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MODULE 5 Driving Defensively and Handling Accidents and Emergencies Introduction

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module 5
MODULE 5

Driving Defensively and Handling Accidents and Emergencies

introduction
Introduction

Safe driving practices are essential to keep you and the public safe. When vehicle accidents, breakdowns, and emergencies occur, you must be prepared to respond quickly, and appropriately. This module presents safe driving tips and techniques and guidelines for handling accidents and emergencies.

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Identify conditions and potential hazards which can compromise your ability to maintain control of your vehicle
  • Identify safe delivery routes and ways to protect property when operating a CMV
  • Describe procedures for handling accidents and emergencies with no product leak
  • List guidelines for handling and reporting accidents
lesson 1
LESSON 1

Maintaining Control of Your Vehicle

safe driving practices
Safe Driving Practices

While safe driving practices are essential for anyone who operates a CMV, they are particularly critical for propane drivers. You transport hazardous cargo, and a mistake you make while behind the wheel can have devastating consequences.

You greatly reduce the chance of accidents when you drive professionally and safely.

This lesson will increase your understanding of how to:

  • Drive defensively
  • Maintain control of your vehicle
  • Avoid accidents
defensive driving tips
Defensive Driving Tips

Driving defensively is the key to avoiding accidents. Always wear a seat belt, obey traffic laws, and follow safe driving practices. Take note of traffic conditions and improper driving by other motorists around you.

Remember these defensive driving tips:

  • Share the road: Don’t forget your vehicle is heavier and larger than many other vehicles on the road.
  • Look at the big picture: Be aware of the surrounding area.
  • Stay back: Keep a safe following distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Keep one step ahead: Be aware of what defensive action you will take to avoid an accident.
  • See and be seen: Check your blind spots often, keep your eye on other drivers by using your mirrors, and use your lights or horn when you need to make someone aware of your presence.
maintaining vehicle control
Maintaining Vehicle Control

To safely maintain control of your CMV, you must constantly be aware of certain conditions of your vehicle, cargo, and external surroundings.

Taking into consideration the following conditions and potential hazards will improve your ability to maintain control of your vehicle:

  • High center of gravity
  • Load and suspension shifts
  • Tire condition
  • Tire pressure
  • Blowouts
  • Blind spots
  • Weather and road conditions
  • Skids
high center of gravity
High Center of Gravity

An object’s center of gravity is the point where its mass is concentrated. The engine block, cargo tank, and rear deck—the heaviest parts of a cylinder delivery vehicle and bobtail—are all located above the chassis rails. This concentration of weight results in the CMV’s high center of gravity (even before loading the cylinders and filling the tanks).

After the cylinders are loaded or cargo tanks are filled, the center of gravity shifts even higher. Take this into consideration when operating your cylinder delivery vehicle or bobtail and always drive smoothly, changing speed and direction of travel in a planned and controlled manner.

load and suspension shifts
Load and Suspension Shifts

Combined with a high center of gravity, liquid surges and suspension shifts can cause changes in vehicle performance. Load and suspension shifts may result in loss of vehicle control and, in some cases, a rollover.

Every year, CMV drivers are involved in rollovers. Whether the rollover starts with a wheel dropping off a paved surface or swerving to miss an animal or other object, it is often is the result of the driver over-steering in reaction to the initial event. 

To reduce the risk of a rollover, follow these simple guidelines:

  • Distribute the weight of the cargo evenly.
  • Avoid overreacting to the initial event.
  • Regain control of the vehicle before making any change in direction or speed.
tire condition
Tire Condition

Tires are an integral part of the vehicle suspension. Therefore, inspecting your CMV’s tires and wheels is a vital part of your pre-trip and post-trip vehicle inspections.

Federal regulations require drivers hauling hazardous materials to examine each tire on a CMV during the pre- and post-trip inspection. Tires must be in good condition and properly inflated. Damaged or under-inflated tires present a hazard to safe vehicle operation.

