The main east-west interstate through West Virginia was closed for much of Saturday, Dec. 19, because numerous tractor-trailers had jackknifed on slick ice- and snow-covered pavement. My colleagues have already blogged on safe winter driving for people in cars this year, but the importance of safe semi operations also require attention. As this video shows, a 45-ton 18-wheeler can run out of control in a mere second.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the commercial trucking industry, offers the following tips for tractor-trailers drivers who must move their rigs through rain and sleet and dark of night:
Reduced traction conditions
- Increase following distance enough to avoid a rear-end collision if other driver brakes hard.
- Use moderation in judging safe speed. To maintain a safe stopping distance, slow down, but not so much that you become a hazard to drivers behind.
- Apply brakes gently and steer without jerky movements.
- Beware when running empty or bobtailing. Lightly loaded wheels lock up easily during braking and this induces jackknifing.
- Beware of travelling too slowly on slick, banked curves. The vehicle might slide sideways into opposing traffic or off the road.
Reduced visibility conditions
- Use moderation in judging safe speed. To maintain a safe stopping distance during reduced visibility, slow down, but not so much that you become a hazard to drivers behind.
- Keep vehicle clean, especially headlights, windshield, tail lights. Use emergency flashers in extreme conditions.
- Be prepared to get off road and wait for conditions to improve if necessary.