Editor’s Note: A few of the ideas in this article involve adding lighting and other elements to the haul truck. Make sure any aftermarket safety equipment is installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s specs. Then be sure to test it for proper operation before going into the field. Include aftermarket devices in routine maintenance and pre-shift walk-arounds just as you would check on standard equipment.
For the 2017 paving season, we dive into an essential area of project management for asphalt professionals: safe and timely delivery of hot-mix or warm-mix asphalt (HMA/WMA) to the paving site.
During this eight-part series, you’re getting some back-to-basics best practices to share with veteran and new haul truck drivers, in addition to new tips, ideas, and case studies with logistics and technology that will enhance your bottom line. Producers have streamlined processes at the plant; contractors have nailed down best practices in the work zone. Now it’s time to harness the potential you’ve been missing when it comes to mix delivery and haul truck fleet management.
This fifth installment examines a number of safety standards, as well as options, that fleet managers should have on their radar.
Independent driver Steve Murray of Steve Murray Trucking in Hooksett, New Hampshire, and paving consultant John Ball of Top Quality Paving & Training of Manchester, New Hampshire, took time to photograph specific elements of Murray’s 2007 Kenworth triaxle and to share the good ideas that increase its visibility and safety on the road and on the job.“Steve is all about safety and doing his job the right way,” Ball said. “His truck is 110 percent suitable for asphalt pavers.”Before they went to a local plant to start shooting, Ball provided the following list of safe and sensible trucking guidelines for drivers.
- Attend a pre-job preparation meeting to get informed on project details, the project scope and route directions. Know where, when and how to get to the work zone because we want all drivers taking the same, most-efficient route.
- Double-check that the back-up alarm, of at least 90 decibels, is on and functional, which you should have checked during your pre-shift inspection of your vehicle (see part 1 of the series).
- Do not let the plant overload your truck. Your vehicle has a registered gross vehicle weight and your state department of transportation (DOT) has weight limits for different roadways you will travel. Know and obey these limits. Provide the weight of your truck to the plant so your vehicle is in the system.• Put a tarp or canvas on your load to protect the public from falling debris and to protect your perishable product from heat loss.
- Headlights and a visible 360-degree beacon or strobe, as well as 4-way flashers, must be on before you leave the plant.
- All trucks must have a clean and visible “Construction Vehicle—Do Not Follow” sign.
- All drivers must stay with their trucks. Safety vests and hardhats should be worn at all times when you’re out of your vehicle.
- No unauthorized U-turns will be made at any time. Obey all state and city traffic laws.
- CB radios, company radios or cell phones should be used for legitimate business purposes only. Think safety first.
- Obey all requests of the project manager, traffic control and highway officials/troopers. Traffic control runs the job.
- Use caution when backing and do not back up until you get direction from your dump man. He will likely have a different color vest than other workers. Look out for people, vehicles and property. Use both mirrors.
- Trucks leaving the paver should pull out to the left, allowing the next loaded truck to back up to the paver. The truck leaving the paver should go directly to the designated clean-out area.
- If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask the project manager or plant superintendent. If you’re unsure of something, ask.
The safety feature Murray considers most important on his truck is the mirrors. “I would say it’s the mirrors. You’ve got to be able to see where you’re backing up.”He includes the mirrors as a point on the pre-shift inspection, which we covered in the first part of this series in the July issue. Although Murray keeps his truck in a large garage bay overnight, he still takes the time to clean off the mirrors—and windows—before the start of the day. He also has convex mirrors to help him see what’s in front or on the side of his truck. Ball said to think of the convex mirrors you see on school buses. It’s the same principle.
To increase their efficacy, the mirrors are heated electrically. There are heated bands on the back of the mirrors. When it’s a cool morning, Murray doesn’t have to worry about fog or condensation distorting his view.
The safety feature Murray considers the coolest on his truck is the lighting package.
“You can see this thing comin’ for miles,” he said. Lights play a role in safety during night and day operations, and they deserve some extra attention, like keeping them clean.
Light It Up
“At night, his truck is lit up like a Christmas tree,” Ball said proudly. “He has a strobe light system on the mirrors and on the top of the cab, and the back.” “I have special backup lights,” Murray said. “I have a light that tells me if the tailgate is open.” Check out the pictures on these pages for examples of extra lighting Murray has added to increase visibility and safety. But keep in mind, not all light is the same. In his paper “Maximum Efficiency of White Light,” published July 31, 2011, physicist Tom Murphy came to the conclusion that, “the most perfectly engineered light that we would perceive as ‘white’ cannot achieve much more than about 250 lm/W.”
