am I? How heavy am I? These are questions we do not often want to ask ourselves, but in the transportation industry, they are important questions that pertain to our equipment, our loads and our destinations. It is obvious that trucking companies want to move their customers’ freight safely and efficiently while not damaging cargo, equipment or anything else. What may not be obvious to all is that operating with a permit and/or on a truck route cannot be relied on exclusively as a means of doing so.
Information, such as truck route maps and load permits, and technology, such as GPS routing devices, are wonderful tools. But as with all tools, you need to understand their limitations and how to use them correctly.
Truck drivers that rely on truck route signs and GPS data that may be outdated regularly put themselves at great risk for accidents and tickets. Many drivers are using GPS devices to direct them to destination delivery points. There are trucking industry GPS devices, but many truckers are using regular, non-trucking based GPS as well.
Our advice is to use them as a guide. You must know what is going on around and ahead of you. That includes knowing where your route is taking you and what obstacles you may find along the way. For example in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, if you don’t know the area and don’t pay attention to the signs, it could easily cost you a $3,000 fine. The Pawtucket River Bridge on Interstate 95, has a clearly marked detour, because the weight limit on the bridge is 18 tonnes and you are only allowed two axles. Drivers need to be aware, and this is another example where a “regular “map or GPS would not alert you.
Many drivers and companies use metric and imperial systems and interchange as required. A tractor trailer is usually 13 feet, six inches tall. But the overpass sign ahead says there is 3.8 metres clearance. How many of us know that 3.8 metres is 12.46 feet or can do the conversion as we’re driving up to the sign?
The results are often expensive and negatively impact productivity and trailer usage. The damage may be as serious as the first 20 feet of the trailer roof peeled off or the trailer may be put into a total loss position. If the trailer was fully loaded, there is often the additional expense of off-loading and reloading the trailer. There is also the risk of damage to public property and potential fines. Thirteen feet, six inches is 4.14 metres. To be safe, drivers should want to see a sign that says 4.2 metres clearance, to continue under the obstruction/bridge/overpass.
Ask questions. Your dispatcher should know some tips for where you are going and how to get there effectively. Dispatch groups need to make drivers, especially the new hires, aware of potential low spots on the intended route.
Having a permit for oversize loads may not always be enough. While Washington officials issued a permit for the Canadian trucking company which contacted the bridge on Interstate 5 near Mount Vernon that eventually collapsed, they also said that it was “ultimately up to the trucking company to figure out whether it can get through. It is their responsibility to make sure the load they have can travel on that route.” The finally cost tally for that incident is still to be determined.
While we obviously don’t agree with Washington State’s response to this incident it doesn’t change the facts of the situation this carrier is currently finding itself in. Again, it highlights our belief that all companies unfortunately need to seek information above and beyond what they may have relied on traditionally as “good enough.”
Spring road restrictions can place a heavy financial burden on companies and drivers, too. If they are not paying attention, are not being advised correctly and are not aware, a wrong turn can costs thousands of dollars. We are aware of one rural Manitoba customer, where a left turn off their property places the driver in a legal weight situation, while a right turn, results in an overweight fine in the $2,000 price range.
Effective trip planning needs to be a regular part of each and every day. Knowing where to go and how to get there, avoiding incidents similar to the ones outlined above if at all possible, should keep the driver and company from getting unnecessary tickets and accident expenses.
Uncertainty about an area, and blindly “diving in” can be catastrophic. It is unfortunate, but industry and its participants cannot afford to take for granted that being on a truck route, or having a trip permit, means it is safe to proceed without maintaining a keen eye on roadside signage and other measures. Effective trip planning holds even more importance as inexperienced and unfamiliar drivers take the wheel to start their careers. We strongly suggest that all companies work internally on a means of capturing this kind of information from their experienced leaders so that they can pass on years of knowledge to the next generation of the trucking industry.
Bob Dolyniuk is executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association.
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