Winter Storm Diego flooded parts of California last week. It dumped rain and snow across Texas, breaking snowfall records in several cities. As it moved over the Appalachian mountains, the snow and ice knocked out power for about 300,000 people, and in some areas, left nearly two feet of snow.
There were more than 700 winter storm crashes reported in North Carolina alone. One semi-truck driver lost control and the tractor-trailer went off the highway and into a river. Truckers reported being stranded in their 18-wheelers, unable to traverse the snow and ice.
Winter Storm Diego is unusual because it is effecting areas that are not prepared to manage a serious snowfall. While this storm’s snow and rain didn’t affect us in the Pacific Northwest, we can take heed of the lessons learned across the U.S.
How experienced truckers avoid a winter storm crash
Even for experienced truckers, driving a tractor-trailer through snow and ice requires skill, experience and concentration. But truck drivers are trained to handle a big rig in snow and ice, and crashes are preventable.
Smart-Trucking.com published a list of 15 Essential Winter Trucking Safety Tips; here are a few.
Driving in bad weather, especially in snow and on ice, is risky due to more ‘ stop time’ required, poor visibility, poor traction and the increased unpredictability of other drivers on the road.
Reducing speed. Driving too fast for weather conditions contributes to many of the semi-truck crashes that occur in the winter.
Increasing following distance. The heavier the load, the greater the stopping distance. Following too closely on wet roads means a trucker doesn’t have proper braking distance. An experienced trucker knows to leave an extended buffer space to avoid a winter storm crash.
Knowing when – and where – to pull over. Commercial truck drivers shouldn’t stop on the side of highway in low visibility situations. “…Other vehicles can mistake your position for being on the road and as a result, may slam into the back of your rig.”
Keeping the lights clear. Truckers should clear snow and ice off their headlights and tailights every time they stop, so they can see and be seen more clearly.
Preparing for the weather conditions. How many inexperienced truckers got stuck in Winter Storm Diego because they were unprepared for snow and ice? Even in areas that don’t usually see much winter weather, a semi-truck should be “equipped with necessary supplies and outfitted for all driving conditions.”
Even when bad weather is a factor, it’s possible for a truck driver to avoid a winter storm crash. Know the type of weather you are likely to encounter, be prepared and responsible for your actions.
Most crashes are preventable.
That’s why we say “truck crash” instead of “truck accident” – and you should, too.