Do not operate your cylinder delivery vehicle or bobtail if the tires have any of the following conditions:

  • Improper inflation.
  • Defects or damage.
  • Inadequate tread depths.
re inflating tires
Re-inflating Tires

Tire manufacturers’ recommendations and OSHA standards require special precautions when inflating tires driven under-inflated at 80% or less of the recommended pressure. Such tires mounted on single-piece wheels and rims, and bolted onto the vehicle may be re-inflated to their rated pressures, only if done with an air-line assembly consisting of the following components:

  • Clip-on chuck.
  • In-line valve with a pressure gauge or pre-settable regulator.
  • Sufficient length of hose between the clip-on chuck and the in-line valve (if one is used) to allow the employee to stand outside the trajectory.

If the tire is mounted on a multi-piece rim, the tire must be re-inflated within a restraining device and protective barrier.

blowouts
Blowouts

A blowout is the rapid deflation of a tire due to a large puncture or structural failure. The proper technique for managing a blowout is to:

  • Slightly increase power to the drive wheels.
  • Maintain control of the steering wheel.
  • Steer the vehicle in a straight line.
  • Reduce power, gradually brake, and steer the vehicle to a stop, out of traffic lanes.
blind spots
Blind Spots

CMVs have blind spots to the sides and rear of the vehicles, as well as one in the lower area immediately in front of the hood. You must compensate for these blind spots by regularly performing the following tasks:

  • Checking right and left mirrors
  • Monitoring road conditions
  • Observing traffic in front, behind, and to the sides of the vehicle
  • Using turn signals
  • Maintaining proper lane location

When backing up a CMV, you run the risk of hitting people, vehicles, or objects due to the limited field of vision behind and to the sides of the vehicle. Consider these blind spots whenever backing the vehicle. When in doubt, pull off the road and do a walk-around to ensure your cylinder delivery vehicle or bobtail will not strike anyone or anything while backing up.

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blind spots cont
Blind Spots cont.

Intersections present a particularly dangerous place where backing collisions occur. These collisions can result when you stop at an intersection and are located too close to the corner. If you must back up, exit the vehicle when it is safe and walk back to make sure the road is clear. Ask drivers behind you to back up.

Note: OSHA recommends a back-up alarm and requires one on vehicles which make deliveries to construction sites.

weather and road conditions
Weather and Road Conditions

Weather conditions can affect traction, visibility, and vehicle control. Although changing weather, road conditions, and traffic are beyond your control, you can use proper driving techniques when on the road.

As a CMV driver, you are required to know how to operate your vehicle under extreme driving conditions. Examples of especially dangerous weather conditions include:

  • Slick roads from water and oil residue.
  • Poor visibility due to fog or heavy rain.
  • High crosswinds, especially over bridges require reducing vehicle speed.
  • Icy over-passes and steep grades. Plan alternate routes in advance of bad weather.

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weather and road conditions cont
Weather and Road Conditions cont.

When driving in poor weather conditions, remember to:

  • Clean the vehicle’s windows before heading out, and use wipers and defroster as needed.
  • Turn on headlights and marker lights.
  • Immediately reduce speed, increase the distance between vehicles, and pay closer attention to other motorists.
skids
Skids

Wet, icy, or gravel-covered surfaces increase the risk of a skid. A skid occurs when one or more tires lose traction and contact with the road surface.

If your CMV begins to skid, use the following techniques to regain control of the vehicle:

  • Release the brakes, allowing all wheels to turn.
  • Steer to the direction of the skid until the vehicle path straightens.
  • Make slight steering corrections only after regaining traction and control.
  • If you must stop the vehicle, apply light and consistent braking and make only slow and slight changes in direction.
preventing collisions
Preventing Collisions

Prevent collisions while backing up:

  • Plan your actions in advance, and give appropriate warning signals, such as four-way flashers or the horn.
  • Make sure the area behind the truck is clear.

Note: There are some cases where it may be safer to not avoid a collision.

