It’s that time of year again, when the news fills up with human interest stories involving frozen turkeys and unlucky trucks.
In California, a driver unfamiliar with local roads took an exit ramp too fast and dumped 23,000 pounds of birds. The driver and passenger suffered only minor injuries, and the meat, originally headed for a wholesale distributor, was donated to an area food bank.
A driver fell asleep at the wheel and dumped a load of frozen turkeys in Trinidad, but escaped without serious injury. In Minnesota, another turkey-hauler skidded off a snowy roadway and flipped over. NBC News jokingly referred to the incident as a “Thanksgiving disaster,” but no one was actually hurt.
It’s not that trucks carrying birds really crash all that often; most of this year’s news stories on the subject actually focus on the same two or three incidents, over and over. But there is something inherently funny about the word “turkey,” something appealing about cartoon-like images of birds bouncing all over the road. The accidents attract smiling attention.
Of course, real traffic accidents are no laughing matter. Lost loads mean lost revenue, and not all wrecks end in only minor injuries. Nor is Thanksgiving notable only as the season when frozen birds take to the highways. Thanksgiving is actually one of the worst days of the whole year as far as vehicle crashes go, since so many cars are on the roads. Long trips home to relatives translate into a lot of exhausted drivers who don’t know the roads, people who might forget where a trucker’s blind spots are, or who might zip across three lanes of traffic to avoid missing an unfamiliar exit. Professional truck drivers are not themselves the problem, but they do have to cope with an unusually high volume of unusually dangerous cars.
Thanksgiving is the season to take extra caution on the road.
Of course, holiday safety for trucking fleets begins with reminding drivers to be on the lookout for erratic travelers. Adjusting schedules to allow for heavier traffic helps, too. But GPS technology and fleet management software go a long way to making the holiday season safer.
Telematics allow fleet managers to keep track of how individual drivers handle their vehicles. If someone has a history of heavy braking and blowing through stop signs, some extra training in the weeks leading up the Thanksgiving may be in order. Two-way communication features make it easier for carriers to cope with holiday-related confusion as a team—if a driver has to detour around a traffic accident, he or she can report back to headquarters and update the schedule. And being able to follow vehicles in real-time allows managers to respond to problems immediately. If a load of birds does turn over, the fleet manager can make sure emergency personnel are on the way and contact the customer to advise them of the loss. It might even be possible to send a second truck in time to salvage the load.
That’s certainly something to be thankful for.