In general, there are over 5,891,000 vehicle crashes each year. Approximately 21% of these crashes – nearly 1,235,000 – are weather-related (due to rain, sleet, snow, fog, severe crosswinds, or blowing snow/sand/debris). On average, nearly 5,000 people are killed and over 418,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year. When it comes to the transportation industry, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that of all fatalities on the road, 2.4% nationwide are truck drivers. This is even higher in some states. For example, North Dakota has the highest truck-driver fatalities at 8.8% as a result of the oil boom and the number of truckers in the state. Other states’ high fatality rates are connected more to their inclement weather, as is the case in Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming.
Driving in bad weather, especially in snow and on ice, is risky due to more ‘ stop time’ required, poor visibility, poor traction and the increased unpredictability of other drivers on the road. To help prevent accidents during the winter months, we suggest sharing the following tips with your transportation insureds to help reinforce safety on the road with their drivers:
- Slow down: At-fault accidents are typically a result of speeding. Driving at the speed limit may be legal, but may often be too fast for snow covered or icy road conditions. This rule should ALWAYS be at the top of any winter trucking safety tips list.
- Keep a safe buffer zone around the truck: Leave plenty of room between the vehicle and the vehicle in front of the truck, and beside the truck, whenever possible.
- Don’t travel as part of a pack: Find a safe way to get away from the pack and travel alone, with the goal being to maximize the distance around the vehicle.
- Keep a safe driving distance back from the vehicle ahead, at all times, especially in bad weather.
- Use good, solid judgment: If the weather is so severe you need to find a place to get off the road safely and wait until conditions improve.
- Don’t stop on the shoulder of the road: This is particularly vital in low visibility situations. When driving during the winter, especially in ‘blinding snow’, other vehicles can mistake your position for being on the road and, as a result, may slam into the back of the rig.
- Don’t be a hero: When road conditions are severe, recognize that it’s very dangerous to be out there. Hours of service rules, dispatchers etc. are extra pressures when it’s a difficult, dangerous position. Don’t feel as if you are letting anyone down by not meeting a scheduled appointment.
- Don’t engage the jake brake on icy roads. Try to avoid overusing the foot brake, unless the entire unit is absolutely ‘straight’ on the road. If the entire unit isn’t straight, the trailer can slide and spin you out of position. This is especially true, when the trailer is empty.
- Ensure ‘all systems’ are a go: Be sure the defroster and heater are working properly; check that the wipers, wiper motor, lights, especially brake and tail lights, are functional; top off washer fluid; drain moisture from the air tanks; check that all brakes are set up and windows and mirrors are completely clean before departure.
- Keep fuel tanks topped off, for extra weight over the drive tires, to aid with traction. Good quality lug tires, with the proper tire pressure, are essential for good traction for the best safe winter driving.
- Keep the tractor and trailer lights clean. When you’re able to stop in a safe place, clear the lights of snow and ice, which may build up in foul weather.
- Pack winter driving essentials: This includes the mandatory roadside emergency kit for trucking safety.
- Always be prepared for bad weather conditions. Ensure the truck is equipped with necessary supplies and outfitted for all driving conditions.
RPS provides a broad spectrum of Transportation insurance solutions for operators of commercial trucks, commercial autos, public fleets, and the many industry niches that fall within each industry sector. For more information about our solutions, please give us a call.