From a steady, light drizzle to heavy downpours, spring rainstorms can be dangerous even to experienced truck drivers. Spring weather can change rapidly, so even with proper preparation truck drivers will often find themselves in the midst of the storm during their route. Below are commonly known safety precautions for driving in rain to use as a refresher. Now is the best time to ensure you are adequately prepared for driving in rainy conditions. Here are some driving tips for rainy weather.
Take Your Time:
Proper speed and space management is imperative during unfavorable spring weather. Truck and trailer rigs take time to accelerate and slow down, this is especially true during spring rainstorms. Cautiously braking, potentially slippery roads, flooding, and visibility issues all factor into the amount of space needed to avoid accidents. A good rule of thumb is to lower your miles per hour by 10 or more, depending on visibility.
Steer Clear of Using Cruise Control:
Using cruise control during unfavorable road conditions can lead to higher risks of hydroplaning. Hydroplaning is a situation that negates a drivers ability to control their vehicle due to the lack of road traction. Instead of gripping the road to move the vehicle, the tires are traveling on a layer of water on top of the road’s surface. Not only does hydroplaning decrease your capabilities of braking, but it also reduces the ability to steer the vehicle.
Increase Your Following Distance:
Wet pavement can reduce road traction and cause difficulties in vehicle control. This is even more so with the additional weight of a loaded truck and trailer. Staying safe during spring rainstorms is dependent on switching defensive driving into a higher gear. Similar to icy roads, braking slowly and keeping additional driving distance from other vehicles is crucial to avoid accidents. Regardless if you have a load or not, sudden braking can cause the wheels to lock up - potentially leading to loss of vehicle control. Furthermore, if other vehicles in front of you brake unexpectedly, the extra distance allows more time to safely react.
Switch on Headlights:
Headlights serve two purposes- improves your driving visibility and increases the visibility of your vehicle to other drivers. Both of these functions are incredibly important during rainy conditions, regardless if it’s only drizzling or downpouring.
Stay on Paved Surfaces:
Limited visibility can make it hard to determine the condition of soft ground beyond the pavement. Try to steer clear of driving or parking off of paved surfaces as much as possible. This will help prevent delays or repairs if the truck or trailer becomes stuck in mud.
Be Alert and Steer Clear of Potholes:
Keep an eye out for puddles and standing water. Both can be deceiving and could be covering soft ground or potholes. Potholes become a serious problem in spring. Due to snowplows, salt, and harsh winter weather, potholes are left and can grow to huge sizes. Remote areas are particularly dangerous for truck driving because it can take several months before these holes are found and fixed. So drive slow or avoid the potholes as much as you can. Otherwise, this may lead to significant damage underneath the truck.
Wait for Conditions to Improve:
If conditions are too treacherous and visibility is an issue, it is better to wait at a truck stop and wait for the storm to pass.
Along with the rain, spring weather also brings challenging, strong wind gusts. Again, defensive driving and situational awareness is of critical importance while driving when windy safety on the road.
Change Your Driving Habits to be More Adaptable
Similar to rainy weather, proper speed and space management is necessary to protect yourself and other drivers. Using a firm grip with both hands will help to prevent wind gusts from pushing you into the other lane. Your attentiveness to the road and other drivers will also help you feel the truck moving in the wind. This helps to form a sense of when to make steering adjustments as needed.
An Important Note: Your Load Size
Keep in mind a light load or empty trailer is significantly easier for wind gusts to move around. Before hitting the road, knowing your load weight and driving conditions will help you be better prepared for windy challenges.
Seasonal changes create perfect conditions for heavy, thick fog during the early morning or evening hours. While there are occasional foggy conditions during other times of the day, fog often forms in the early morning or evening. Low visibility from fog can develop into a serious hazard for truck drivers and other drivers. Rather than driving through it, try to wait until it dissipates. If fog rolls in during your route, here are a few safety precautions to keep you safe on the road. When driving under low-visibility conditions due to fog you should:
Avoid Parking on the Shoulder:
Fog can significantly reduce a driver's visibility, including noticing anyone parked on the shoulder. Rather than stopping on the side of the road, it's recommended to cautiously continue to a safe parking area. If your situation calls for the absolute necessity of stopping before finding a safe area, make sure your hazard flashers are switched on. (This is one of the lights to check in preparation for heading out on a route.)
Slow down and Increase Visibility:
Fog lights and low-beam headlights are vital tools for improving your visibility. Regardless if the fog forms during the night or day, these lights should be used in foggy conditions. Even if they don’t seem to improve your visibility levels, they can alert other drivers to your presence. Four-way flashers should also be used to warn others as they are especially helpful to drivers coming up from behind. Always be wary of other drivers who may have neglected to turn on their lights. Limited visibility from fog will also affect your reaction time. Give yourself plenty of time to safely react to other drivers and unexpected situations by driving slower.
Use Roadside Highway Reflectors for Guidance and Watch for Vehicles Parked on the Shoulder
Limited visibility in foggy conditions can make driving much more difficult simply from directional changes of a road. Headlights and fog lights will help catch the roadside highway reflectors to guide you through directional changes. Watching or following taillights of the vehicles ahead of you can easily lead to driving off the road. The road may have curved multiple times or the other driver is disoriented and already drove off the road.
You can check your position on the road from the dotted white and solid yellow lines of the road lane. However, focusing those lines can limit your field of view, keeping you from noticing vehicles parked on the shoulder.
Avoid Changing Lanes or Passing Others
Never try to pass a vehicle during foggy conditions! There could be various obstacles covered by the fog which can make it seem clear of traffic such as:
- Thicker patch of fog
- A driver who forgot to turn on their lights
Even with deadlines and driving limits, try to be patient with other drivers who may be inexperienced or uncomfortable with driving faster.
Remaining patient, calm and alert, as well as being prepared for possible spring conditions will be the key to safety on the road. Being away from home is never easy, especially when the weather takes a turn for the worse. At Williams Logistics, we work to ensure our drivers are equipped and safely prepared for whatever spring weather throws at us. Learn more about our career opportunities and fantastic team members today!
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Adverse Driving Conditions Exception, allows an extension on driving time-limits. This allows truck drivers to drive up to 13 hours vs 11 hours during a shift. However, this extension for adverse weather doesn’t apply to driving time limits beyond the current 60 hr/7 days and 70 hr/8 days limits. Furthermore adverse driving conditions covers situations like:
- Development of fog
- severe weather
- Ice accumulation on roads
- Car crash blocking the highway
It doesn’t cover conditions such as congested traffic during typical “rush hour” periods. If you experience an adverse driving condition, it will need to be noted on your log with details about the condition.