Any professional truck driver will tell you that driving a truck in windy conditions is no joke. Truck drivers know how dangerous ice, snow, and rain can be but sometimes underestimate windy conditions. Wind is the unseen weather, you can’t see it like you can snow and rain but it can be just as dangerous if you aren’t prepared.
Wind speeds that are near 60 mph is enough to overturn a trailer. A large trailer is especially dangerous because it has a lot of surface area that is a recipe for disaster in the wind. All that surface area catches a lot of wind. Your tractor trailer is at a greater risk of overturning compared to cars, pickup trucks, small box trucks, and flatbeds. If you are not carrying a load the danger only increases because you don’t have the added weight to prevent you from overturning.
There is no hard fast rule that says a specific wind speed is most dangerous but many professional drivers agree that anything over 60mph is too dangerous. Wind speeds between 40mph and 59 mph can be risky depending on your load weight and direction of the wind. Use caution and check out the tips below.
Driving a semi in high winds is risky and you have to know what to do when you encounter strong winds.
In this article I’m going to give you 12 tips that will help you drive your tractor trailer (safely) in high winds.
1. Check The Wind Speed When Planning A Trip
Before you even get on the road you should be checking weather while you are planning your trip. Make sure to check what you are driving into. Don’t just check to see if there is going to be snow or rain, make sure you take a look at wind speeds as well.
A lot of truck drivers overlook this or underestimate wind speed dangers. A good rule of thumb to know is that winds that are 60mph+ are dangerous for trailers. If the wind speed is under 60 mph you should be okay but still be cautious if the wind speed is in the 40mph to 59mph range.
Also, be sure to consider your load weight before you head into an area that has or is expecting high winds. A load weight of 70,000 lbs. is obviously going to be more difficult to tip over than a tractor with a load weight of 35,000 lbs.
Don’t let strong winds take you by surprise. Good planning and awareness can prevent a disaster. If you need a good app for you smart phone take a look at this one, it’s the NOAA (National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration) official app for iPhone and Android phones. Actually, this is a great app to have to receive all kinds of weather related alerts, not just wind speeds. For some more free apps for truck drivers I recommend you read this article.
2. Try An Alternate Route
Trying an alternate route might be an option to avoid high winds. If it is viable then you should take it. Sure, the drive time might be longer but it beats parking your tractor trailer and not moving at all. Listen to the weather reports and talk to other drivers to find out what your alternate route options are and make sure they are safe too.
3. Stop Driving And Park
If wind conditions are so bad that you simply cannot drive anymore you need to park and wait it out. You are the only person that can make this decision. If you feel it is no longer save to drive then find a place to park.
When looking for a parking place try to find a building that you can park next to so that it cuts down the wind a little.
Another trick is to try and park so that your tractor trailer is facing the wind. This will minimize the amount of wind hitting your trailer.
I know that waiting it out isn’t the greatest option but sometimes you just have to do it. Take care of yourself first and then worry about the load and dispatchers.
4. Don’t Cave In To Pressure (dispatch)
You know that your dispatch is going to pressure you into driving regardless of wind speeds. They don’t care. They aren’t the ones driving the truck. Don’t give in to pressure from anyone, if you feel like the wind is too strong be prepared to stop or take an alternate route.
Don’t ever let someone else (dispatch) determine your safety. Don’t do it.
5. Slow Down
If you do have to drive when it’s windy make sure that you slow down. As a matter of fact you should use the same caution as you would if it were snowing or raining. There will be times when the winds will be a little stronger than usual but it’s okay to keep driving. When this happens you should adjust your speed accordingly.
You know your truck, listen to what it is telling you and you will be okay.
6. Know Your Trailer
An empty trailer is at a greater risk in high winds than a trailer that is carrying a 30,000 lb load. It’s common sense that more force is needed to turn over an object with more mass. If you are running empty you need to keep this in mind before it’s too late.
7. Sometimes Wind Can Be An Advantage!
If the wind is blowing from the rear (I’m not talking about farting here) then it might actually be an advantage. The added force from the wind can reduce the amount of fuel you use thus saving you money. See, there is a positive to driving in windy conditions. Caution: wind direction can change quickly so be careful with this one.
8. Drive At Night
Sometimes wind speeds will be less at night which gives you an opportunity to get on the road safer. Wait it out until the night, check wind speeds, plan your stops, and get moving. Tough one though, driving at night has it’s own unique challenges.
9. Take The Wind Seriously
Wind is weather, just like snow, ice, fog, and rain you need to respect mother nature and drive with more caution and awareness when turning, backing, and driving.
10. Read The Signs
If there are warning signs (actual signs) posted over/along the route warning drivers of high winds please don’t ignore them. It’s your responsibility! Don’t blame dispatch. They will run for the hills as soon as you crash.
11. Drive A Flatbed
Flatbed drivers are at an advantage because they don’t have a trailer (high surface area) that catches the winds and tips them over. If you are willing to put up with tarping and could lose some weight then flatbedding is for you.
12. Myth: You Can”Outrun” The Wind
This is a myth that truck drivers talk about all the time when driving in windy conditions. There is no truth to it all. If a strong crosswind hits the side of your trailer the wind is going to tip it over. It doesn’t matter how fast you are going. If you do get tipped over by the wind it’s probably better to get tipped over when going slow, not fast. That’s my opinion at least. I’d rather tip at 30 mph instead of 63 mph.
I wish Mythbusters were still around to tackle this myth.