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The Deadly Link Between Extreme Weather and Trucking Tragedies

Trucks in snow, Snow truck, Truck yard image

Driving tractor-trailers demands considerable skill and knowledge, especially in challenging conditions. When the weather is less than ideal, truckers must exercise extra caution while sharing the road with other vehicles.

Regrettably, even the most skilled and experienced truck driver can still be involved in an accident, particularly in unfavorable weather conditions. 

Accidents involving trucks in bad weather can be especially severe, leading to significant injuries and property damage. Poor weather doesn't exempt truckers from responsibility. Weather and challenging driving conditions are not justification for negligence, and we expect professional drivers to exercise heightened caution, especially in adverse weather.

Bad Weather Causing Truck Accidents

Bad weather poses a significant threat to road safety, especially for residents who frequently contend with various adverse conditions. 

While the state experiences less than one inch of snow annually, it faces rainstorms, sleet, freezing rain, fog, high-speed winds, tornadoes, hurricanes, and high temperatures.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHA), poor weather contributes to around 21% of all motor vehicle accidents, totaling approximately 1,235,000 weather-related collisions annually.

FHA data identifies the most perilous adverse driving conditions, including wet roads, rain, sleet or snow, icy roads, slush or snow-covered roads, and fog. These conditions pose even greater risks for trucks than for smaller vehicles, decreasing traction and increasing stopping distances.

The FHA data also revealed that flooding can reduce capacity by submerging lanes, and snow accumulation along with wind-blown debris can obstruct lanes, causing capacity reductions. Hazardous conditions, such as high winds affecting large trucks, can lead to road closures and access restrictions, further decreasing roadway capacity.

Furthermore, harsh weather conditions can significantly escalate operating and maintenance expenses for winter road maintenance agencies, traffic management agencies, emergency management agencies, law enforcement agencies, and commercial vehicle operators (CVOs). 

Winter road maintenance alone constitutes about 20 percent of state Department of Transportation (DOT) maintenance budgets. Annually, state and local agencies allocate more than 2.3 billion dollars toward snow and ice control operations. 

“Each year trucking companies or CVOs lose an estimated 32.6 billion vehicle hours due to weather-related congestion in 281 of the nation's metropolitan areas. Nearly 12 percent of the total estimated truck delay is due to weather in the 20 cities with the greatest volume of truck traffic. The estimated cost of weather-related delay to trucking companies ranges from 2.2 billion dollars to 3.5 billion dollars annually,” the data added.

Weather-related Crash Statistics

How Drivers Can Avoid Accidents During Periods of Poor Weather

Planning, including checking equipment functionality and monitoring weather conditions, is paramount. For smaller vehicle drivers, maintaining a safe distance from large trucks during adverse weather and pulling over if conditions worsen are essential safety measures.

To preserve the safety of everyone on the road, drivers should:

  • Double following distances

  • Reduce driving speeds

  • Turn on headlights when raining (even during the day)

  • Use low beams in fog

  • Avoid standing water

  • Pullover

Additionally, John Davis of LineHaul Central shared a few driving tips to avoid accidents while driving during winter.

“Managers should have a clear understanding of the weather conditions in the areas where their drivers are operating and keep them informed accordingly,” Davis said.  

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FMCSA Driving Regulation

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees the trucking industry, regulating hours-of-service (HOS) to prevent driver fatigue. 

An exception, the adverse driving conditions exception, permits drivers to extend their maximum driving time from 11 to 13 hours and their maximum shift time from 14 to 16 hours during adverse weather, allowing for safer alternative routes. 

However, the exception's impact on driver fatigue should not be overlooked, as extended hours have been linked to impaired performance akin to someone with a blood alcohol content of .05%.

In truck accident cases influenced by adverse weather, the trucking company is typically held liable for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and mental anguish. 

Nevertheless, trucking companies and insurers may attempt to shift blame for damages in cases where weather played a role.

Finding Opportunities After The Storm

Winter Weather can wreak havoc on a profitable trucking company, especially in FedEx Linehaul when the peak season is designed to pad revenue with a sharp increase in volume. Rick Dunn, of Linehaul Solutions explained how his team approaches weather which shuts down part of the network and how they attempt to make the most of a bad storm.

Navigating tractor-trailers demands considerable skill, especially in challenging weather conditions. Even the most skilled truck drivers can be the cause of accidents, especially in unfavorable weather. Accidents involving trucks in bad weather can result in severe injuries and property damage, and poor weather is no excuse for negligence. 

Bad weather poses a significant threat to road safety, contributing to approximately 21% of all motor vehicle accidents annually, as per the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. 

However, the impact of extended hours on driver fatigue should not be overlooked, as it has been linked to impaired performance. In cases of truck accidents influenced by adverse weather, the trucking company is typically held liable for damages. Despite attempts to shift blame, especially when weather plays a role, ensuring safety remains paramount. 

Drivers, regardless of their mode of transportation, are urged to plan, maintain safe distances, and be vigilant in monitoring and responding to weather conditions for the safety of everyone on the road. 

As Darrius Peoples, a prominent political figure in New Jersey and owner of Daisy Disposal, as well as my 80-year-old grandmother, like to say “Arrive Alive”.


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1 Comment

Dec 20, 2023

Arrive alive 😂❤️

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