Safe Driving with Trucks in Heavy Rain and in Bad Weather
On the Arrive Alive website we find a rather comprehensive section on safe driving in heavy rains and bad weather, but not so much info on the challenges encountered by our truck drivers in these conditions!
We discuss safe driving in heavy winds and how other modes of transport can be safer around and near our trucks. Our road freight is really what keeps our economy moving and these drivers encounter significant challenges on our roads.
We have great respect for our truck drivers, regard them as our Highway Heroes, and would also like to provide them with some safety advice when driving in bad weather!
We decided to approach the Experts from MasterDrive for some insights by way of a Q&A:
What would be the unique threats encountered by truck drivers in bad weather/ heavy rains?
Bad weather can make for scary driving conditions, no matter what time of year. Remember these tips the next time you get behind the wheel of your rig:
Increase stopping distances. Stopping distances increase with wet roads so make sure to increase following distance. Don’t forget that wet leaves on the ground are almost as slippery as ice, so be aware of the roads you’re travelling.
Slow down. Traction is decreased with the bad weather, so slow down in treacherous areas
Easy on the breaks. Brake and accelerate lightly - this will reduce the chance of your wheels spinning out of control.
Take extra caution on bridges. Bridges often have more ice on them than other sections of the road so practice extra caution when approaching a bridge
If you can, wait it out. If the weather is perilous, try your best to stay off the road
Always pack emergency supplies. Make sure you prepare for the different weather conditions you will face before you start your journey. Also, make sure you have emergency supplies packed in case you get stranded.
Clean your lights. Make sure your lights are clean and clear to help other vehicles see you
In low visibility, try and get off the road. If visibility is poor, try your best to not stop on the shoulder as drivers may believe you are in the lane driving and crash into you
Turn slow. Make sure your turns are slow and controlled. Wheels lose traction easily in inclement weather conditions.
Do the behaviour and unpredictability of other modes of transport bring about unique challenges truck drivers need to be aware of?
Everything on the road has less traction - from pedestrians to motorcycles.
It is also important to recognize that pedestrians tend to avoid the muddy roadside and encroach on the road in rainy weather. They might be less visible and not wear the bright clothing and reflective materials recommended.
Be extra cautious of vehicles breakdowns and vehicles parked in reduced visibility on the shoulder of the road and without the necessary reflective triangles and hazard lights.
How important might driving experience be when faced with such a challenge?
You will learn many skills not covered in any K53 heavy-duty lessons or test as they frequently do not cover “how to drive in wet weather”. These skills are vital to your safety, the safety of others on the road, and the integrity of your haul. Important information you should know:
Slow Down on Curves
It is already necessary to drive curves slowly when you are hauling a large rig. You must be aware of your load shifting and causing the entire tractor-trailer to turn over. It is even more crucial to driving curves slowly when it is raining or the roads are wet. When the roads are slick, you risk sliding off the road and off a cliff or into a barrier or rocks. If your freight shifts on a wet curve, then your risk of causing an accident increases. Always be aware of upcoming curves and turns, especially during wet weather.
Watch out for Hydroplaning
Hydroplaning can happen to any vehicle, but it is especially dangerous during a trucking job in the rain. Hydroplaning is a dangerous phenomenon where your vehicle’s tires glide on a film of water rather than making contact with the road. This dangerous consequence of driving in wet weather can cause you to lose control of your truck. Hydroplaning can happen whenever the roads are wet, but it is most common during the first few minutes of light rain. You can avoid hydroplaning by taking care of your tires, slowing down, avoiding hard braking, and making slow turns.
Avoid Jack-knifing the Trailer
Jack-knifing is another dangerous possibility when driving in the rain. You will learn extensively about the dangers of jack-knifing and how to avoid it in your truck driving courses. You can avoid jack-knifing by slowing down and braking gradually. Ensure that you are slowed down well before approaching the curve. The key to avoiding a jack-knifed trailer starts with avoiding hydroplaning, so always be aware of how your truck is performing in wet weather.
Does the challenge vary according to the weight of the truck and cargo? What Hazards Do You Face Driving Around Big Rigs in The Rain?
Driving in the rain can be more hazardous than driving on a clear, dry day. When you add heavy trucks to the equation, big rig accidents are more likely to occur.
Of the more than 5 million motor vehicle crashes that occur every year, 10% of all crashes and 8% of all fatalities are due to the rain.
