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Trucking In Extreme Weather Conditions

Learn about the challenges, dangers and best practices for drivers when trucking in extreme weather conditions.

Trucking in extreme weather conditions, whether rain, snow, or extreme heat, poses significant challenges for drivers. Not only can it result in product loss, but it can also be life-threatening for many on the road.  Truck drivers always look to keep themselves, their rig, and others safe when the surrounding climate is not ideal.

Let’s discuss general practices and common issues due to inclement weather for truck drivers.

General Driving Procedures For Different Climate

Driving in different terrains and weather requires various approaches from the driver. However, here are some general procedures to help you make the safest journeys in rough weather.

Trucking in Rain

1. Maintain Proper Following Distance

Wet roads reduce traction. Increasing your following distance is crucial to allow for safe braking and avoid hydroplaning.

2. Slow Down

Reduce your speed in rainy conditions. This gives you more time to react to sudden stops or obstacles.

3. Check Tires

Ensure your tires have sufficient tread depth and proper air pressure. Adequate tire condition is essential for grip on wet roads.

4. Use Lights and Signals

Turn on your headlights and taillights to improve visibility for yourself and other drivers.

5. Avoid Cruise Control

Using cruise control in the rain can lead to loss of control. Maintain manual control over your speed.

Trucking in Snow

1. Winter Tires

Invest in winter tires with deep treads for better traction and control in snowy conditions.

2. Reduce Speed Further

Snow and ice demand even slower speeds than rain. Go well below the speed limit when necessary.

3. Carry Snow Chains

In areas prone to heavy snowfall, carry snow chains and know how to install them.

4. Keep a Safe Distance

Increase your following distance significantly to allow longer stopping distances on slippery roads.

5. Brake Gently

Apply the brakes slowly and steadily to prevent skidding.

Trucking in Extreme Heat

1. Check the Cooling System

Regularly inspect and maintain your truck’s cooling system to prevent overheating. This includes checking coolant levels and the condition of the radiator.

2. Stay Hydrated

Extreme heat can lead to dehydration. Drink plenty of water to stay alert and healthy.

3. Use Sunshades

Park in the shade when possible, and use sunshades for your windshield and side windows to keep the cab cooler.

4. Ventilation

Keep windows cracked or use a small fan to promote air circulation when parked.

5. Plan Rest Stops

Avoid driving during the hottest parts of the day. Take breaks in air-conditioned rest areas or truck stops.

Staying Cool in a Semi

1. Use the A/C Wisely

Run the air conditioner when needed, but don’t set it too low. A moderate temperature setting helps avoid overtaxing the system.

2. Block Sunlight

Use window shades or curtains to block direct sunlight from entering the cab.

3. Stay Hydrated

As mentioned earlier, drink plenty of water to stay calm and maintain focus.

4. Wear Light Clothing

Dress in lightweight, breathable clothing to stay comfortable in the heat.

5. Take Breaks

Schedule regular rest breaks in shaded areas to cool down and rejuvenate.

How To Be Prepared For Trucking In Extreme Weather

In all extreme weather conditions, your safety and the safety of other road users should be your top priority. Always exercise caution, reduce your speed, and consider delaying your journey or seeking shelter if conditions become too hazardous.

Here is additional information to help you make informed decisions while trucking in extreme weather.

Common Issues For Truck Drivers in Rain

●  Hydroplaning

Watch out for water buildup on the road, which can cause hydroplaning. Reduce speed and avoid sudden maneuvers to prevent losing control of your vehicle.

●  Reduced Visibility

Rain can reduce visibility significantly. Use headlights and windshield wipers, and maintain a safe following distance from other vehicles.

●  Aquaplaning

Be cautious of puddles, as they can hide potholes or other hazards. Drive around them if possible.

●  Flash Flooding

Watch for signs of flash flooding in heavy rain, especially in low-lying areas. Avoid driving through flooded roads; it’s challenging to gauge the depth of water.

●  Slippery Surfaces

Roads can become slick during rain. Exercise caution when merging, changing lanes, or braking.

Potential Hazards Of Trucking in Snow

●  Icy Patches

Look for black ice, which is difficult to see but extremely slippery. Drive slowly and be prepared for sudden loss of traction.

●  Snow Accumulation

Be cautious of accumulating snow, which can impede your truck’s progress. Clear snow off your vehicle as needed to maintain visibility.

●  Blowing Snow

In blizzard conditions, snow can reduce visibility to near zero. Consider pulling over and waiting for conditions to improve.

●  Frozen Brakes

Cold temperatures can freeze brake components. Test your brakes before starting your journey and periodically during long trips.

●  Avalanche Risk

In mountainous areas, watch for avalanche warnings and closures. Follow official guidance and avoid areas prone to avalanches.

Watch out For These When Trucking in Extreme Heat

●  Overheating

Keep a close eye on your truck’s temperature gauge. If it overheats, pull over immediately and let the engine cool down. Don’t let the engine run at idle to keep the AC on, as it will still heat your engine.

Instead, completely shut down the engine and let it sit in the shade if possible.

Note: Do not use water to cool your engine; it may cause severe steam burns.

●  Tire Blowouts

High temperatures can increase the risk of tire blowouts. Ensure your tires are correctly inflated and in good condition. The best way to keep tire pressure in check is to use tire pressure sensors, but you can also put in below recommended air pressure in hot weather for added safety.

●  Dehydration

In extreme heat, the risk of dehydration is high. This quickly becomes an issue when dehydration speeds up the prerequisites of a stroke. Therefore, drink water after regular intervals to stay hydrated and alert.

●  Wildfires

Monitor local news and evacuation notices in regions prone to wildfires. Avoid routes that may put you in the path of a wildfire.

●  Sun Glare

Intense sunlight can create blinding glare. Use sunglasses with polarized lenses and adjust your mirrors to minimize glare. Additionally, sun glare quickly raises the temperature of your dashboard. Therefore, make sure no flammables are kept directly in the sun.

Deodorants, air fresheners, and similar pressurized vessels are the most common examples.

●  Heat-Related Illness

Know the signs of heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke and heat exhaustion and take appropriate action if you or others are affected. Keeping a medical handbook can help you diagnose the most common symptoms and take the appropriate first-aid measures before things go out of hand.

FMCSA’s Directives For Trucking In Rough Weather

1.   Load Securement

Regulations require that cargo be appropriately secured to prevent shifting during transit, which is crucial when driving in conditions like heavy rain, snow, or ice.

2.   Speed Limits

FMCSA does not set specific speed limits for different weather conditions, but it does require CMV operators to obey posted speed limits and adjust their speed according to requirements. Slowing down in adverse weather is essential for safety.

3.   Equipment Maintenance

FMCSA mandates that CMVs be maintained in a safe and roadworthy condition. This includes ensuring that brakes, tires, lights, and other critical components are in good working order, essential for safe operation in extreme weather.

Keeping a short-wave radio or satellite phone handy also helps quick communication.

4.   Emergency Weather Conditions

FMCSA may issue emergency declarations that temporarily waive specific regulations to facilitate disaster response efforts in extreme weather events, such as blizzards, floods, or hurricanes. These waivers are typically issued on a case-by-case basis.

Some states ground all CMVs and non-CMVs based on weather conditions. Therefore, it is always better to consult a state trooper or head office before heading to such states.

Conclusion: Are You Following The Best Practices?

Following these best practices is essential for safe and compliant trucking in extreme weather conditions. From rain to snow and extreme heat, drivers and carriers must prioritize safety, adapt their behaviors, and stay informed about regulations to ensure the well-being of all road users.