While all drivers must take precautions to drive safe during dangerous weather events, truck drivers must exercise an abundance of caution. Dangerous weather for truck drivers can not only result in unsafe driving conditions for them but can affect the safety of other drivers on the road as well. The sheer size and weight of semi-trucks make operating under safe conditions an absolute necessity.
Truck drivers must weigh a number of different considerations when assessing weather conditions. Although safety should always be the first priority, there are also scheduled, delivery, and time constraints that must be considered as well. On top of this, when dangerous weather strikes it may not give truck drivers sufficient time to find a safe place to ride out the weather event. As such, navigating dangerous weather for truck drivers is always a balancing act. Many times, it comes down to an understanding of what types of weather pose the greatest risk as well as the personal expertise and experience of the driver themselves.
Drivers should always stay aware of changing road-weather conditions and take time before their trip begins to explore the weather forecast along their route. Most drivers make checking the daily forecast a regular part of their pre-trip routine alongside truck inspections and finishing any logs. Since truckers can travel a long distance in a single day, they may experience many different types of inclement weather.
As with anything, preparation is key. Preparation starts with understanding what weather they might face during their day, then ensuring that they have the equipment and tools necessary. For trips where heavy snow is expected this may include tire chains, warm clothing, and food and water in case they have to pull off of the road. Staying prepared is one of the most important things that a truck driver does to ensure that they stay safe at all times, including when they have pulled off the road during dangerous weather.
Frozen Rain and Ice
Ice and frozen rain are two of the most common, and most commonly feared, types of dangerous weather phenomena. When it gets cold enough for the rain to start freezing, it is definitely time for truck drivers to consider pulling off the road. Most truck drivers agree that once rain starts freezing, control of their truck starts to rapidly degrade. Although you may be on a tight schedule, it is almost always a good idea to pull off when you are confronted by icy rain. Freezing conditions combined with rain can lead to black ice, which is dangerous for all drivers but especially so for truck drivers.
One of the more difficult aspects of what a truck driver does is understanding when the risks that dangerous weather pose are too great. Freezing rain is an excellent example of this, as the truck driver will have to weigh whether to continue on for a period of time in the hope that conditions will improve. When it comes to freezing conditions and rain, this is almost never a safe choice. Rather, drivers should consider pulling off the road as soon as possible and waiting for conditions to improve before continuing.
In situations where heavy snow is in the forecast, it can quickly lead to dangerous weather conditions on the road. Although many truckers drive in snow regularly, heavy snow can present unique complications. The key with heavy snow is to be prepared. Drivers should have tired chains ready at all times if the snow gets too heavy. Since weather can get worse in an instant, truck drivers should also be prepared for circumstances where they have to ride out a storm. As such, if snow is in the forecast, drivers should be sure to pack warm clothing and blankets, as well as sufficient food and water that will allow them to ride out a storm in comfort. It may not be ideal to spend a day or two in the cab of your truck, but it is certainly better than the alternative that can happen during heavy snow.
Wind can be a difficult weather event not only to predict but also to know when you should pull off the road and ride it out. Certain travel corridors are especially prone to heavy winds, so drivers are advised to pay close attention to the routes they drive. Knowledge of the route can prove invaluable in determining when and where to pull off during times of heavy wind. Heavy wind can quickly lead to loss of control of the vehicle and put both the driver and other people on the road at risk. Wind is especially dangerous for trucks with lighter loads, so drivers should be mindful of not only the area they are driving in and the weather forecast but also their load weight and the risk that may carry as well.
Extreme heat can be just as dangerous as frozen rain, snow, or heavy winds. Heat can affect any number of things when it comes to trucks, including the tires themselves. You’ll want to be sure to not push your truck too hard in heavy heat, as it can lead to the truck overheating relatively quickly. Also, like other forms of dangerous weather, it is important for truck drivers to be prepared when extreme heat is on the forecast. Be sure to bring plenty of extra water in case you have to pull off or you break down. You may be on the side of the road for a while, and extreme heat can quickly lead to negative health outcomes like dehydration and heatstroke. If a driver knows they are going to be traveling through an area with extreme heat, they may want to do their driving early in the morning and in the afternoon or evening when the air has cooled. This will reduce the strain on the engine itself, while also limit any risk posed to your tires and other parts of the truck that are vulnerable to heat.