Driving means learning every day.
SafetyDriven features Rick Rabbitt, one of our experienced drivers. We are never too old or so experienced that we can’t learn something, especially about safety. Sharing our stories is a great way to learn from each other.
Rick Rabbitt has been on the road for a long time. He passed his driving test in January 1986—that’s nearly 35 years ago, if you’re counting.
Rabbitt’s career began in maintenance before he ever got behind the wheel. He was brought up around trucks and equipment, learning from his dad and uncles how to look after vehicles before they taught him to drive. That experience gave him an appreciation for what it means to keep gear in good condition; he saw first-hand the cost of neglect in damaged equipment. It is far more costly to repair than to maintain equipment and worth the time it takes to repair something before it becomes a problem rather than put it off for just one more trip.
During his career, Rabbitt has driven logging trucks, dispatched trucks for the oil patch, been a supervisor with a fuel company, and been a Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) officer. Today, he drives for Alchemist Specialty Carriers, driving tandem or tri-drive roll-off bins, tandem tractors hauling 53-foot vans, and B-train fuel tankers, end dumps, and roll-off trailers. He mainly does day trips now and the occasional load from Washington State, Logan Lake, and Kamloops.
Rabbitt estimates he has driven well over 2 million miles and has won a few safety awards, mainly for accident-free miles, which he humbly has forgotten the names of. Over all those miles, he has had close calls, mainly due to animals, weather, or traffic conditions, and a few incidents. He was accident-free until December 16, 2018. On that day—the day before his birthday—he was eastbound on Highway 5, the Coquihalla, travelling well under the 120 kph speed limit in winter conditions, when he encountered a vehicle with its 4-way flashers on. He used his engine brake to slow down, but the truck locked up and began to skid. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the truck was damaged and the trailer written off. Rabbitt says the accident was avoidable, as the road conditions were okay except for black ice.
Black ice is a hazard for any driver; professional drivers need to be especially vigilant, knowing when it can form (early morning and evening, especially when the temperature is between minus 5 degrees celcius and plus 5 degrees celcius), and watching for signs of it (vehicles ahead sliding is a good one; a slight sheen on the road may be another). Rabbitt says he encountered the same conditions twice last year and notes that being in a hurry to finish work often ends in an incident. There is no excuse, he says, especially for drivers of his experience. “Keeping your eyes and mind on the task is the ONLY way to avoid such mishaps.” The lesson learned, ultimately, is to stay home during extreme weather if you can. No load is worth injury, loss of life, or loss of the load and equipment.
Rabbitt notes that, while you might make mistakes, drivers should remember that accidents are avoidable. Drivers with plenty of experience can be safer and better drivers, but they can also become complacent. “Every day I drive, I learn more,” he says, recommending safety, courtesy, and professionalism in all things. “Be the driver you were when you passed your driving test.”
Have a great safety-related story or experience to share? Let us know! Contact SafetyDriven at 1-877-414-8001 or firstname.lastname@example.org