DEALING WITH THE 8 DANGEROUS
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If you spend enough time driving, sooner or later you're going to end up in some sticky weather situations, like a winter storm, or high winds, or even tornados. It is up to the driver to stay abreast and informed of conditions, and to make the decision to drive, or not.
If conditions are treacherous, nobody can force you to drive if you don't feel that it's safe. Dispatchers & management realize that your life and the cargo is not worth the risk of driving in dangerous conditions.
Most companies even put out regional weather alerts to try and keep drivers a wear. That said, it is up to the driver to do their best to stay informed of current, and future weather conditions.
Winter driving conditions present a whole new set of challenges and approaches to safety for new drivers. A driver's main concerns will be visibility and road conditions. Never be afraid to shut down and park when you become uncomfortable with the conditions.
Pay very close attention to the forecast for your route and identify potential parking areas before you begin your day. Winter driving will require additional equipment to help the driver cope with the perils of driving a truck in inclement weather. Not only will you need tools and supplies to deal with the weather, but also extra food, water, and clothing in case of emergency. Always check with your company before using fuel additives or otherwise making any modifications to the truck, if you don't own it. "No load is worth your life" is a mantra you'll often hear from truckers. Heed that advice. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) operates a service, called 511, designed to provide updated travel conditions for any state in the country, by simply dialing "511" America's Traveler Information Telephone Number
Tips For Dealing with
Dangerous Weather Conditions.
1. FREEZING RAIN
I find this is the most challenging and dangerous situation when behind the wheel, as it can be near impossible to keep control of the truck. My advice to truckers is when you see ice starting to form on your mirrors or windshield, or your gauge is telling you the outside temperature is dropping, get off the road right away.
Do not wait to see if things improve. Find a safe place to exit the road and park until conditions improve. Unfortunately, the road conditions during freezing rain are highly unpredictable. This is when you may experience patches of black ice and low visibility. It is better to pull over and wait it out than risk jackknifing.
2. HEAVY SNOW
If the weather forecast predicts heavy snow, you should have tire chains onboard. If the weather turns really ugly, you must be prepared to get off the road and land.
Be sure you have extra warm clothing and some food onboard, in case you are stuck on the side of the road for a period of time. When a storm goes through and dumps an excess amount of snow, it can be days before the snow plow trucks can clear off the snow and the roads are reopened. Be sure you fuel up before your trip just in case you get stuck. Hand warmers are a life-saver!
3. STRONG WIND
If you have ever traveled across I-80 in Wyoming, and there are strong crosswinds, they can be powerful enough to blow a truck off the road. If you find yourself in strong crosswinds, which is very typical on any of the wide open interstate highways, and your load is exceptionally light-weight, find a safe place to stop. If possible, head for a truck stop and find a parking spot between two van trailers. This is a good way to protect yourself in a windstorm.
4. DUST STORMS
Dust storms, such as those in Arizona on I-10 can be very threatening as well to the professional trucker. As a professional driver, you need to be aware of what weather is coming your way, in order to prepare for it. Unfortunately, dust storms are sometimes hard to predict. If you are caught in one, you should pull over and wait it out. Bad ones usually result in road closures so you often won’t have a choice. Keep your windows tightly closed and get some rest until it has passed.
5. HAIL STORMS
Visibility is affected seriously by a heavy hail storm. Another risk during a severe hailstorm for truckers is body and windshield damage to the truck. Avoid using the jake brake during a hailstorm since the roads can be more slippery than they appear.
6. HIGH HEAT
Excess heat can be a danger too. High temperatures are hard on a big rig and its optimum operation. It can literally melt the rubber from the tires! The truck engine will tend to overheat and the fan clutch works over-time. If a driver pushes the truck hard in excess heat conditions, the engine temperature can skyrocket, which can do serious motor damage. You may even find yourself broken down in the desert. If it’s going to be a seriously hot day, it may be best to park during the hottest part of the day. Then, in the evening when the temperatures have cooled, proceed on your trip.
One of the worst experiences I had in bad weather, was shutting down during a small tornado in Nebraska. When I had departed from Grand Island that morning, the weather report indicated it the tornado wasn’t really expected to amount to much. Around North Platte, I spotted the tornado. I was aware that a tornado had been spotted in the area, so I was able to pull my truck and trailer under an overpass for cover.
As the tornado approached the overpass, four-wheelers had gathered around my truck and trailer for cover as well. When the tornado passed through the area, I could see the strong winds tugging on the cars with a suction, trying to pull the cars out! The lesson here is: Be prepared. Check the weather conditions before departing each morning, so you know what lies ahead. No one likes surprises, especially truck drivers.
Driving in fog has it’s own unique challenges for the trucker. Often fog can be thin and patchy and is not a serious hazard if it’s not a large dense fog bank. The range of visibility in fog is the deciding factor. When visibility starts to decline, it’s time to find a safe spot to land.
I rarely recommend pulling onto the shoulder of an off ramp, but if necessary, this is better than the shoulder of the road, if the situation is serious. Avoid stopping on the shoulder of the road if you are able. Your tail lights may confuse traffic behind your truck. Turn on your flashers and get off the road as soon as you can safely.
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