Truck drivers experience all kinds of winter elements. Big rigs are not exactly aerodynamic, but you are a professional with a CDL, you know what you’re doing.
But you can only control your rig, not what other drivers do. They’re not professionals, so here are some things to look out for on the road during poor weather conditions to help keep an eye on the other guy.
Fog can be incredibly hindering to a driver’s visibility. The precipitation is directly in your face and the densest fog won’t even allow you to see the end of the car hood. You literally drive through a cloud.
While this is what your fog lights were meant for, some drivers believe turning on their high-beam lights will help—obviously, this is no the case. High-beam lights actually reflect off the precipitation, glaring back and further hindering visibility.
Patchy fog can be even worse. The less dense areas allow drivers to pick up speed, only to maintain this speed when they reach dense portions. This means drivers will be moving at higher speeds than they should for that area—who knows when that lighter patch will arrive, let along what lies around the corner.
Always slow down when driving through patchy fog, even in the more visible areas. If needed, you can always pull off to the side of the road, turn on your hazards and wait it out while the dummies zip around dangerously with their high-beams on.
Rain, Snow and Ice
Rain is quite common, but it doesn’t make for slick conditions. Even the most experienced drivers can hydroplane—it’s science, not a driving style.
Rain is routine for truck drivers and avid travelers, so you likely know what to do. Just remember to turn your low-beams on, manage speed and maintain windshield wiper quality.
A combination of rain and sleet in the winter is terrible, especially if it’s followed by snow. This usually occurs when rain is eventually followed by snow, adding a sheet of ice under the compacted layers of snow and turning any highway into an episode of Ice Road Truckers.
Drivers should consider driving in a higher gear to lower wheel spin and add traction. Unfortunately, vehicles may still cut off truck drivers despite the road conditions and safety hazard. Even though it may be difficult and your anger is justified, it’s always best to avoid the road rage and keep a cool head. You know what to do, brake and lengthen your following distance. Even if you’re pinched between two vehicles, the most you can do on your part is lengthen your own following distance.
It’s always best to simply avoid hail. It can damage your vehicle and larger hailstones can crack or even break your windshield.
But there are times when storms seem to appear out of the blue and are unavoidable. It’s always best to pull off to the side of the road, preferably in a sheltered place, and wait for the hailstorm to subside. If you are unable to find a sheltered area, pulling off to the side of the road and staying in your vehicle until the storm subsides is always better than driving through it. Plus, it lowers the risks of colliding with another vehicle attempting to push through the storm. Just be sure to stay informed on the weather conditions as hail can oftentimes accompany some nasty storm-fronts.
Wind is a different beast for truck drivers. Sure, it can buck large vehicles and even small cars around, but most drivers do not truly know how much wind affects truck drivers, making it even more difficult for truck drivers to navigate interstates and highways.
First, if you can find an alternate route, do it. This can actually work toward your advantage. For example, if the destination is southeast of your current location, but the wind is blowing from north to south, then adjust your route to cover the southern portion of your distance and head east when the wind subsides. As a bonus, the vehicle’s fuel efficiency will benefit from the wind pushing the trailer forward.
No matter the season, you should always plan ahead on long-distance drives. Poor weather patterns can hinder your trip, and taking a longer detour might actually save you time rather than just trucking through the storm and getting caught or slowed by the conditions.
Whether it be on your truck’s logistics systems or your smartphone, both have the apps and tech that will allow you to access current and future weather patterns across the globe. A simple, two-minute Google search can save you time, headaches, and potential damage to your vehicle.
Winter weather conditions also bring out the worst of drivers. Take your time and don’t let their habits or road rage get the best of you. Even if you arrive late, no haul is worth risking your well-being.