All truck drivers face bad weather conditions at some point during their careers. Some are more affected by it than others. For instance, drivers who do long-haul journeys in rigid vehicles and/or with trailers are more at risk of being affected by such conditions, because of the long distances they travel and their less flexible driving equipment. Nevertheless, no driver can avoid bad weather, even over shorter distances. Crucially, many truckers do not know how to drive in these conditions and are often not prepared with the right equipment or supplies. This can cause big problems. After all, in the US alone, it has been predicted that 24% of all crashes occur during adverse weather conditions. Knowing what to do in bad weather can not only save the goods drivers are carrying, but also save their lives. Our top tips, found below, offer truck drivers a handy guide to preparing themselves and their trucks for bad weather conditions, particularly in these harsh winter months:
1.Plan the trip carefully
When it comes to dealing with bad weather, it is essential to plan ahead. Drivers should pre-plan for potential weather incidents by gathering information from weather reports. Receiving updates from weather apps, for example, or tuning into the local news along the way can help you to adjust your preparations and stay informed of any spontaneous weather events. You can also locate relevant service areas on a map before heading out so that you are always aware of where you can stop should the weather suddenly turn bad. Planning in advance - for example, the night before a journey, rather than in the morning - can also allow you to plan delay time into journeys. This will decrease driver stress levels, which can adversely affect driving concentration and quality. Therefore, forward planning can reduce the chances of an accident occurring. It will also mean your all-important goods are more likely to get to their destination on time.
2.Get rid of distractions
Distracted drivers are much more likely to have an accident in bad weather. When drivers are texting, for example, they are 23 times more likely to get into a crash. This likelihood is increased even further in bad weather conditions. Listening to music or podcasts can, of course, be very useful for drivers who need to stay awake on late night drives. However, it’s best to avoid playing very loud music, talking on the phone, and definitely avoid texting when driving. Even if the weather isn’t bad - but especially if it is - you should have your full attention on the road at all times. One second not concentrating can be a second too late.
3. Check the vehicle is in a fit condition before setting off
Most truck drivers are required to inspect their vehicles before setting off, but it’s nevertheless easy to forget to check certain things. First of all, the inspection should be visual and hands-on, covering all aspects of the vehicles. Secondly, the following areas should be covered:
Windshield wipers: check that wiper blades are not worn and that they’re capable of clearing the windscreen correctly.
Tyres: tyre tread is very important for slippery roads, so checking tyres are not too worn is key. Looking at the inflation level of tyres is also key - over or under-inflated tyres can cause a potential loss in traction. Also, don’t forget to check the spare tyre.
Check the battery, antifreeze, and windshield wiper fluid.
Make sure number plates are clearly visible and legible.
Lights: make sure all vehicle lights are clean and in working order - headlamps, turn signals, and hazard signals are imperative in bad weather driving conditions.
Mirrors and Windows: check that all mirrors are clear and that all windows are demisted thoroughly. Make sure all mirrors are in the correct positions - especially ones related to blind spots.
When driving, pay attention to any warning signs - keep an eye on the warning lights and gauges, especially the temperature gauge.
Fuel: be sure to have enough fuel for your journey, and more. In winter, it is essential to make sure you have at least half a tank of petrol before setting off.
4.Drive more carefully than normal
Driving more carefully in adverse weather conditions seems obvious, but there are some key changes to make that not all drivers know about. Firstly, slow down. Traction is significantly decreased in adverse weather conditions, so make sure to take it slow in potentially dangerous areas. Secondly, go easy on the brakes. Braking and accelerating lightly will reduce the chance of your wheels spinning out of control in slippery conditions. Thirdly, be extra careful on and around bridges. Bridges are notorious for ice: they are often more slippery than other sections of the road so use extra caution. Last but not least: turn slowly. Make sure your turns are gentle and controlled; this will prevent any unnecessary wheel slippage.
5.Make sure you pack an emergency kit
In bad weather conditions, you’ll need to have all the necessary equipment ready. This includes:
Clothing: extra layers and blankets, protective and weather-specific clothing such as gloves, hats, snow boots, rain gear etc., high visibility jacket.
Sufficient food and water supplies: snack foods like high-calorie fruit bars, granola bars, and nuts are particularly useful.
Snow equipment: a bag of sand or salt, snow boots, flares, a shovel and tire chains, traction mats or even strips of carpet to place under your tyres if your vehicle becomes stuck.
Extra windshield washer fluid and windshield scrapers
Battery jump leads
A GPS navigation device or map for any unplanned diversions
A towing rope
6.Increase following distance
Stopping distances may seem insignificant but they are key to accident prevention in bad weather. In wet weather or low visibility, following distance should be increased in order to allow for longer braking and reaction times. In particularly cold or wet weather, ice and even wet leaves can cause slippage. With more distance between you and the next car, you’ll have a lot more leeway to react to such things so that a small slip doesn’t become a big accident.
7.If conditions are really bad, take a break from the road
With time-constrained deliveries to make, it may not always seem possible to simply stop driving. The phrase ‘better safe than sorry’ applies here: meeting deadlines is undoubtedly important but protecting yourself and the goods you’re carrying from harm is more critical. Don’t push your luck and assume that the road has been gritted up ahead, or that the snow will simply stop at some point. Use your best judgment and tune in to the latest weather reports and warnings. If visibility is low and reports suggest the situation won’t improve anytime soon, it’s best to get off the road and stop at the nearest service area. This may save you time in the long run - after all, any damage to yourself or the truck will lead to much more significant delivery delays!
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