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preventing collisions cont
Preventing Collisions cont.

Prevent collisions with the vehicle ahead:

  • Give proper signals for turns and stops
  • Always maintain a safe following distance

Guidelines for emergency maneuvers:

  • Turn the steering wheel only as hard and far as needed
  • Use the gas and brakes smoothly
  • Avoid sharp turning, sudden downshifting, and abrupt accelerating and braking

Note: There are some cases where it may be safer to not avoid a collision.

lesson 2
LESSON 2

Selecting the Safest Delivery Route and Protecting Property

routing cmvs and protecting property
Routing CMVs and Protecting Property

As a propane delivery driver, you are responsible for protecting both people and property. Whenever possible, determine delivery routes that do not go through or near heavily populated areas, places where crowds assemble, tunnels, narrow streets, or alleys.

Propane companies have always been committed to the safe and secure handling and transporting of hazardous materials. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now requires every propane company to have a hazardous material security plan that ensures the physical safety of all employees and reduces or prevents illegal acts, including terrorism. Be sure to refer to your company’s plan when determining your route and other job functions related to the security of hazardous materials.

This lesson presents strategies for selecting the safest delivery routes possible, shielding both the public and their property from unnecessary damages, and ensuring your safety and that of the public.

routing cylinder delivery vehicles and bobtails
Routing Cylinder Delivery Vehicles and Bobtails

When approaching tunnels, drawbridges, and posted hazardous material routes, you are required to:

  •  Reduce vehicle speed
  • Observe warning signals
  • Stop for slow-moving vehicles
  • Follow posted signs forbidding entry to a tunnel
  • Follow posted hazmat routes
  • Use caution when approaching drawbridges

When making deliveries, you may have to detour around certain road sections and bridges due to local restrictions.

Always know the weight of your vehicle so you can plan your route accordingly.

railroad crossings
Railroad Crossings

Before driving your placarded vehicle or bobtail (either loaded or empty) across railroad tracks at a grade, you must first:

  • Stop the vehicle within 50 ft of, and not closer than 15 ft to, the tracks.
  • Look and listen in each direction along the tracks for an approaching train.
  • Determine that there is no train approaching.

MORE

railroad crossings cont
Railroad Crossings cont.

You are not required to stop at a railroad grade crossing if the crossing is:

  • Monitored by a police officer or crossing flagman.
  • Controlled by a functioning highway traffic signal.
  • Marked with a sign indicating the rail line is abandoned
  • Marked with a sign reading “Exempt”.
  • Used exclusively for industrial switching purposes within a business district.
  • A streetcar crossing within a business district.

Note: The driver must not shift gears while crossing the tracks.

bridges and culvert crossings on customer property
Bridges and Culvert Crossings on Customer Property

Use good judgment when deciding whether or not to cross bridges on customer property. If the bridge does not appear strong enough to support your CMV, do not cross the bridge with the truck. Instead, with cylinder delivery vehicles use the dolly to transport the cylinders across the bridge. And if you’re driving a bobtail, use the full length of the delivery hose to reach across the bridge to the customer’s LP-gas containers.

The weight of a cylinder delivery vehicle or bobtail can damage culverts not covered with sufficient load-bearing material. When the top of a culvert is exposed, inform the customer and company supervisor that the road surface must be repaired before further deliveries can be made.

Driving the cylinder delivery vehicle or bobtail too close to the end of the culvert can also damage it. So, when making a turn across a culvert crossing, position the front and rear axles as far from the ends of the culvert as possible.

protecting landscaping structures and utilities
Protecting Landscaping, Structures, and Utilities

 As a propane delivery driver, you may be able to protect public and private property by becoming familiar with suggested safety guidelines: Damaging customer property leads to poor customer relations, adds a financial burden to your company, and is simply not acceptable. Follow these suggested guidelines:

  •  If at all possible, keep the vehicle on roadways, driveways, or surfaces without damaging the surface that are adequate to support the vehicle’s weight or creating ruts.
  • Be alert for private bridges or culverts that may not support the truck’s weight.
  • Close all gates after driving through to prevent loss of pets or livestock.
  • Try to allow room for other vehicles to come and go.

