Every year, 18 wheelers in the U.S. travel enough highway miles to make 3,755,351 trips around the entire earth.
Trucking is year-round and nationwide. Consequently, driving in windy conditions is something most curtainside trailers will experience sooner or later. Windy conditions can be especially dangerous for semi-trucks and without proper care trucks can pose a danger to both the driver and others on the road. Here are seven tips you can keep in mind for staying safe and keeping your cargo intact as well.
1. Don’t Ignore High Winds
During unusually high winds, fast moving trucks can tip over. Slow down and increase your follow distance when there are high winds, especially if you see signs such as “Wind Advisory: High Profile Vehicles.” In certain extreme conditions, stopping and waiting may be necessary.
2. Know the Law
State and national laws govern how trucks can drive in bad weather. In many states, such as Michigan, truck drivers are required by law to reduce their speed by a third if there are hazardous weather conditions. Federal law is similar; According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations, “[e]xtreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised” in the case of hazardous conditions (this can be the wind, or other weather conditions such as snow or ice). The same rule also notes that if the situation becomes too dangerous, drivers need to stop and wait until safe operation of the vehicle is possible.
3. How Heavy is Your Truck?
A loaded truck is weighed down with a high center of gravity and less likely to tip over in high wind conditions; an empty trailer is more susceptible to wind manipulation. If you’re on the fence about whether the conditions are bad enough to warrant slowing down or stopping, keep in mind that a light load will magnify the conditions you’re experiencing.
4. What is Your Sail Area?
Wind has a more dramatic effect on trucks than on other vehicles because of the pressure that develops above, under, and around the moving trailer. The higher your truck’s speed, the greater the wind impact on all these areas. Your sail area is increased by this effect. When your trailer is exposed, it becomes especially vulnerable to wind conditions -- even moderate ones. The consequences of ignoring this phenomenon can be serious -- even deadly.
5. Always Check the Weather
Thanks to the internet, it’s possible to look ahead on your route and know the likely wind conditions for the following day or week. This week for example, Missouri was experiencing 40 mph winds. Know the weather and in severe weather conditions, plan ahead for delays or alternate routes.
6. Get a Pre-Trip Inspection
Invest in a pre-trip inspection, especially during the winter when weather conditions can shift rapidly en route; getting stranded in your vehicle can often be prevented with adequate preparation.
7. Driving Smart
When you’re driving in windy conditions you’re going to want to gear down your transmission; this will give you more power to work with. Navigating in windy conditions means that you may need to lean in if the wind starts to push or pull your truck out of a swerve. Using cruise control is inadvisable during high winds; work the throttle manually so that you can react quickly to changing conditions.
Road safety and careful driving during high winds is important for avoiding an accident and operating within the law. Keep these seven tips in mind the next time you're driving a curtainside trailer.
Curtainsides can help reduce other on-the-job safety hazards. Take a look at our free white paper for more info on curtainside trailer features.