You can watch a short video about LEDs and their positive effect on luminous efficacy here. From strobes to amber lights to LEDs, getting the system installed correctly requires the right hardware and wiring expertise. If you aren’t an electrical engineer, don’t let that stop you from adding safe lighting packages to your rig. Hire the help you need to make your vehicle the best it can be. Don’t forget the easy safety add-on of reflective tape. The alternating red and white stripes catch the beams from headlights to alert motorists of your presence.
The Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse confirms that “about two-thirds of road worker deaths” are caused by runovers and backovers. “More than half are by construction vehicles and equipment—especially dump trucks.” The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) had specifics at its Work Zone Management Program website showing the primary causes of worker fatalities from 2005 to 2010 were as follows:
- Runovers/Backovers (often by dump trucks): 48%
- Collision between vehicles/Mobile equipment: 14%
- Caught in between/Struck by construction equipment and objects: 14%
The Facts and Statistics section of the Worker Safety page showed, “Each year over 20,000 workers are injured in road construction work zones….There were 106 workplace fatalities at road construction sites in 2010. Fatalities at road construction sites typically account for 1.5 to 3 percent of all workplace fatalities annually.” To decrease the likelihood that your large vehicle will be involved in one of those tragedies, you must be on high alert in the work zone.
Carrying asphalt mix to the paver will require some amount of time when you’re backing toward the paver. It’s a necessary part of the job. In the August issue’s third part of this series, we discussed making and keeping eye contact with the dump man, as well as best practices for backing to the paver with guidance from the dump man and paver operator. Remember: if you lose eye contact or communication with the dump man, stop the truck. Don’t move until you have regained eye contact with the dump man.
Now let’s take a look at some additional tools and devices designed to enhance safety when backing a haul truck.
Every project should include an internal traffic control plan (ITCP), which you will receive from the safety director or foreman on the job. This plan will be a diagram that shows equipment location and direction of movement. It will also show where ground personnel will be located in relation to equipment. Its purpose is to coordinate the flow of both equipment and workers. Study it so you know where you are expected to enter the work zone, if there is an area where you will be expected to turn around, where you will line up with other haul trucks, where you will be backing, where you will be allowed to clean out the truck body, and where you will be allowed to exit the work zone to return to traffic.
If the project will span multiple days, check with the foreman in charge of trucking when you clock in about any revisions to the plan. If the traffic flow has changed, your ITCP will be out of date.
As Murray mentioned above, the mirrors are vital to safe backing. If you see a ground worker in the mirror, stop. You can’t be sure that person is walking across the path of the backing haul truck in a straight line with no stopping or tripping. The dump man needs to give the “all clear” before you continue backing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define a blind area as “the area around a vehicle or piece of construction equipment that is not visible to the operators, either by direct line-of-sight or indirectly by use of internal or external mirrors.” Some technologies that help you “see” what’s behind the truck include proximity detection devices, tag-based systems, and backup cameras. Of course, a proximity detection device such as radar or sonar on the back of the haul truck will detect the paver and sound its alarm as you close in on the tractor, desensitizing you to its warning over time. The U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA website reminded us “[t]ag-based systems can inform drivers when other employees are behind the vehicle and can alert employees when they walk near a vehicle equipped to communicate with the tag worn by the employee.”
The backup camera serves as an extra eye. You may have seen the blind spot diagrams that various OEMs and organizations have put together for construction equipment such as milling machines and motor graders. As far back as 2004, David E. Fosbroke in the Division of Safety Research at NIOSH gave a presentation at the Roadway Work Zone Safety & Health Conference in Baltimore that included different methods of how those diagrams were created. He shared the example of a 54,000-pound, Ford 880 dump truck that was 7 feet, 10 inches wide and 23 feet, 2 inches long, and which researchers used to find the typical blind areas for haul truck drivers.
It’s no surprise that researchers found huge swaths of ground to either side of and behind the truck are not visible to the driver, even when the driver uses the mirrors on the sides of the cab. This means the dump man at the paving site must function as the driver’s additional eyes. A backup camera that transmits to an in-cab display can provide clarity as well. Most manufacturers offer these in wireless or traditional configurations to get their information to the cab display. Some offer a warning sound to get the driver’s attention if the camera detects an object—or person—in its range.
Not only does the backup camera’s display let you see objects behind your vehicle, many provide “zones” so you can determine how close the object is to your tailgate. Other options include voice activation so you can hear when someone behind the truck calls out a warning.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 70 workers died from backover incidents in 2011. These kinds of incidents can occur in different ways. The osha.gov site shares this example:“On June 18, 2009, an employee was working inside a work zone wearing his reflective safety vest. A dump truck operating in the work zone backed up and struck the employee with the rear passenger-side wheels. The employee was killed. The dump truck had an audible backup alarm and operating lights. (OSHA Inspection Number 313225377).”