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protecting landscaping structures and utilities cont
Protecting Landscaping, Structures, and Utilities cont.
  • Stay alert to the activities and movement of children and pets.
  • Be aware of landscaping and decorative items the hose may damage. when pulling it to the container
  • With bobtails, use the delivery hose length to avoid driving onto yards and soft surfaces to reach containers.
  • You may want to complete a vehicle walk-around before stowing chock blocks, entering the cab, and driving away from the delivery location.

Note: Be especially alert when backing to avoid obstacles, get out and look if necessary.

lesson 3
LESSON 3

Handling Accidents and Emergencies

when accidents and emergencies happen
When Accidents and Emergencies Happen

As a professional driver, it is not enough to drive defensively. You must also be prepared to respond appropriately to dangerous and unexpected situations. Vehicle accidents and emergencies are particularly dangerous for propane drivers and the general public because of the chance of a hazardous material leak or fire.

This lesson will help prepare you for handling accidents and emergencies, using emergency signals, and reporting incidents to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

handling accidents with no propane leak take initial precautions
Handling Accidents With No Propane Leak: Take Initial Precautions

If you are involved in an accident, are stopped in the middle of the road, and there is no obvious propane leak, these are the first steps you should take:

  • If it is safe to do so, move your vehicle off the road if state and local traffic laws permit, and if you can avoid further damage to vehicles.
  • Set the parking brake, shut down the engine, and turn on the emergency flashers.
  • Exit the vehicle and chock the wheels.
  • Check the condition of the cargo tank or shipping container(s) and valves. Check all valves, fittings, and piping for leakage.
  • Identify and prevent potential ignition sources.
  • Set out warning devices. Such as triangles, and keep unauthorized people away from the vehicle. 
handling accidents with no propane leak ensure safe conditions
 Handling Accidents With No Propane Leak: Ensure Safe Conditions

Once you have taken initial precautions, follow these steps to ensure conditions at the accident site are safe:

  • Check for fuel spills to see if gasoline or other flammable liquid present a hazard.
  • Determine if other hazardous materials are present by checking the other vehicles involved for hazardous materials placards.
  • Move a safe distance from the vehicle(s) and direct other people in the area to move away from the vehicle(s).
  • Determine if anyone is injured and assist them if you are qualified to do so. However, do not move an injured person, except as necessary to get the injured person out of danger
  • Call the police and/or ambulance.
  • Remain at the scene, cooperate with emergency response personnel, and provide required documents.
handling emergencies with a propane leak
Handling Emergencies with a Propane Leak

An emergency exists any time that unintended and/or uncontrolled release of LP-gas or any other hazardous material occurs during transportation or loading/unloading operations. If an emergency occurs on your vehicle:

  • Never enter or pass through a vapor cloud produced by an uncontrolled release of propane. The gas may find an ignition source and flash back to the leak. If you enter a vapor cloud (which may not be visible) and a flashback occurs, you will have no protection.
  • Always move up-wind of a leak or vapor cloud, and only activate emergency shutdown devices away from the leak.
  • Do not enter the cab of the vehicle to shutdown the engine if you suspect gas is in the area. Avoid creating additional ignition sources such as opening a cab door, or using a cell phone.
cylinder delivery vehicle emergencies accidents
Cylinder Delivery Vehicle Emergencies: Accidents

Accident procedures for a product leak are specific to the vehicle being operated. If a propane leak is caused by accident, cylinder delivery drivers should immediately follow suggested safety guidelines. If it is safe to do so:

  • Park and exit the vehicle. Take your documents with you. Identify and prevent potential ignition sources.
  • Determine if anyone is injured, and assist them if you are qualified to do so.
  • Get your fire extinguisher as a preventive measure to contain non-propane fires.
  • Call 911 to notify the emergency response personnel then call your supervisor and report the incident.

