While winter may bring joy and excitement to others for skiing and vacation, not for the truckers. Logistics records reported that truckers are a lot busier in the winter. As temperatures continuously drop, the demand for goods to be transported escalates.
Before and after the holiday season, businesses shift to more demands for goods, highlighting 1.7 percent in for-hire transportation. While it may be good for commerce, the winter brings large effects to the trucking industry. This is true most especially to the heavy hauler equipment and to the safety of truck drivers on the road.
Commercial Motor Vehicles (CVM) are one of the most affected vehicles that greatly suffer from road operations due to weather conditions brought about by winter. According to US Department of Transportation’s Road Weather Management Program report, a number of crashes and fatalities are weather-related in winter.
During winter, 15% of crashes occur during snow or sleet, 13% crashes occur on icy pavement and 11% weather-related crashes take place on snowy or slushy pavement. These crashes also constitute to up to 225,000 crashes, 70,900 injuries and 870 persons killed due to snow or sleet.
Aside from crashes and fatalities, the winter season brings more issues that greatly call the trucking industries’ attention. Here are several impacts of the winter season to truckers.
Impacts of Winter to Truckers
- Accumulation of snow can collapse an infrastructure making it dangerous to truckers on the cities and roads. During truck stops, the truck may accumulate much snow which can immobilize the whole equipment making it difficult for repairs and mobility on the road. Immobility is inevitable whenever the truck is exposed to ice combined with salt and other chemicals that damage those that maintain safe driving.
- Extreme cold, ice storm, and heavy snow storm can paralyze all roads and transportation as a whole.
- Damage to transportation equipment like heavy haul trucks is inevitable, so as with the truck drivers’ safety.
- Winter storms accompanied with strong winds create blizzard with wind–driven snow, causing low visibility on the road. It might be difficult for drivers to spot knocked out trees, utility poles or even power lines.
- Slow productivity. With the damages on trucks cause by the winter weather, the large amount of repairs to trucks and other equipment can create delays and reduce the efficiency of freight management systems.
- Extreme exposure to freezing cold may bring life-threatening danger to truck drivers. Prolonged exposure may cause frostbites or hypothermia. Elderly drivers are more susceptible to such and must be more cautious.
- With varying conditions of extreme coldness in the United States, even near freezing temperatures are considered extreme freezing. This could immobilize shipping, causing truck drivers to be left stuck where ever they may be on the road.
- Ice storms constituting heavy accumulations of ice can also bring down trees, electric poles, telephone poles and the communication tower, which can also cut available communications. Telephones are one of the most important tools for communication when on the road, but with its stoppage, it may not bring drivers back to safety.
Due to the large number of truck collisions, accidents and the continuous increases of tractor trailer wrecks, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) as created laws that truckers follow while operating their trucks.
As mandated by this FMCSR, “Federal truck regulations require drivers to adjust their truck operation during inclement weather. Hazardous road conditions negatively impact visibility and traction. Drivers are required to slow down regardless of schedule conflicts or cease operation until road conditions improve. Most truck drivers have had little if any training how to operate their trucks in bad weather.”
Also, the United States Code of Federal Regulations [49 C.F.R. §392.14] states, “Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated.”
Due to these impacts of winter, especially with the upcoming big winter storm in the US, truckers are advised of many safety precautionary programs. This is not only for trucks and its drivers, but also for other motorists. Below are some tips that can help truck drivers to safely go through the winter.
Winter Driving Tips for Truck Drivers
- Before going on the road, plan your trip. Planning helps drivers to stay safe and also promotes stress-free truck driving. This includes monitoring the weather by keeping at pace with weather news updates, radio announcements or even updates from the Internet. In addition, proper planning includes gathering of information about the place of travel. Then, prepare your map and pan your trip.
- Conduct a pre-trip inspection. It might be a bit troublesome and time consuming, but conducting a pre-trip inspection becomes necessary and convenient for the driver during the real travel, knowing that the place is a bit familiar.
- Check your equipment before setting off.
- Maintain proper equipment. This should include chaining equipment like chains in different and appropriate sizes, bungees, cam lock T-handles, good and waterproof gloves, reflective vests, flashlights and kneeling pads. Also, personal equipment like boots with good traction, hats, gloves, scarves and extra warm bedding will be necessary. Equipment for trucks like extra washer fluid and anti-gels should be made ready.
- Keep tires properly inflated and brakes in good condition.
- Long haul trucks need a greater time for topping, compared to smaller vehicles. Make sure to maintain enough distance from a motorist ahead together with a roper sped to give you more time for reaction, which may help in avoiding collisions.
- During heavy or slight snow, make some time to stop over and make sure windows, mirrors and exterior lights are always free of snow. Watch out for places where safe parking is allowed.
- When fatigue, unsafe weather conditions and winter effects on the body occur, it is best to spot a place and let the storm subside or get better before moving on. Do not push the truck or yourself too much. Safety should be number one on your list.