The Impact of Winter Storms on Truckers
Since March 2020, truck drivers have been recognized as crucial frontline workers. They need to get their loads to their destinations on time now more than ever. Winter storms can slow this process, affecting truckers and everyone along the supply chain that counts on them.
Accidents Are More Likely During Bad Weather
Winter can be a frustrating time for truckers. While these professionals have experience driving in winter conditions, other drivers are not as capable. As a result, truckers must be even more aware of other ill-prepared drivers that share the roads with them. Accidents during winter storms happen all the time. It is easy to slide on ice and drift into a different lane or a snowdrift. If, as either a truck driver or a driver of a passenger vehicle, you are in an accident during a winter storm, you should consult with a trucking accident attorney to represent you.
Several Elements Impact Truckers During Inclement Weather
Some of the factors that affect truckers during winter storms include:
- Chain laws. Truckers need to know when chain laws are in effect and be aware of those areas that require truckers to put chains on their tires. Putting chains on their trucks can be time-consuming and dangerous as truckers are exposed to traffic during the process. When chains are required, which, in some states, is when the roads are just slippery, a truck cannot drive faster than 30 to 40 miles per hour. This will slow the surrounding traffic. Since in many states, the signs for chain laws are displayed where everyone can see them, passenger vehicles should be aware of the slower traffic factor.
There are specific parking areas on the side of the road wide enough for truckers to chain up safely. There are also restrictions on areas where such parking is allowed. If you are a trucker and choose not to chain up, pull safely off the highway, find a truck stop or other location to park, and stand down until the weather conditions are clearly safe.
- Road conditions. The greatest challenge during a winter storm is the roads that truckers are driving on. Winter storms bring ice on roads and snowdrifts. Truckers need to drive slower in adverse conditions and remain aware of passenger vehicles they share the road with.
Winter storms can leave extended snowdrifts on the side of the road. If a trucker loses control of his or her truck, he or she can easily slide into a snowdrift. Other drivers might also slide on ice and inadvertently travel into the trucker’s lane. Whether you are a trucker or driving a passenger vehicle, if you are in an accident due to icy roads and other unexpected conditions, you need to call a trucking accident attorney.
- Visibility. During a significant winter storm, truckers must drive through times of heavy snow, sleet and fog. All three of these conditions can lead to low visibility. Reduced visibility renders a trucker helpless against some of the adverse road conditions, such as icy patches and snowdrifts. Lower visibility also affects how much a trucker can see other vehicles on the road.
- High winds. High winds are often part of winter storms. Eighteen-wheelers are high-profile vehicles. It does not take much for a strong gust of wind to turn an entire rig on its side or for a truck to jackknife. A truck that is disabled by either being turned over or jackknifing can easily be hit by other vehicles in their efforts to avoid the obstruction in the road.
- Delays. It is more challenging to keep a schedule during a winter storm. Delays due to the storm itself and road closures can affect how long it takes a trucker to drive his or her route. It is not unheard of for roads to close with little to no notice. Sometimes, these closures will immobilize a trucker overnight. There are times when a trucker may find him or herself forced to stand down for more than a day. The delays caused by road closures affect his or her time on the road and jeopardize a trucker’s income.
- Loss of income. Winter storms can prove costly to truckers. If they are delayed on their run, they may start seeing smaller paychecks. Scheduling changes by their employers can also cause some of their routes to be canceled. If a major storm is expected, the National Weather Service and the Department of Transportation will put out advance warnings. This allows both the truckers and their employers to plan for any expected upcoming road closures.
- Other drivers. One of the biggest challenges that truckers experience during a winter storm is the erratic driving of other drivers on the road. Many drivers in passenger vehicles are inexperienced with winter driving. Those drivers may be so focused on their own winter storm issues that they are not aware of the trucks sharing the road with them. Truckers need more room to brake, turn and change lanes. Having to adjust any of these actions due to other drivers’ behaviors can be dangerous for the truckers and the other drivers alike.
How to Stay Safe During a Winter Storm
Driving during a winter storm can cause numerous problems. Truck drivers should always monitor the weather so that they can be prepared. When you see freezing rain, you know that the next thing you will see is patches of black ice. Get off the road until conditions look more favorable. It is always best to find your nearest rest area instead of pulling to the side of the road.
If possible, and if there is enough of a prediction, you should stay off the roads altogether. There are too many things that can go wrong. Over the years, some storms will be bad enough that the alerts of when not to drive due to the weather will come long before you are ready to leave. The authorities will not hesitate to shut down roads if the conditions are too dangerous. If a route is closed, you will want to head to your nearest rest area, truck stop or hotel to seek shelter until the roads are, once again, opened.
Overall Impact of Severe Weather on the Trucking Industry
Winter storms are costly for the transportation industry. When storms are predicted, your parent company will do its best to reschedule deliveries, not endanger its truckers or the products they are delivering. Some winter storms have cost the industry upwards of $100 million per day in inventory losses, damage to vehicles and delays. Employers carry insurance to protect their customers and their drivers.
What to Do in Case of an Accident During a Winter Storm
If you are involved in an accident during a winter storm, make sure that your first call is to your trucking accident attorney to guide you through the next steps you need to take. They will help you with the police and insurance reports related to the accident as well as advise you about your medical options if you are injured. If you are a trucker and you believe that you were sent out on a route too dangerous for travel, you may want to talk to a trucking accident attorney for relief that is due to you from your employer. Contact one of the experienced truck accident lawyers at RAM Law by calling (732) 394-1549. We have offices in New Brunswick and Somerville.