Even though the ground worker wore a reflective vest, the driver didn’t see him in the blind spot. The U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA website spells out specifics for avoiding backover tragedy. One idea in the area of training focuses on the ground personnel gaining a new perspective.Ball said this is a great idea for new employees, of course, but also for the veteran employee who feels invincible.
“Training is another tool to prevent backover incidents,” the OSHA website reports. “Blind spots behind and around vehicles are not immediately obvious to employees on foot. By training employees on where those blind spots are and how to avoid being in them, employers can prevent some backover incidents. One component of this training can include putting employees who will be working around vehicles in the driver’s seat to get a feel for where the blind spots are and what, exactly, the drivers can see.” You can look up the blind area diagrams for 43 specific pieces of construction equipment here.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
One of the mandatory devices on the haul truck is the backup alarm, also called a reverse alarm. Murray’s truck has a 95-decibel backup alarm. Every haul truck must have one and it must be functioning.
ARTBA found that “[a]larms were inoperable in 28 percent of fatalities.” If something is wrong with yours, then you aren’t ready to work.Ball reminded readers that some project managers are required to kick the truck off the job if you arrive with a non-functioning backup alarm. That means the load of cooling mix is your financial responsibility.
“If the truck arrives on the job with no backup alarm, you’re dismissed immediately,” Ball said. “I don’t want to hear any excuses. The driver can only be allowed back on the job when I see a receipt for the repair.”
Down to Basics
Outside of the work zone, an important element of safe driving is what you’re driving on. When was the last time you checked your tires? The tires are an item on the daily pre-shift inspection list for important reasons: worn tread poses a safety risk when you reach high speeds and poor tire pressure affects driving performance. Murray puts 100 pounds of pressure in each of his tires. He also refuses to skimp on replacements when it’s time to change tires.
“I don’t run recaps on the tires,” he said. For the 2017 construction season, he put eight new tires on the rig for a cost of around $3,000. He said it’s an investment in safety. While a company’s accounting department may view the use of retread or recapped tires as a way to save a few dollars, those tires wear down in short order. “If you blow a recap while you’re out on a job, you’re wasting money in downtime.”
If a fleet manager elects to use the softer rubber of a recapped tire, our experts suggested those be used only on the back. “Never run recap on the front tires,” Ball warned. Tires with good tread also have a better coefficient of static friction between them and the road surface. Remember, the coefficient of kinetic friction will be less when the pavement is wet, slick, dirty, etc., thus stopping time will be affected.
The friction force of the road works on the tire to slow the truck to a stop, to reduce the truck’s kinetic energy to zero. The friction force of the road works better on a tire in good condition.More than tire condition contributes to your stopping power, of course. You will include your brakes in the pre-shift inspection each day, and then consider your driving habits.
Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. (SEH®) of St. Paul, Minnesota, prepared the lengthy article “The Truth About Speed Limits, Explained by an Engineer” for its consulting website. In that article, Morgan Abbott, P.E., explained that road classifications and prevailing speeds play into a DOT’s decision to raise or lower a roadway’s speed limit, but all decisions are made for the traveling public’s safety.
It behooves you to drive at—or slightly below—the posted speed limits along your route. Remember, your 54,000-pound vehicle weighs an additional 20 tons when you’re on your way to the work zone. It will take longer to stop when you see a problem in front of you.
In addition to “no speeding,” ARTBA’s workzonesafety.org includes a number of back-to-basics driving tips, including:
- Make sure all cargo is secured before startup.
- Check all your safety equipment/devices before startup.
- Wear your seatbelt. It’s mandatory.
- Be careful when changing lanes; change only when necessary.
- Keep a safe distance from vehicles in front of you.
- Be especially cautious at rail crossings.
- Don’t eat, drink or talk/text on the cell phone while you’re driving or backing into the paver.
Back up as little as possible (refer to the ITCP for guidance). Other basics you want to be aware of include cleanliness. Ball is a stickler for keeping all heavy equipment clean to improve your inspection and routine maintenance success. He also recommended the haul truck driver take the time to clean out the cab to keep trash, soda cans, papers, asphalt and other items from falling under the brake pedal or making pedals slippery and messy. As Murray indicated earlier in this article, you’ll want to keep mirrors and windows clean—and free of cracks—so you always have a good view of your surroundings.
As you can see, operating a haul truck safely takes attention to all the details. It starts with the pre-shift inspection to ensure all the safety devices, as well as regular truck components, are functioning properly. Standard features on the haul truck are in place to provide the basics for safe and efficient operation, but you can add more lights and more features to enhance your safe working environment.
Next month we’ll look at the loadout and delivery operation at one large facility for specific ideas that can improve your fleet management. Management there has taken fleet management, loadout and delivery to new, safe, automated heights.