Simple Safety Improvements Can Save a Life

Add these trucking technologies and tips to your route-running routine and ensure the safety of your drivers and the motoring public.

Simple Safety Improvements Can Save a Life

Ronnie Tamez

From time to time, we look at our world and see what we can do to improve driving/driver safety. We have chosen to make a few small changes and we have seen some big results. 

Buying a GPS unit with integrated dashcam

When I started driving vacuum trucks, we used map books to find our addresses and plot everything out. We didn’t have a secretary yet, so there was no one to plot out our route, no strategies to save fuel, and fewer ways to improve efficiency. Back then, scheduling pretty much happened in the cab of the truck. Now I remember driving around, flipping through the map and sometimes getting very lost. One thing was for sure: I was a very distracted driver.

But we made a small investment that changed all that, purchasing a windshield-mounted GPS with integrated dashcam. Now it’s so much easier inputting the address and following directions. The GPS makes mistakes from time to time, but it’s nothing like flipping through maps. The built-in dashcam is a nice bonus too. It is continually recording 180 degrees in front of my truck in 3 minute intervals all day. It has a convenient feature that hooks up to the cellphone wirelessly and puts videos we choose on the phone.

As of today, I have not needed the dashcam footage for anything but playing around, but it’s there if I need it. The GPS also has the added feature of being able to hook up the rear camera and side cameras to it too.

Walking around the truck before moving

Another small change we made to our driving procedures is to do a walkaround inspection of the truck before driving. For example, we’re all done pumping a septic tank, the invoice is done and paid, we’ve said our goodbye and thanks to the client, and it’s time to leave. Even though we just walked around it 10 minutes earlier when loading the hoses, we walk around it again. Why? I’ll tell you a story that takes us back 13 years.

I was at a job site and I got along well with the clients and their six children. I pumped their tank like any other tank. The kids loved looking at the Mack truck. They asked if they could see inside the cab. They asked their parents to see if it was OK, and the parents consented, allowing the kids to sit with me, one at a time and look around. I showed them all the gauges and the lights, and I explained what all the switches do. I even let them blow the air horns, and they were amazed by the entire experience.

It was a great time, and I had to leave to my next job. The kids were running around everywhere. They had gotten used to the truck and were not afraid of it. I asked the parents for their help, and they asked their kids to go inside the house. I fired up the truck and was about to leave, but habit forced me to check the truck out before I moved. Now this time the precheck may have saved a child’s life.

I walked around the truck to see a child hiding deep in a wheel well, between the drive axles. My heart skipped a beat I am sure. Even with the engine running, this was not enough to scare the child. So there is my story about the importance of doing a walkaround every time you move a truck. 

Installing a rear-view camera

You as the driver will always need the outside mirrors, but the addition of a rear-view camera and monitor offer a great benefit of night vision. We have nice reverse lights on the trucks, but it can be really dark behind your rig. Adding rain to the equation makes visibility behind the truck even worse. The camera has a shield to stop rain from coming down over the lens, but during driving it still can get dirty. It’s not hard to wipe the lens at a job site to reverse our way out or turn the truck around.

Fitting the truck with powered side mirrors

Sometimes when the job is done and we’re driving away, I notice that the passenger-side rear-view mirror has gone out of adjustment. It can happen if I close the passenger door too hard or a tree branch has grazed the side of the rig and pulled on the mirror. It is annoying and I have to stop the truck and adjust the mirror. We can’t be driving the truck with the mirror out of adjustment. So we decided to upgrade one of the trucks with power adjustable mirrors. 

I have to admit, it works very well. We brush up against a branch now and the mirror will still move out of adjustment. But now all we have to do is push a button and the mirror moves right back to position. No more hitting the parking brake, leaning over the cab, rolling down the window, leaning out of the truck to adjust the mirror, going back to the seated position, going back-and-forth for minor adjustments, and reversing the mentioned procedure. Now, we push a button and in less than a second, the mirror is adjusted.

Clearing out the cab

Decluttering the cab has been a real struggle for our company. Unnecessary items on the seats, the dash, and the floor can cause a distraction or cause other problems during sudden stops or evasive maneuvers on the road. The truck we are currently building is going to have three outside toolboxes. This is mainly to get the cab free of loose tools that can become dangerous projectiles in the event of a crash. The side benefit is allowing drivers to be more organized and efficient on the daily route.


We have made these minor changes and continually look for ways to improve safety and operate more efficiently at the same time. What are some of your tricks, tools and techniques to make sure your crews make the most of their workday and return to the shop safely every evening? Send your tips to and we’ll share them. ν

Ronnie and Jennifer Tamez are owners of First Call Septic Services in Battle Ground, Washington.


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