“Riding the Storm Out”—Surviving those Winter Storms

Some of you may remember the 80s-era REO Speedwagon song referenced in the title to this blog post. But songs won’t make you a better, safer driver. Let’s discuss some things that are a bit closer to reality in our profession as truck drivers.

Winter weather has definitely gone full-bore in most areas of the nation a bit sooner than normally expected. Road closures and days of snowy, icy and windy conditions have even struck the southeastern U.S. It brings to mind the importance of keeping an eye on weather forecasts for areas we are traveling through on our trips—as well as having a readily executable game plan in the event we are forced to shut down due to dangerous road conditions ahead.

Keep an ear to the ground!

Using smartphones and other devices to monitor weather and road conditions through various websites or apps is a great option. But we need to remember to only do that while the truck is parked—unless you have a co-driver or authorized passenger who can look up reliable information and relay it to you verbally.

Many old school drivers like myself still use CB radios to share our observations with drivers headed in the opposite direction while we’re rolling. We make note of consistencies in what other drivers are telling us and have developed ways of sifting out those ‘exaggerated reports’. Most of us have evolved into utilizing the aforementioned online resources while parked for a short break. Every ‘tool in your toolbox’ can help you if used responsibly.

Things are getting bad ahead. Now what?

If you get word through your resources that the road conditions ahead are becoming hazardous, it makes better sense to look for a good place to shut down ahead of time instead of forging ahead as far as you can. If not, you may find yourself at the point where you are left with no safe and legal place to park—or a place with little or no essential facilities.

I have seen many situations where drivers choose to shut down in rest areas or truck parking areas and end up being stuck there for days. They eventually run out of food and water and in some cases don’t have usable restroom facilities or a cell phone signal.

When I look for a place to shut down prior to getting into bad weather I prefer to find a full service truck stop that has the following facilities:

*A restaurant (allowing me to conserve my own food supply so I will still have plenty to eat in the event the truck stop loses power or the restaurant runs out of food).

*A truck repair shop (in case there are equipment problems).

*A hotel (which can be a life saver if the bunk heater was to quit working).

I also ask for a fuel solution that would allow me to top off the tanks before I park in the event that I may be stuck there for a long time. Think about it—if the truck stop loses power and/or their fuel supply trucks can’t go anywhere—you could eventually run out of fuel to keep your truck and the bunk heater operating. Also remember to put fuel additive in the fuel tanks and don’t forget the tank on your refrigerated trailer if you are pulling one. Notify your asset manager about your situation and update your ETA to your delivery once you know you can safely roll again.

It’s better to place yourself into a favorable situation than it is to let a bad decision—or a series of them—force you into ‘extreme survival mode’ and risk your own life. When Mother Nature is at her worst, resources are stretched thin and it may be hours, or even days, before any help could make it out to your location.

Please be safe out there everyone. Your loved ones want you to make it home safely.

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  1. […] “Riding the Storm Out”—Surviving those Winter Storms – Jeff Barker discusses the importance of staying informed of changing conditions, and when you need to change your plans. […]

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