4 Tips for Driving 18-Wheelers in Risky, ‘Too-Fast’ ConditionsJanuary 7, 2020
Nearly 1 in 4 commercial truck accidents occurs because drivers go too fast for the conditions present.1 That doesn’t always mean truckers are speeding. It means they haven’t adjusted their speed to account for poor weather or road conditions and that perhaps the company has not trained them on the literature pertaining to adverse weather conditions.
Whenever truckers face too-fast conditions behind the wheel, here’s what they can do to stay safe, maintain control of their trucks, and avoid wrecks.
1. Slow down whenever weather and road conditions are poor.
Adverse weather—like rain, sleet, ice, and snow—make it hard to see while making the roads slick. That’s why poor weather plays a role in about 25% of fatal truck wrecks.
So, whenever you’re driving in bad weather:
- Cut your speed by 1/3 when the roads are wet.
- Cut your speed in half on icy or snowy roads.
- Pull off the road if you cannot safely control the truck on icy or slick roads.
- Do NOT use retarder or “Jake” brake on slick or wet roads.
2. Slow down when approaching curves, on-ramps & off-ramps
About 2 in 5 deadly truck wrecks that involve speeding happen on curves, and about 20 to 30% of all truck accidents happen by or on on-ramps and off-ramps (which are often curve).
To safely drive through curves, on-ramps, and off-ramps in commercial truck, it’s important to remember that:
- Posted speed limits are for passenger vehicles, not commercial vehicles.
- Following the posted speed limits at curves and on-ramps/off-ramps can cause rollovers because trucks have a higher center of gravity (than passenger vehicles).
- Stepping on the brakes mid-curve can lock up the wheels and cause trucks to skid.
So, as you approach a curve or ramp, take it slower than the posted speed limit. Reduce your speed even more if you’re carrying a loaded trailer or the roadway has any kind of slope to it.
3. Drive slower in and around highway work zones.
Trucks are involved in nearly 25% of all deadly work zone accidents. So, when you see “Road Work Ahead” or “Road Construction Ahead” signs:
- Slow down.
- Merge well before the work zone area.
- Stay alert and pay attention to all signs.
- Be prepared to slow or stop at any moment in the work zone.
4. Drive slower when transporting a full trailer.
Loaded trailers can change a truck’s center of gravity, especially if the cargo shifts as a truck’s speed changes. In fact, loaded trailers are:
- More difficult to maneuver and stop than empty trailers and passenger vehicles: Fully loaded trucks need 20 to 40% more stopping distance.
- More prone to rollovers: Fully loaded trucks are about 10 times more likely to be involved in rollover accidents, when compared to trucks with empty trailers.
So, reduce your speed whenever you’re transporting a fully loaded trailer.
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1: According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA); all statistics cited in this blog have been sourced from the FMCSA.