MORE

cylinder delivery vehicle emergencies accidents cont
Cylinder Delivery Vehicle Emergencies: Accidents cont.
  • Check the condition of the cylinders and their valves.
  • Check for fuel spills and if other hazardous materials are present.
  • Move and direct other people away from the area.

If the propane leak ignites, be sure to work with emergency responders, if you can do so safely, and follow their instructions to assess and resolve the situation.

cylinder delivery vehicle emergencies leaking container
 Cylinder Delivery Vehicle Emergencies: Leaking Container

In addition to a propane leak being caused by a vehicle accident, propane leaks may result from leaking fittings, overfilled containers, or problems caused when transporting the cylinders. For example, you may be en route when several overfilled cylinders release a small quantity of propane gas.

If a propane leak is caused by a container malfunction while en route, cylinder delivery drivers should immediately follow the suggested safety guidelines.

  • Stop and park your vehicle at a safe distance from the road, other vehicles, and potential ignition sources.
  • Get the fire extinguisher as a preventive measure to contain a non-propane fire. Be sure to take your documents with you as you exit the cab

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cylinder delivery vehicle emergencies leaking container cont
 Cylinder Delivery Vehicle Emergencies: Leaking Container cont.
  • Check the condition of the cylinders and their valves.
  • Call 911 to notify the emergency response personnel then call your supervisor and report the incident.
  • Remain at the scene, cooperate with emergency response personnel, and provide required documents.

If the propane leak ignites, be sure to work with emergency responders if you can do so safely and follow their instructions to assess and resolve the situation.

fire extinguishers
Fire Extinguishers

In an emergency, you must be prepared for the chance of fire. DOT, NFPA 58, state, and local authorities all require every propane vehicle to carry at least one portable fire extinguisher with a minimum capacity of 18 pounds of dry chemical with a B:C rating. You must be thoroughly trained in how to use this type of fire extinguisher.

  • Tip your B:C extinguisher upside down on a monthly basis to ensure the powder does not cake up.
  • Store your B:C extinguisher where you can reach it easily and quickly.
  • Immediately recharge and replace extinguishers that have been used, even if only a small amount was used.
  • In addition to the annual inspection, visually inspect all fire extinguishers at least monthly. This inspection includes making sure the extinguisher is fully charged and is not due for an annual inspection.
non propane fire control actions
Non-Propane Fire Control Actions

If a non-propane fire occurs on your vehicle while en route:

  • Try to stop your vehicle in a safe location away from highly populated buildings.
  • Shut off the engine.
  • Exit the cab.
  • Call the fire department.
  • If it is safe to do so, use a portable fire extinguisher to contain small fires and prevent them from spreading.
  • Keep unauthorized people away.

One of the greatest risks of fire on a CMV is when excess heat is generated by driving on a flat or soft tire. Never leave a smoking tire unattended.

hazard warning signal flashers
Hazard Warning Signal Flashers

Immediately activate the vehicle hazard warning signal flashers whenever you must stop your CMV on the traveled portion or shoulder of a highway. Continue the flashing while:

  • Placing the warning devices on the road
  • Putting the warning devices away

Stay alert when placing and later picking up these warning triangles. It is especially important to make sure the flashers are on so other drivers can see you. Stay off the roadway as much as possible and frequently check traffic approaching from behind and in front of the vehicle.

 Remember, you may use the flashing lights anytime you must stop your CMV, but always in addition to the warning devices—never instead of the warning devices.  

Note: You are required to use hazard warning signal flashers within ten minutes of an emergency stop.

warning devices
Warning Devices

As soon as possible and no later than ten minutes after stopping your CMV, you must position your chock blocks and warning devices. Placing warning devices correctly depends on the type of road and certain conditions of the location where you’re stopped.

