81-(1).pngI find myself wondering “how can we, as an industry, stop the massive pile-ups,” that have been in the news more and more? It is interesting to me that there has been a rise in the number of truck crashes and fatalities while at the same time there is a reduction in the number of crashes per mile. The reason for this is there are more miles being traveled by more trucks than there was in the past. 

While thinking of the past I don’t remember the massive pile-ups we are seeing today. 

What has changed?

  1. More drivers have gone through driving school than when I started my career. 
  2. The equipment we drive handles much better in adverse conditions with technology such as anti-lock brakes, stability control systems, traction control, radial tires and so much more.
  3. Collision mitigation systems have also played a role in moving the number of crashes down per mile traveled.

These are all items that have moved the crash rate per mile traveled in a downward trend over the years. 

So then, what has changed that we are seeing a rise in large pile-ups, especially in winter driving conditions? We as drivers cannot see over the top of a hill or around a corner when traffic is stopped, just out of our line of sight. In the past drivers traveling the other direction would communicate with their lights, hand signals or the citizens’ band radio. 

In the past, there might have been one or two vehicles in a crash, not 10, 20,30 or more. “Back in the day“, the users of the highway, and more importantly the truck drivers, communicated what was happening ahead on the highway. If the road was getting slick or there was an incident ahead, there was a warning given by the drivers traveling in the opposite direction. 

I do not miss all of the “garbage” that used to dominate the CB radio but... I dearly miss the good information and warnings that were transmitted from this maligned device. In my opinion, it seems many of these tragic massive truck pile-ups could be avoided if we started communicating in a better and meaningful way to our fellow professional drivers. Below I have included the script from a blog entry from the past titled, Highway Communication.

Years ago when I began driving, I can remember drivers having to stop at a payphone to contact a dispatcher or to call home. In later years the “pager” and “cell phone” made life on the road a bit more convenient in regards to communication. One device that has stood the test of time is the famous “CB radio.” The CB goes way back and is still used today by many truckers. I can remember when just about anybody who wanted a CB could purchase one. Drivers and the public enjoyed communicating on this unique device. It was difficult to have a real conversation as so many people were on at one time but it allowed drivers to relay important information when needed.

In the world of trucking, some may say that drivers have an ancient and secret language. Most of the public isn’t aware of this unique language. For instance, a car hauler is referred to as a “parking lot.” A flatbed trailer is known as a “skateboard” and a rest area is called a “pickle park.” A familiar code driver’s use for communication is the 10-code. Such as 10-4 acknowledges that you’ve been heard and agreed upon; 10-20 is asking the question, where are you? There are many other codes among this particular language.

The CB lingo/language was developed many years ago as a non-formal way of communication among truck drivers. My feeling is that years ago these drivers came up with this colorful way to describe the things around them for added entertainment. This language is falling off quickly as the years pass. Having been in the business for over thirty years, I can tell you this lingo is not as common as it once was.

Prior to the CB radio, drivers used various hand signals to communicate with each other. Back then, there were hand motions to tell drivers about the cop in front of them, an accident ahead or to say thank you. Back then, you could count on another driver to stop and help you if you needed it. Drivers looked out for one another. However, it was hard to get someone’s attention or someone to help you if you had any maintenance issues or were stuck on the roadside, you were all alone without any form of communication.

Today, cell phones offer a huge benefit and added convenience to drivers. The CB  is still a relevant form of communication but it’s used more for its intended purpose and not so much for common chat as in the past. Our modern-day communication is filled with a variety of options for drivers. Many young drivers entering the business today aren’t familiar with this past lingo. I’m sure the method of communication will continue to evolve as the generations pass and technology advances.


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Henry Albert

Henry Albert is the owner of Albert Transport, Inc., based in Statesville, NC. Before participating in the "Slice of Life" program, Albert drove a 2001 Freightliner Century Class S/Tâ„¢, and will use his Cascadia for general freight and a dry van trailer. Albert, who has been a trucker since 1983, was recognized by Overdrive as its 2007 Trucker of the Year.

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