Thanks to multiple public service campaigns there is a growing awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving. Unfortunately, far too many drivers are distracted by other occupants, phone calls, texting, eating or reaching for something when operating a motor vehicle.

By Will Flower

Professional waste collection and recycling truck drivers know the dangers of distracted driving and are continually on the lookout for other drivers who may not be paying full attention to the road ahead.

Although many distractions, such as texting, are avoidable, other distractions are impossible to completely prevent. For example, the driver of a modern waste collection vehicle is surrounded by gauges and electronics that provide the driver with information concerning the operation and performance of his or her vehicle. Additionally, many trucks in our industry are equipped with routing tools that provide real time updates to a screen inside the cab.  Information such as customer location, orders for pickups, and customer service notes can be sent to the driver in an effort to improve service delivery and efficiency. But all of this information can be a distraction. For this reason, professional drivers must manage distractions and stay focused on the #1 priority—safely operating their vehicle.

Manage Your Distractions

The following are some tips to help drivers manage distractions while operating a vehicle:

  • Before pulling out of the yard, make sure tyour windshield is clean and mirrors, seat and climate controls are all properly adjusted.
  • Keep the cab clean. Store loose gear, possessions and other distractions that could roll around in the cab.
  • If using GPS, enter destinations and check route traffic before you roll.
  • When on the road, stay fully focus on driving. This includes practicing good defensive driving and staying alert for other drivers who may be distracted.
  • Don’t eat lunch while driving. If possible, eat meals or snacks while you are on break and the truck is parked. If you do snack while driving, avoid messy foods that can be difficult to eat.
  • Never text or e-mail when driving. If another activity requires your attention, find a safe place to pull off the road and park the vehicle.
  • If the route requires a helper, enlist his or her help to answer phone calls or respond to text messages so you can focus on safe driving.
  • Drivers should use caution while using on-board routing tools.
  • Make a habit of taking care of calls or texts you need to send while the truck is parked and before the truck starts moving.
  • Some people are addicted to texting. If you’re one of these people, consider storing your phone in a location where you can’t see it or access it until parked.

Rules in Place

Over the past several years, lawmakers across the U.S. have passed a number of rules, regulations and laws aimed at eliminating distracted driving. Today, 46 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. Of the four states without an all driver texting ban, two prohibit text messaging by novice drivers and one restricts school bus drivers from texting.  Many companies have adopted policies prohibiting employees from texting while driving company vehicles. The laws, rules and regulations mean that drivers are not only risking their safety, but also risking a ticket, higher insurance premiums and some serious explaining to do when they engage in texting while behind the wheel.

Bottom line is this: if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it’s a distraction. Driving a waste collection or recycling truck requires your full attention. Staying alert for other distracted drivers and avoiding distractions within the cab of your truck will help you stay focused on safely completing the route. | WA

Next month’s safety tip will focus on spill prevention.

Will Flower is the Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems (Danbury, CT).  Will has 33 years of experience in the area of solid waste management and environmental protection.  He has held operational and executive leadership positions at the Director’s Office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Waste Management, Inc., Republic Services. Inc. and Green Stream Recycling.