According to America Truck Driving School, “more than 80 percent of US communities depend exclusively on trucking for delivery of their goods and commodities.” Rain or shine, truckers take to the roads to supply the public with necessary resources and keep the economy running effectively. With how important these good are to communities across the country, truckers often have to drive through treacherous weather patterns to promptly reach their destinations. As you’re busy preparing your semi-trucks for summer conditions, keep in mind that you could have more to account for more than just the heat. Use these tips for driving a truck in hazardous weather to ensure you’re ready for whatever comes your way.
Heavy and Freezing Rain
Just because it’s warm in one part of the country, doesn’t mean a cold front can’t come through as you’re driving. Rain, especially when it turns into freezing rain, can be one of the most hazardous conditions for a trucker to drive in. As the rain first begins, it washes the roads of the dirt and grime deposited on it while it was dry. This alone can make the roads a bit slick for several minutes. When the rain intensifies, it can lower your visibility and make it difficult for you to see incidents far enough in advance for you to efficiently respond.
In colder climates, rain then has the potential to freeze as it hits the ground, adding an extra layer of danger to your trip. Not only does freezing rain reduce your visibility, but it also creates patches of black ice on the roadways. In conditions this unpredictable, it’s recommended that you slow down to about a two-thirds your current speed and continuously monitor your mirrors. But the safest method is to pull over and wait until the rain slows.
Heavy Snow and Ice
When winter inevitably rolls around, truckers still have to set out on cross-country hauls. Unexpected ice and snowstorms can generate slick road conditions and even leave you stuck if the truck’s tires are unable to contact the pavement. It’s for these reasons that you should take special care in preparing for winter hauls.
If checking the forecast shows a chance for snow along your route, it’s important that you pack tire chains to assist you in maintaining traction on snow-covered surfaces. You should also slow your speed considerably—shoot for about half or less than your normal pace and leave extra space between you and every other driver on the road. Additionally, you might find that you need to pull over; you may even get stuck in the piling snow. To prepare for these situations, be sure to pack several sets of warm clothing, food and water for several days, and an emergency kit.
Though many drivers consider lighting strikes to be an uncommon occurrence, they still pose a danger for those out on the open roads. Commercial truck drivers, in particular, need to be careful as their trucks are typically the largest metal objects in the immediate vicinity. This can draw the electricity in the air and raise the odds that lightning will strike the vehicle.
If you notice frequent lightning in the area, it’s often best to pull over and wait until it passes. This will protect you from possible injury as well as safeguard the vehicle from expensive electrical damage. It’s also important to note that fuel sources can catch fire when exposed to open electricity. So, if you decide to park in a truck stop, be sure you do so away from the pumps to further protect yourself.
While we may not view a breeze as being dangerous, part of driving a truck in hazardous weather is monitoring how fast the winds are blowing in a given location. Winds that are too strong can begin pushing up against the side of the vehicle and make it more difficult for the driver to maintain control. This is especially true for semi-trucks as their trailers have more surface area for the wind to effect. In addition, crosswinds can become so cold that they can cause ice to form on wet surfaces.
When you come across strong winds while on the road, it’s often best to slow down to maintain as much control of the vehicle as possible. If the winds persist and make the drive increasingly difficult, consider pulling over until they die down.
Out in the desert regions of the country, the dry and sunny climate increase your chances of running into a dust storm or two. Unlike a thunderstorm, dust storms are considerably harder to predict and harder to drive through once you’re caught in one. The coarse sand can begin to erode a vehicle’s mechanical parts as you travel through it. Additionally, the reduced visibility makes it difficult to know if there are other cars around you.
It’s recommended that you pull over, keep your windows shut tight, and turn off the engine as the storm passes. This will keep you safe as well as limit the amount of dust getting into the vehicle’s engine.
High temperatures can cause significant wear on a vehicle. Semi-trucks are the most affected due to how often they’re used in the heat and how long they remain running during pique-heat hours. From melting the rubber on the tires to overheating the engine, prolonged heat exposure can cause a semi to break down on the side of the road if you aren’t careful.
To protect your truck from the brunt of the heat, consider stopping for frequent breaks during the hottest parts of the day. If you can, park in areas with ample shade and keep the engine off for several minutes. This will give it time to cool down before you need to leave again.
The cold can be just as damaging as the heat. Low temperatures can make metal materials brittle, increasing the risk that they will break while in use. Similar to the heat, the cold can also put additional strain on the engine and cause it to break down when you least expect it.
Since cold engines have a harder time starting, it’s crucial that you run it frequently to ensure that you can still turn it on. Engines that sit idle in the cold can freeze, keeping it from starting when you need it to. It’s also important to check the truck’s levels of anti-freeze to ensure that there’s enough to keep the mechanical parts from freezing and breaking in low temperatures.
To keep yourself (and other drivers) safe in these hazardous conditions, you’ll want to equip your truck with the proper equipment. Specifically, it’s important that your truck’s mirrors and lights are in pique condition. Whether it’s Mack Ch 90 headlights or Freightliner Cascadia mirrors, Unitruck has the inventory to assist you in whatever you need.