Driving big rigs safely in high winds

It’s hurricane season once again in the Sunshine State, and that means that it’s likely there will be some big rigs out there on the roads battling high winds. Below are tips for truckers to employ when it gets gusty.

The smartest course of action is to park your rig when the wind speed picks up dangerously, but practically speaking, this isn’t always possible. Stay abreast of weather conditions and warnings, and plan your route accordingly whenever possible.

Even if you haven’t heard weather warnings on the radio, pay attention to environmental cues like waving flags or rising smoke columns that can alert truckers to wind direction and strength. Seeing swirling debris tumbling down the road is another sign that gusts are present. Slow your speed to reduce risk of tipping or jackknifing.

Florida is a long state, and a trucker that takes on a load in Miami can encounter many different weather events on a long drive up to Tallahassee, so it’s a good idea to remain aware of the weather conditions where you are headed before you get there. Get on your CB and ask other drivers what to expect weather-wise a couple of hundred miles up the road.

When thunderstorms hit, powerful downdrafts of cooler air hit the highway and then spread out, making semis sway back and forth and struggle to stay in their lanes. The weight of the load affects a truck’s center of gravity. Cumbersome loads with high centers of gravity can cause an 18-wheeler to tip over in a windstorm.

A big rig weighs in at up to 40,000 lbs. standing empty. Fully freighted, it can weigh up to 70,000. That’s a lot of weight to maneuver in 40-knot crosswinds. It can be impossible to maintain control of a large truck in a driving rainstorm with gusty winds buffeting it from all sides. Know when it is wisest to pull over and park to avoid being a danger to yourself and others sharing the highway.

Motorists who are involved in crashes with commercial trucks can suffer catastrophic injuries. Pursuing legal claims against at-fault truck drivers and fleet owners may be necessary to cover medical bills and receive compensation for pain and suffering.

Source: Overdrive, “High-wind hauling,” accessed June 24, 2015