Driving in poor weather conditions is never ideal, but when you have to reach your stop, it may be necessary. While we’d all prefer to avoid driving when the weather gets bad, it’s crucial to know how to maneuver your vehicle during these conditions.
It can be scary enough to navigate a car during rain, wind, or snow, but a semi-truck is a unique challenge to handle. However, by employing proper driving techniques, you don’t need to fear being able to make it home safe and sound.
We’ve made a list of some of the most important bad weather driving tips for you to know.
Before Your Trip
Before you embark on a drive, check the weather at your stops and the route along the way. Preparing for the weather conditions that may arise will result in a safer trip for you.
You’ll also want to perform a pre-trip inspection before you leave. This is required regardless of weather conditions, but when the weather gets bad, you’ll want to be aware of how your truck is functioning. Faulty brakes or low tires could mean a disaster when the roads get slippery.
Make sure you have an emergency kit on hand as well. In the event you become stranded, you’ll want to be able to have food and keep warm. Always bring a jacket, dry food, and a cell phone or radio to contact others.
Navigating During Bad Weather
Depending on the circumstances, different weather conditions may require different precautions to operate efficiently. Whether you’re truck driving in the snow, rain, or wind, you need to know how to be safe while you do so.
- Slow down. Rainy roads mean slippery roads. The FMCSA suggests reducing your speed by ⅓ when roads get wet to avoid accidents.
- Turn your lights on. Many states require your lights to be on while it is raining, and for good reason. Illuminating your path with your lights helps maintain your visibility even in the rain.
- Give yourself plenty of space. Operating a semi means never following anyone too closely, but this is even more important while truck driving in rain. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that loaded tractor-trailers take 20-40% farther than cars to stop, and when road conditions worsen, it can take even longer.
- Know your load. If you have an empty or light trailer, the chances are higher of you being blown over. If winds are going to be strong, know how heavy your trailer is.
- Park properly. When parked during high winds, try to have your cab face the direction the wind is blowing. This can help prevent being knocked over by the wind.
- Be wary of others. Tipping over is a serious concern when winds are strong. Semi-trucks often weigh 20-30 times more than cars, meaning a wreck can easily be disastrous. Watch out for cars around you and try to avoid keeping too close.
Snow and Ice
- Watch for trouble spots. Black ice is especially dangerous because you can’t see it. Even though a road may look wet, it may be a patch of ice.
- Don’t stop on the shoulder. If you stop for the night, don’t just pull on the shoulder. Cars that may be sliding on the road could slide into your parked truck, causing a crash.
- Keep your lights clean. Ice and snow can cover your lights, ruining your visibility. Every time you stop, clear off your lights so you can see while truck driving in snow.
Most of all, your safety is important. If you ever become concerned that you can’t make it to your destination, reach out to your dispatcher and make a plan to stop for the day or night. Getting to your stopping place on time should always be your goal, but getting there safely is your first priority.
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