Driving in Bad Weather – Helpful Tips
The job of a truck driver becomes extremely difficult when handling a tractor trailer and cargo in bad weather. Knowledge of proper, preventative safety skills for driving in poor conditions, can truly separate the skilled drivers from the rest. Drivers need to know when conditions are not safe and make good decisions when it is time to ‘get off the road’. Bad weather for truckers can cause a lot of inconveniences, delays, and fatal accidents.
So it’s essential for truck drivers to be aware of the weather conditions at all the times, and to always be checking the weather along their driving route. It is also important to have an emergency kit on hand and always bring a jacket, dry food and a charged cell phone/radio.
Here are some tips drivers should know about dealing with dangerous weather conditions.
Snow and Ice
Never become overly confident about your ability to drive in snowy and icy conditions, no matter how much experience you have. Watch for every possible trouble spot. Even though a road may look clean and dry, in the freezing weather conditions you may easily run into a patch of ice. That right there can cause a fatal accident.
Reduce your speed even more than you think you need to. Leave extra space between you and other vehicles on the road. Try to clear off all your lights every time you stop and to keep it as clean as you can. They get covered with ice and snow very quickly and ruin your visibility a lot. Keep fuel tanks topped up for extra weight. This helps a lot with good traction and safer feel on the road.
Keep in mind to fully avoid jake brake on icy roads. Also, avoid overusing of the footbrake too. Braking on ice is very tricky, and you don’t even want to brake unless the entire unit (both truck and trailer) is absolutely ‘straight’ on the road. The trailer can easily slide and spin you out in the middle of the road. You need to remember that brakes may stop the truck, but not the trailer.
With all said, it is clear that winter conditions are not fun and that they require a special focus and attention. So, make the most of it as much as you can, but use your best judgment to stop if needed.
If you decide to stop because the conditions are too dangerous, make sure to find a safe place to pull over. Do not stop on the shoulder of the road. Snowstorms come with low visibility and other vehicles can easily mistake your position for being on the road and slam into you. ‘
Strong winds are far more dangerous for big trucks than for cars because of the surface area of the trailer. All that surface catches the wind and makes it an easy target for overturning. Wind speeds of approximately 60 mph is enough to overturn a trailer. The chances of being blown over are even higher when hauling an empty trailer because there is no added weight to resist the wind.
So, although there is no rule of a specific wind speed being too dangerous, many professional drivers agree that anything over 60mph is too risky.
The first and main rule for encountering strong winds is to reduce the speed immediately. In a matter of fact, there is not much more than you can do about it. So, either drive slow and steady or simply pull over and wait out the wind storm. In case of stopping, keep in mind to park properly. Try your best to have your cabin face the direction of the wind. Remember that your truck can be tipped over even at the truck stop.
One of the biggest safety risks when it comes to driving in the rain is hydroplaning. This is the moment when tires lose contact with the road and rise up on a film of water. To ensure avoiding your truck to hydroplane, you should reduce your speed according to the amount of water on the road. For example, 1/12 inch of water on the road makes your tires to displace a gallon of water per second to keep the contact with the road. Therefore, reducing speed is the first thing you should do in order to maintain contact with the road. Even with brand new tires and reducing speed, you are in risk, so do not ever take it lightly.
Leave plenty of room between your truck and other vehicles. Always remember, that the majority of drivers do not have experience with driving on the highway in rainy conditions. So, it is your responsibility to watch out for others’ wrong moves too.
Even with taking all the necessary steps for driving safely in the rain, you may still experience a skid. Just don’t panic. It would be the worst thing to do. Make sure not to slam your brakes, as this would make you lose the control of the truck. Instead, look and steer in the direction you want the truck to go, and regain that control slowly.
- 40 Miles Per Hour Rule. If the weather conditions become so hard and do not allow you to drive faster than 40 miles per hour, consider getting off the road. Driving faster in situations like this gets you and other vehicles around you in danger. However, driving slower isn’t worth your time. So, “40 miles per hour rule” helps you make that cut, and decide that it is a time to just stop and wait it out.
- Generally, it takes between 12 to 24 hours for any storm to calm down. Depending on the area where you are at the moment highways are usually cleaned off fairly quickly. So, if you have any doubts that you can’t make it to your destination, reach out and talk to your dispatcher. Rescheduling your itinerary does not make you a bad driver. On the contrary, it shows a true professional.
Your safety is the most important! Your goal as a professional driver is always to get to your next destination on time, but getting there safely should always be your first priority.