Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

January 5th, 2015

By: Tim Hicks, Con-way Truckload Driver Advocate

What is ABS?

Abs? The muscles that hurt after doing too many sit-ups?

All Bread Sandwich?

Acrylonitrile butadiend styrene?

No. If we are talking tractor trailers, ABS stands for Anti-lock Braking System.

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is a safety system that allows the wheels on a trailer to maintain tractive contact with the road surface while braking, preventing the wheels from locking up. By preventing the wheels from ceasing rotation, ABS helps drivers avoid uncontrolled skidding.

ABS photo SYH 2













This sounds like a pretty good idea. Under no circumstances would I want to see my trailer passing by me. This can prove to be a great concern for drivers, especially when your tires lock up on wet or slick roads. ABS generally offers improved control and decreases stopping distances, with improved vehicle control.

Is it automatic braking?

No. Professional drivers maintain control of the trailer and have to be aware of road conditions. Roads covered in rain, ice and snow are always going to require more distance to come to a complete stop.

ABS isn’t new; it’s been around for years.

ABS is widely used on production cars, motorcycles, commercial and military aviation, as well as tractor trailers and race cars. Engineers developed the first anti-lock braking system for automobiles in the mid-1970s. Thinking back to when ABS first came out, I remember how dangerous my fellow drivers and I thought it would be. We did not understand how sacrificing control over a trailer’s brakes could increase safety. Over the years, however, the system has proved reliable and prevented numerous costly accidents.

Respecting the ABS light

Whether driving an SUV or a tractor trailer, most motorists do not respect their vehicles warning lights. In the past two years, we have had 64 violations involving the ABS lamps alone. These infractions result in Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) points charged to Con-way Truckload. More points equates to more Scale and Roadside inspections, which cost time and money. 

Traditionally, many drivers looked to avoid such infractions by tampering with the ABS light. I have seen drivers unplug or even cut the light’s wires to prevent it from coming on. The dangers involved with doing so cannot be overstated. In doing this, you not only put yourself at risk, but also the drivers who use that trailer after you. Take the time to get the light fixed. Fixing a broken or unplugged ABS light will minimize the problem and promote a safer driving environment for the motoring public. We are the only ones that can truly solve this issue that continues to plague our industry.

Recently, I asked a couple of members from our Fleet Services team if they could help answer a few common questions. Their responses provide key insight into ABS system operation and maintenance.

What causes an ABS light to illuminate?

Tony Coulson, Road Service Manager at Con-way Truckload:

  • Sensor out of adjustment
  • Broken wire
  • Loose wheel bearing
  • Sensor failure
  • ABS module (brain) failure

Tony says that an average ABS repair is 1-2 hours with an experienced technician.

How do you properly check if the ABS light and system are working?

Greg Wilkins, Senior Inspector at Con-way Truckload:

  1. Set key in OFF position, then turn key to ON position (don’t start).
  2. Step on brake pedal and hold. ABS light will come on and go out within five seconds if ABS system is     working.
  3. Fault indicated if light doesn’t come on, at which point we check that the wire to the light has not been cut. Next we replace the ABS light and try again.
  4. If light does not come on, or comes on and stays on, then it goes to shop for repair.
  5. ABS systems on trailers have always been touchy and most noticeable when it is raining. Then when they dry out they tend to work again unless a code has been set in the computer.
  6. Generally if a wheel sensor throws a code, the ABS stays inoperative until the fault is cleared in the computer. Computers go bad in one out of 20 trailers.
  7. When the light is illuminated, the ABS system is inoperative but the brakes work normally without the ABS feature.

Don’t take a chance. Make a point of respecting the ABS light and maintaining the system when necessary. It is designed to help you stop faster and with more control. An inch can be the difference between a collision and a close call.


December 29th, 2014

By Tim Hicks, Con-way Truckload Driver Advocate

Winter is no longer fast approaching – it’s here! With the new season and its less-than-ideal weather conditions comes a new saying I hear all too often: “It’s not me I am worried about on the road, it’s the other guy.” Overconfidence is a well-established bias in which a person’s subjective confidence in his or her judgments is reliably greater than the objective itself.

At one point or another, we all have the tendencey to be overly-confident – while taking an exam, playing a competitive sport, etc. But, consider the following facts:

  • According to The Journal of General Psychology, a group of individuals who took an exam reported being 99% confident in their answers. The study showed them to be wrong 40% of the time.
  • In a study where subjects made true-or-false responses to general knowledge statements, they were overconfident at all levels. When they were 100% certain of their answer to a question, they were wrong 20% of the time.

This winter, don’t fall into the trap of becoming an overconfident driver – you may run the risk of missing the mark 20-40% of the time.

I have personally experienced my own overconfidence, and how it can backfire. Here’s an anecdote:

Many years ago, I was driving my truck in the freezing rain. I had just received the green light at the St. Clair scales in Missouri and I was easing along.

I looked in my mirror where I saw a car a little ways behind me, and another set of headlights coming up the hammer lane at a fair clip. The car in the left lane was a Jeep, just passing me, but suddenly, we were face-to-face. She had spun out right in front of me on a curve. I tried to slow down, but we ended up colliding. Luckily, everybody was okay and the damage minimal.

I know that I left my house that morning not expecting that I would be involved in an accident, and I am sure the driver of the Jeep felt the same way.


Lesson learned: I will never think “It’s not me I am worried about on the road, it’s the other guy” again. Let’s all replace our overconfidence with cautiousness and keep ourselves and everyone else on the road safe this winter.


December 22nd, 2014

The holidays may be the most challenging time of year for professional truck drivers. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day bring a tremendous influx of drivers to the nation’s highways. Add this to stress-inducing weather conditions and a higher potential for traffic mishaps and suddenly the holidays seem a lot less happy.

Consider the following:

  • AAA estimates that over 93 million drivers will make trips of 50 miles or more from their homes during the holiday season, an increase of 54 percent over the rest of the year.
  • The Department of Transportation predicts that the significant drop in gas prices and an improving economy will result in an estimated 91 percent of all Americans who travel over the holidays to do so by car.

As Con-way Truckload drivers, you are already well versed in the basic rules of road safety. But the holiday season requires some extra rules and reminders:

  • Before setting out, make sure a mechanic has checked your vehicle and that everything is operating properly.
  • Be sure to check road conditions and weather forecasts along your route before you leave.
  • Stay alert. Keep an eye out for driving that is erratic and watch for swerving and sudden lane changes.
  • Get a good night’s sleep and stay rested along the way by taking breaks as needed.
  • Make sure your truck is well supplied in case of an emergency. These supplies include water, non-perishable food, flashlight and extra batteries, warm clothing and a blanket, cell phone and charger. Don’t forget jumper cables, a fire extinguisher, flares and a first aid kit.
  • Pay attention for changes in the weather while on the road and adjust your driving accordingly. If driving in snow or ice is unavoidable, try to travel during daylight hours. Take the time to completely remove ice and snow from your vehicle that could hinder visibility.

Finally, patience is a virtue. All drivers are susceptible to irritating holiday traffic. It’s easy to become impatient, whether you’re traveling across the country or just across town. Drive defensively, not aggressively. Relax, and accept that weather conditions, increased volume of traffic and contentious drivers may lead to longer travel times. Remaining calm will help you to avoid making impulsive and potentially dangerous decisions.

It’s up to us, the professionals, to remain on high alert and do everything we can to ensure a safe and happy holiday season for all who share the road. Happy Holidays!