Schools will be back in session in a few short weeks, and for some, classes have already started! As kids cram an array of notebooks into their backpacks and parents rush to assemble lunches so their kids are ready to hop on the bus, it’s important to remember that this change in season has a significant impact on the transportation industry. Below are a few of the ways that truck drivers can keep the roads safe as kids head back to school.
In order for truck drivers, busy parents and bus drivers to peacefully coexist on the road, it’s important to eliminate any potential distractions. Resisting the temptation to check your cell phone or get distracted by talking is crucial to your own safety as well as that of other drivers and passengers nearby. Other potential distractions include eating, adjusting the navigation system, or even finding the right station to listen to. Encouraging everyone to commit to a more focused approach to driving will improve the overall safety of the roads each and every day.
Be Aware of School Zones
No matter where you’re heading, school zone rules and speed limits must be followed. Drivers should always slow down to obey the speed limit, especially in unfamiliar areas. Keep an eye out for school zone signs, and if these signs have flashing lights, that means reduced speed limits are in effect. Also pay attention to crosswalks and highly pedestrianized areas as there is likely to be more foot traffic than usual. Many trucks now come equipped with an electronic logging device (ELD) which may monitor speed as well as total hours driven. This can help companies keep track of trends and make changes when needed.
Anticipate Areas with Heavier Traffic
If a school bus in front of you is parked with its stop sign extended, you are legally obligated to stop and wait until the bus drives away. When a school bus is stopped like this, it usually means that it is either picking up or dropping off children. It is very dangerous to pass a stopped bus as there may be children crossing the street.
This change can be frustrating, especially for truck drivers who have strict delivery windows and hours of service (HoS) rules to adhere to. To mitigate delays caused by stalled traffic behind school buses, it’s important to plan ahead for the inevitable change in traffic associated with back-to-school season.
Be Aware of Student Drivers
Beyond traditional academic courses within their schools, many students will also be participating in driving courses to prepare for their license tests. These courses are a combination of lessons in the classroom and on the roads. As the volume of student drivers on the road picks up, it’s important to drive with patience and understanding for those in front of you – especially new drivers!
Use Highways and Interstates Instead of Back Roads
Some drivers will choose to use backroads and main streets to navigate their routes. This strategy might shave a few miles off of the total route and make the drive faster during the summer, but it could be a completely different story in the school year. When school is back in session, roads closest to homes and schools will experience the most significant increase in traffic compared with highways and interstates. Choosing to use major highways will likely save you time during the school year and help keep the roads safe.
Proceed with Caution When Backing Up to a Dock
The process of loading and unloading freight at the dock must be approached carefully – you never know who is nearby! It’s advisable to get out and look at how much space is available or use a spotter when backing a truck into position. Communication between truck drivers and dock workers should be clear and consistent to keep the potential for risk to a minimum. This is especially important in areas where there might be children. Starting the process blindly and continuing without communicating intentions leaves room for error and injury.
Keep Up with HoS Rules and Regulations
HoS rules and regulations are frequently being adjusted by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) in an attempt to find a healthy balance between efficiency and safety. Regularly checking for changes will ensure that drivers are aware of when they are allowed to be on the road, when they aren’t and how many hours they can drive each week. Utilizing this information will allow for better-planned routes to maximize efficiency.