Two-Way Roads:  On the traffic side, place one triangle within four paces of the CMV in the direction of approaching traffic; one 40 paces from the CMV in the center of the traffic lane or shoulder in the direction of approaching traffic; and one at 40 paces from the CMV in the direction away from approaching traffic.

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warning devices cont
Warning Devices cont.

One-Way Roads or Divided Highways:  On the traffic side of the vehicle, place one triangle 80 paces and another at 40 paces in the direction toward approaching traffic in the center of the lane or shoulder in which your CMV is stopped; place another triangle on the traffic side four paces of the rear of your CMV.

warning devices additional guidelines
Warning Devices: Additional Guidelines

Hills, Blind Curves, and Obstructions:  On the traffic side of the vehicle, place one triangle between 40 and 200 paces from the vehicle in the direction of the hilltop, blind curve, or other obstructed view, so other drivers have plenty of warning.

Business or Residential Districts:  It is not necessary to place warning devices in these areas unless it is dark enough that lighted lamps are required.

When Leaking, Flammable Material is present:  If gasoline, any other flammable liquid, or combustible liquid or gas seeps or leaks from a fuel container or a CMV stopped on a highway, do not place any warning signal which produces a flame. In fact, 49 CFR forbids flame-producing warning devices such as flares, on cargo motor vehicles used for the transportation of propane.

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warning devices additional guidelines cont
Warning Devices: Additional Guidelines cont.

Business or Residential Districts:  It is not necessary to place warning devices in these areas unless it is dark enough that lighted lamps are required.

When Leaking, Flammable Material is present:  If gasoline, any other flammable liquid, or combustible liquid or gas seeps or leaks from a fuel container or a CMV stopped on a highway, do not place any warning signal which produces a flame. In fact, 49 CFR forbids flame-producing warning devices such as flares, on cargo motor vehicles used for the transportation of propane.

dot notification requirements
DOT Notification Requirements

Immediately contact your company so that DOT can be notified if you are involved in an accident or emergency and there is a release of hazardous material, AND any of the following occur:

  • A person dies or receives injuries requiring hospitalization
  • A public evacuation lasts one or more hours
  • One or more major transportation arteries or facilities is closed for more than an hour
  • The operational flight pattern of an aircraft is altered
  • An unintentional release of a hazardous material occurs
  • A cargo tank with a capacity of 1000 gallons or more isstructurally damaged

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dot notification requirements cont
DOT Notification Requirements cont.

If the situation does not meet the above criteria, but you think it should be reported, have your company notify DOT. An example would be if there is a continuing danger to life at the scene of the incident. Do not discuss the accident with anyone other than the police or your company representative.

reporting accident incident details to your company
Reporting Accident/Incident Details to Your Company

Your company will need the following information from you to report the accident or incident to DOT:

  • County, date, time, and location of the event
  • Condition of the vehicles involved
  • Name, address, phone number, and vehicle license plate number of the drivers involved
  • Names and contact information of witnesses
  • Extent of any injuries
  • Classification, name, and quantity of hazardous materials involved, if available
  • Type of event, if there is any hazmat spillage, and whether a continuing danger to life exists at the scene
  • Name(s) of any major roadways that have been closed and if an evacuation of the general public was ordered
summary
Summary

Some important points to remember from this module are:

  • Always use safe driving techniques when operating your CMV to reduce the chance of an accident or emergency.
  • Be aware of conditions of your vehicle, cargo, and external surroundings to improve your ability to maintain control of your CMV.
  • Use delivery routes that do not go through or near heavily populated areas, places where crowds assemble, tunnels, narrow streets, or alleys.
  • Be prepared to handle an emergency in an efficient and safe manner to minimize potential risks to you and the public.
  • Always use hazard warning signal flashers and warning triangles if you have to stop your vehicle in an emergency and consider flashers as a possible source of ignition.
  • If there is a non-propane fire on your vehicle, know and follow the appropriate safety control actions. Make sure you always have a fire extinguisher on your vehicle.
  • Contact your supervisor or company representative and report accident details so they can contact DOT, if necessary.