Preparing For All Types Of Driving Conditions
As a trucker you don’t have the luxury of working indoors or choosing the days you work and drive. You have to be willing to haul that freight regardless of the road conditions, the weather, or the threat of impending storms. That doesn’t mean you will put your life at risk, but it may mean that you have to drive in conditions when you would rather have the option to pull over.
One of the biggest mistakes that many new truckers make is assuming that driving a truck is driving a truck, regardless of what the road and weather conditions may be. In fact, it is only with years of experience that you develop that keen sense of the road that allows you to adjust your driving style, speed and even following distance to ensure that you are as safe as possible. Unfortunately many drivers learn this the hard way only after an accident or putting their truck in the ditch.
Weather Shouldn’t Be A Surprise
While ten or twenty years ago it was almost impossible to keep on top of the weather conditions ahead of you on your route; this is certainly no longer the case. Cell phone signals are still a challenge in some areas of the country, but these dead zones are getting fewer and much farther in between.
If you don’t already have a couple of the good trucker apps for weather conditions you really need to do a bit of downloading. The Weather Channel is a good option as are WeatherBug and AccuWeather. There are several other trucker specific apps that include both road conditions, truck stop information and current weather conditions. These apps, or comparable options, are available for free or very low cost for all types of smartphones and devices including iPhones and iPads and android phones and tablets.
The National Weather Service provides a handy map and weather information site that is available free of charge on the internet. You have to manually click on your location while apps on a smartphone or tablet can use the phone location or GPS to pinpoint your exact location.
Plan For The Worst
Whether you are driving in rain, snow, ice or extremely windy or stormy conditions it is a good idea to have a few basic supplies in your truck. This will allow you to pull over and wait until conditions get better if the road is not safe to travel. You should have some bottled water, non-perishable food items and blankets as well as clothing to venture outside the truck if necessary. A heavy coat, rain slicker or coat, boots and gloves as well as a warm hat are usually enough to get you through most conditions. Always carry a few extra pairs of socks and gloves so you can change out if they become wet.
Always have a good rechargeable flashlight fully charged or have one complete set of new spare batteries. Other essentials to carry include a battery operated radio or a NOAA weather radio which will not only provide you with weather information but also with all emergency information and hazards.
Road flares should be a standard in your kit as well as signs to alert drivers that you are pulled over ahead.
Driving The Mountains
For many drivers their first mountain route is a thing to be remembered, and not just for the amazing scenery. Driving in the mountains requires a lot of attention, pre-checks for the brakes, and a clear understanding of where runaway ramps are located. You also have to place close attention to the signs on the road that provide information on the downhill grade that will allow you to gear down appropriately.
You also have to drive the mountains with the understanding that curves may be very sharp and switchbacks are common. Choosing an appropriate speed as well as slowing down well before curves and switchbacks will be essential to getting through the mountains safely.
One of the biggest mistakes that truckers make when they are new to driving the mountains is to ride the brakes all the way on the downside. This is a dangerous driving technique that can literally burn out your brakes and leave you in wreck at the bottom of the slope. Instead, gear down and use the engine retarder or Jake brake to control your speed. Only use the foot brake when necessary. If you do have to use the brakes pull over at a brake check point and allow the brakes to cool before heading down again.
There is an old saying to keep in mind that is still true today “You can take a grade too slowly a million times, but you can only take it too fast once.”
The Most Important Factor
The most important factor is to not try to drive in condition where you don’t think you can handle the rig. Just trying to drive through when you aren’t sure what to do if there is a problem is a sure way to be involved in an accident. Call a trucker you trust or, even better, have an experienced driver ride with you on the first trip in locations where the weather or road conditions are different than you are used to driving.