by Pride Transport | Apr 10, 2023
Snow storms in Southern California, tornados in Midwest winters, heat waves in the rainy Pacific Northwest — it’s hard to deny that we’re experiencing more unpredictable weather. Every season brings different weather-related challenges, and truck drivers need to keep an eye on the forecast in order to be prepared for any situation.
It’s better to be prepared with the right information, technological tools, and in-cab equipment than to search for solutions when driving in bad weather. We’ll help you create your contingency plans so you can handle whatever comes your way.
Challenges Presented by Bad Weather
Bad weather does more than dampen your day. Slippery roads, wind gusts, fog, and precipitation all contribute to dangerous driving conditions. But the challenges aren’t just limited to what goes on with your truck. Everyone else traveling along your route has to contend with the conditions, too, and you can’t count on every other driver knowing how to drive safely.
Depending on the bad weather you run into, you’ll need a plan that takes these factors into account:
- Traveling speed
- Traffic jams and delays
- Closed roadways
- Potential for accidents
Before we get into making plans for driving in every type of weather, let's first review how you can prepare even before bad weather strikes.
How to Prepare for Bad Weather (Before It Happens)
Before you’re even in the cab, there are a lot of ways to prepare for the possibility of bad weather.
- In addition to the essential gear to always keep in your cab, pack extra items in case you get stuck somewhere in less-than ideal conditions. Rain gear (jacket, boots, or even a poncho will do), extra gloves, hand warmers, collapsible shovel, and sand or salt can all come in handy in a weather emergency. (And if you take medication, it’s smart to pack a couple of extra days worth in case your trip is extended due to inclement weather.)
- Reliable weather and traffic apps can help in your planning. See if the states you’re driving through have 511 apps to receive real-time traffic updates and route notifications. You can also be notified of reroutes or road closures so you’re not surprised mid-trip.
- Knowing how the weather looks is good, but knowing how the weather affects the route is also important. Check the weather forecast at major stops along your intended route. Some popular weather apps include the Windy app, MyRadar, and AccuWeather.
- Complete a pre-trip inspection before setting off on your next route. It’s also a good idea to regularly check in with the maintenance department, make sure you understand safety features, and even double-check that the wiper blades are in good condition.
How to Drive Safely in Different Weather Conditions
So you checked the forecast, planned your route, and started driving…but then the bad weather hits. Here’s what to do when storm clouds (or fog or wind) roll in.
Don’t use cruise control in heavy rains or any weather that results in slippery road conditions. You need to be able to drive slowly and brake safely, and cruise control doesn’t give you the best feel for the road. Turn on your headlights, windshield wipers, and defroster to keep windows clear.
Driving in snow follows many of the same guidelines as driving in heavy rain. Give yourself ample time to brake slowly and allow for more room between your truck and other vehicles. Be especially careful on bridges and overpasses — they freeze more quickly and can gather ice before the rest of the road does.
Snow is easy to see, but ice is hard to spot. Black ice is especially dangerous because it usually just looks like a wet road, when it’s really a thin layer of ice. Don’t take any chances if the temperature is close to freezing: slow way down, be extra cautious on bridges, and look for ice build-up on trees or mirrors to better assess your risk.
You might instinctively turn on your headlights, but it’s actually better to turn on low-beams in fog. Look for the safest place to pull over and wait out thick fog if visibility is severely limited. A designated rest stop is ideal, but if you must pull over on the road, look for a wide enough shoulder, turn on your hazards and proceed with caution.
Even without precipitation, wind comes with a lot of danger. Carrying some weight in your trailer is ideal for helping to prevent swaying or a possible rollover in sustained high winds or gusts. If that’s not in the cards, you can still be safe. Look at the road about 15 seconds ahead of you and continually scan the horizon for objects that could become airborne. Hold tight to the steering wheel, but not so tight that you overcorrect in gusty winds.
Tips that apply in all inclement weather
Keep these best practices in mind for consistently safe driving.
Maintain visibility: Use your windshield wipers, headlights (or low beams in foggy conditions), and defroster to maintain the clearest line of vision possible.
Brake safely: While you should always brake safely, brake much more slowly when driving in bad weather. Sudden deceleration can lead to loss of traction on wet pavement. Trucks take longer to safely stop than other vehicles on the road, so maintain a following distance that allows for even more room than usual.
Turn safely: The biggest risk when turning is losing traction, so slow your speed when approaching the turn (and remember, no cruise control!), then slow down even more when making the turn. The goal is to do everything in a controlled manner to prevent you from losing touch with the road, swaying, or rolling over.
How to Handle Emergencies
There are certain weather events you can’t try to drive through. Remember: no delivery is worth risking your life over. Be prepared for some of the worst weather with these tips.
- Some thunderstorms and snow storms are so severe that maintaining visibility is nearly impossible. If you can’t see, pull over at the first safe place. Don’t try to fight through; you could easily lose sense of direction and drive off the road.
- If snow turns into a blizzard, use a shovel to clear snow away from the exhaust pipe. Once you’re back in the cab, open a window slightly for ventilation. Limit the amount of time your engine runs.
- If a roadway appears to be flooded, find an alternate route — never drive through! You can’t spot hazards, and the water might move fast enough to sweep you off the road.
- Even if you travel with a mobile device, make your radio part of your communications plan. You may need to contact emergency services or your dispatcher, and you can’t always rely on cell service or having a fully-charged phone.
Communicating With Dispatchers and Customers
Logistical changes affect everyone (including dispatchers, drivers, and customers), so it’s key to be proactive. Even if you can’t control the weather, take control of the situation with a communication strategy.
Call your dispatcher if you’re delayed due to weather for the foreseeable future. If you can’t reach them right away with a call, they might be able to respond to an email or text message more quickly.
Make a plan with the dispatcher for how and when you’ll complete your delivery. The dispatcher can create a timeline with the customer to reschedule their delivery. The sooner you communicate with your dispatcher, the sooner they can contact the customer.
Safe driving is important even in the best weather, but a professional driver is prepared for every weather condition. At Pride Transport, we’re committed to making sure every freight delivery is a safe one. Our drivers receive safety training and every Pride vehicle is equipped with advanced safety systems. Check out our open driver positions and non-driver opportunities today!