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Truck It Safely

Active strategies for managers and truck drivers during harvest season

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The use of semi-trailers in the peanut industry has greatly increased in the last several years. While the trucking industry is accustomed to the safety issues surrounding these big rigs, buying point operators and producers who use semi-trailers and their drivers need to be familiar with operating this type machinery in a safe manner on the farm and in agricultural processing operations.

As harvest season approaches, the American Trucking Association released safety tips and information discussed at the recent Agricultural And Food Transporters Conference, which centered on the use of more temporary workers during the intense harvest period. This unique aspect of the business increases the importance of diligent management.

The purpose of the “Manager’s Guide to Safe Trucking During Agricultural Planting and Harvest Season” is to educate truck drivers and their managers in the agricultural industry about the importance of safe operation during agriculture’s busy seasons and give them active strategies that they can apply.

Practical steps managers can take include the following:

Know Your Drivers
Be very careful in your hiring decisions to know if an individual is qualified to operate a very heavy and expensive piece of machinery representing your farm or company in a public setting.
The most frequently used and highest rated hiring practices are checking the applicant’s Motor Vehicle Record (MVR), contacting past employers, testing for alcohol and drugs (required by Federal regulation for interstate carriers) and on-road driving tests.

When hiring truck drivers, look beyond minimum requirements and look for the best individuals suited for work as a truck driver. Be especially mindful of personal characteristics which indicate that an individual is not suited for this line of work.

According to the U.S. Dept. Of Transportation, the top five driver factors associated with risk are as follows: aggressive or angry; impatient and impulsive; inattentive; inexperienced; and unhappy with job or company.

Communicate With Your Drivers
Stay in contact with your drivers on a daily basis to know how issues in their personal lives could affect their alertness behind the wheel. Have regular conversations with your drivers and be mindful of the importance of your drivers’ lifestyle choices and personal habits in their ability to safely operate their trucks.

At the start of each season, have a conversation with drivers covering the top five keys to personal wellness which are as follows: 1) diet; 2) exercise; 3) sleep; 4) avoiding substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes); 5) positive relationships.

Managers should use good judgment to determine if this conversation should be repeated with drivers during the course of the harvest.

Monitor, Manage Driver Fatigue
Fatigue management is of particular importance for truck drivers and they need to become experts on it just as they should be experts on the safe operation of their trucks. If a driver is operating a truck for your company while his alertness is impaired, then he is endangering himself and others on the road. He is also a severe liability to your company.

Be especially mindful of drivers’ alertness after several hours on the job. Some signs of fatigue are clear, some are more subtle. In some ways, the person may exhibit behavior similar to alcohol intoxication, but others may not. Again, communication is critically important.

Diligent management of truck driver safety is especially critical in the agricultural industry since flexibility is allowed from hours of service regulations. Safety must be achieved through active management in the agricultural industry.

For more information on safe trucking, go to www.truckline.com/Federation/Conferences/AFTC. PG

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