Many of these big rig wreck incidents are due to the increased hazard of driving around heavy trucks in the rain.
Contributing Factors to these Truck Crashes in Bad Weather
Whenever it rains, visibility of the road and surroundings decreases for all drivers, including the drivers of tractor-trailers.
The harder it rains, the worse visibility can get, which is a common cause of big rig accidents.
This is often the case when passenger vehicles are driven in a truck driver’s blind spots.
It can be hard enough for a driver to see around those blind spots in the first place.
Rain only makes it more difficult for them to see if anyone is in their way when they are trying to change lanes, turn, or make some other manoeuvre.
Staying clear of the four blind spots that surround heavy trucks is critical in preventing big rig wrecks every day, but especially so in the rain.
Heavy Winds and Slippery Roads:
Wind frequently comes with rain and that wind can create highly dangerous conditions for large trucks on the highways.
Because they are so tall and broad, tractor-trailers can be easily blown around on slippery roads.
Strong enough gusts can slide trucks around on the highway and out of their lanes or even cause serious rollover big rig accidents.
Again, while it is always important to give big trucks plenty of room on a windy day or when the roads are slick, it is even more important to do so when it is raining
Inconsistent Traffic Speeds
Rainy, wet, and windy conditions tend to cause drivers of smaller, lighter vehicles to slow down and brake more often.
Frequent or sudden braking in these conditions is another common cause of big rig wrecks in the rain.
The inconsistency of traffic flow and speeds can become an additional hazard for all vehicles, increasing the chance of collisions.
In an attempt to avoid crashes due to inconsistent traffic, most heavy truck drivers divert to the left lane where they can travel at a consistent pace.
Drivers who see trucks moving to the left should always yield to them and then stay out of the left lane to avoid the dangers of travelling between trucks.
Be Careful When Driving In The Rain!
When driving in the rain, you should keep in mind that your vehicle is not the only one affected by rain, wind, and slick roads.
The chance of big rig accidents increases substantially in the rain when trucks become less stable on the road.
The best way to avoid big rig wrecks is to drive your car defensively and give large trucks plenty of room.
Avoid situations where you could be hit if a truck gets blown over, slides into your lane, or the driver is unable to see you due to reduced visibility!
What would the “perfect storm” be in such a scenario - if heavy rains are combined with strong winds, hail, night driving etc.?
As professional truck drivers, we experience a range of severe weather. This is especially true if you run a longer route through several Regions. It is not unusual for truckers to drive straight through a blizzard in the mountains right into dry, windy plains all in one day
As professional truck drivers, we experience a range of severe weather. This is especially true if you run a longer route through several states. it is not unusual for truckers to drive straight through a blizzard in the mountains right into dry, windy plains all in one day.
The perfect storm would be:
Road freezing up (black ice) in mountain areas
Thick dust storms in our flat farm areas
Fires with thick smoke over the road
Thick mist and Fog
We always advise motorists not to drive through flowing water - would the same advice apply to truck drivers or do we have some advice on the depth of water?
Semi-trucks absolutely WILL hydroplane anytime the tire treads cannot adequately displace the water on the road surface. There is no practical speed that is guaranteed to be safe. If your tires can not contact the road surface properly due to worn treads or an excess of water, ice or snow you will definitely have trouble remaining in control.
Any other bits of advice not yet covered above that is worth sharing with our truck drivers?
When you’re driving on a rainy day, the most important advice we can give is to slow down. Even as little as half an inch of water on the road forces your truck’s tires to displace a gallon of water per second to maintain contact with the road. Driving at a slower speed will help you stay in control.
You can also avoid hydroplaning by leaving extra space between you and other vehicles. Make sure you increase the following distance between your truck and the vehicle ahead to have enough stopping time. A fully loaded tractor-trailer weighing 80,000 pounds travelling under ideal conditions at a speed of 65 miles per hour will take 525 feet to stop, which is almost the length of two football fields. You should also start to slow down earlier before intersections and when turning.
Respond to A Skid:
Even if you’re being extra cautious, skidding can still happen. If you feel your truck beginning to slide, don’t panic. Instead, continue looking and steering in the direction you want the truck to go without slamming on your brakes. This will help you regain control.
Use Wipers and Headlights:
It might seem obvious, but it does not hurt to remind you to always turn on your headlights and wipers in rainy conditions. It is important that you can see and be seen by other vehicles on the road.