Safety Tips for Driving a Semi-Truck in High Winds
Semi-Trucks and Bad Weather
Michigan drivers are more aware than most of the hazards of driving in bad weather. Icy roads, slippery slush, pouring rain, and high winds are all a part of living in our beautiful state. But these conditions can pose a real danger, especially for those operating large vehicles like semi-trucks and the drivers that share the road with them. Though bad weather almost never directly causes an accident, it can make one more likely to occur. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, around 21% of auto-accidents nationwide are weather-related. These accidents lead to nearly 5,000 deaths and over 418,000 injuries each year. All drivers have a duty to take precautions during hazardous weather conditions.
Trucks, because of their size, are particularly dangerous and their drivers must remain vigilant in order to protect themselves and others. In 2019, the FMCSA found that 82% of fatalities in truck accidents were not occupants of the truck. Trucks are an essential part of our country’s infrastructure, but they are not without their dangers. It is the responsibility of truckers to mitigate as much damage as possible by driving safely, especially in bad weather.
What Makes High Wind Conditions So Dangerous for Semi-Trucks?
While high winds can be hazardous for any vehicle, they effect trucks much more strongly than they do smaller vehicles. Trucks and their trailers have a larger surface area on their sides than a car does and therefore have more room to catch the wind. This surface area is often referred to as the truck’s “sail area” because it undergoes the same effect that powers sail boats when the wind hits it. The force of a gust of wind against a trailer can radically shift its position or even tip the truck. Tipping and rolling over is incredibly dangerous to the truck, its driver, and to surrounding vehicles. Truck drivers should always be aware of their vehicle’s sail area and how the wind will impact their specific vehicle in order to stay as safe as possible on the roads.
High Winds and Negligence
It is the responsibility of truck drivers and companies to employ safe practices in bad weather conditions, including high winds. Truckers have a duty to keep themselves and other drivers safe by slowing down or pulling over in unsafe conditions. Employer support through continuous training can also help ensure truckers know the best way to respond to dangerous weather. Truck companies must also be mindful of weather conditions when planning routes and interacting with their employees through dispatch. If a truck company neglects their responsibility to ensure their drivers are operating safely in high winds or other dangerous weather conditions, they could potentially be liable for negligence.
FMCSA regulations require drivers to exercise “extreme caution” in hazardous weather conditions. This includes reducing speed and even pulling over, if possible, when conditions are “sufficiently dangerous.” These practices protect truck drivers, their cargo, and other motorists. Truck accidents are often the most catastrophic type of on-road collisions and truckers have an obligation to do everything they can to prevent them.
Tips for Driving in High Winds
- Make sure you perform a pre-trip inspection to FMCSA standards. Inspection is required before every drive and can help ensure that the vehicle is in a safe, drivable condition and that the cargo is properly secured.
- Secure all doors. During pre-trip inspection, drivers should take extra care to close and secure any doors and to tie down any loose items.
- Check the weather. Being mentally and logistically prepared for high wind conditions is one of your best defenses.
- Know your vehicle’s sail area. Different trucks are built differently. The wind will hit trailers with larger surface areas harder.
- Understand how load size and wind interact. Empty and light trailers are easier to move than heavy ones and are thus more dangerous to drive in high wind conditions.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Certain areas like bridges are especially dangerous in the wind. Signage can help indicate when you are about to enter an area susceptible to gusts of high wind. Taking an alternate route to avoid areas that are known to be dangerous is often a wise course of action.
- Take the wind seriously. Winds are much more dangerous to trucks than other vehicles because of their surface area. Conditions that are safe for smaller vehicles may not be safe for trucks.
- Pull over when necessary. Driving in unsafe conditions—from wind or otherwise—is simply not worth the risk. Stopping or slowing down can save lives.
Were You Injured in a Michigan Truck Accident Involving High Winds? We Can Help!
At the Mike Morse Law Firm, our expert attorneys understand how confusing and painful truck accidents can be, especially when it seems to be the fault of the weather. But truck drivers and truck companies have an obligation to remain vigilant and ensure the safety of those around them. Our lawyers can help you understand your rights after an accident. Call 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) or visit our contact page to set up a free consultation.