Drivers are the eyes of a producer's intelligence network. Managers rely on their delivery professionals to provide eyewitness reports on how well the jobs are progressing. But just as important, a driver's view of a delivery zone is the last check for safety.
As truck chassis get taller and longer, it's harder than ever for these men and women to see everything happening around them. And when you operate a 72,000-pound fully loaded vehicle, you need all the sight advantages you can get.
Ninety percent of the input information drivers use to make operating decisions comes through their eyes. So drivers who have clear sightlines can more readily avoid potentially dangerous situations.
Fortunately, fleet managers can opt for several new tools and devices that provide clearer lines of vision. These options fall into three vision categories: direct sightlines through windshields and side glass; indirect sightlines through mirrors; and artificial intelligence such as electronic warning devices.
A clean windshield is critical to good vision. But keeping a clear windshield, especially when globs of mud or bugs practically attack each clear patch of glass, is difficult. Drivers know to change wiper blades when they start to streak. They keep windshield reservoirs topped-off with high-quality washer fluid. And in some cases fleet mangers use glycol-containing fluid in winter to melt ice and snow, and bug-dissolving fluid in summer to keep windshields clean.
Good preventative maintenance programs include year-round checks of the heater core, ductwork, and air outlets. They must be clean and free of debris. The system serves a dual purpose of defrosting the outside of the windshield and demisting the inside. In the defrost setting, the air conditioner comes on to dry the air. That is why it helps to start with the heat control at high when running just defrosters. A small dashboard-mounted, hard-wired or battery-powered fan can help circulate defroster air to hasten demisting.
One group of sight saving aids available for years, but still not universally accepted, is polymer coatings. These coatings first appeared in the 1970s. When applied to clean glass, the smooth surface protection causes water, whether raindrops or snow, to bead. The small drops don't distort vision as they blow away. Rain-X is the most popular coating. By following directions when applying, the first application should last at least a month.
In winter, ice can jam wiper frames. Rubber-covered winter blades keep ice from getting into the mechanism, so the blades can flex and follow the contours of today's curved windshields.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 111 sets forth minimum requirements for mirrors on Class 8 vehicles. The standard calls for at least 50 square inches of flat mirror on each side. That could be a circular mirror 8 inches in diameter, or a square less than 7½ inches per side. For most of the first half of the last century, manufacturers complied with this minimal requirement. But today, producers have a wide variety of larger mirrors from which to choose.
For example, west coast mirrors have grown from 6x14 to at least 7x16, or 112 square inches, more than double the federal requirement.
In the 1970s, MotoMirror introduced motorized west coast mirrors enabling the driver to view the rear of a trailer when turning and backing. Stationary mirrors showed just the broad side of the trailer. Motorized mirrors can be used with straight trucks to allow an area scan before backing up.
Convex supplemental mirrors placed under west coast mirrors let us see tandems and surrounding traffic when turning or in traffic. Deep convex fender- or hood-mounted mirrors give us awareness of hazards in some of the worst blind spots—those at the right front corner and along the right side. If placed properly, drivers can see hazards, such as workers, in blind spots in front of the truck.