Handling Extreme Driving Conditions – Part IIII

Welcome back to our ever-important series where we take a deeper look into how you, a professional truck driver, can handle extreme driving conditions. The fact is, being able to drive in extreme weather is one of the most important skills a truck driver can have, and that’s why we’re dedicating a significant chunk of our blog to the topic. After all, it’s more than your truck that needs to be ready, you do as well.

Today we will take a look at two of the most common problems associated with driving in extreme weather conditions: skidding, jackknifing and dealing with wet brakes.

Skidding, Jackknifing and Slippery Roads

There are generally three basic causes of jackknifing. We’ll call them the “three overs”: overacceleration, overbraking or oversteering.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these causes:

  • Overacceleration occurs when too much power is sent to the drive wheels, resulting in unexpected wheel spin.
  • Overbraking occurs when the truck driver is braking too hard for the conditions, resulting in wheel lockup.
  • Oversteering results when the steering wheel is turned too quickly and the front wheels slide. In this case the drive tires or trailer wheels may also skid or swing out.

The key thing to remember is that you must take extra care when driving on slippery roads. Always operate your vehicle in a slow and deliberate manner. If the road is so slippery that you cannot proceed safely, pull over at your soonest available opportunity and wait for conditions to improve.

If you do find yourself operating on a slippery road with no immediate outlet, keep these tips in mind:

  • Never hurry. Always make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get a feel for the driving conditions.
  • When making turns, go in as gently as possible.
  • Never brake harder than necessary.
  • Never use the engine brake or speed retarder.
  • If your vehicle is equipped with anti lock brakes, don’t pump them.
  • Pass slower vehicles only when absolutely necessary.
  • Try to avoid having to slow down or speed up. Remember to go slow and steady.
  • Make sure to take curves at slower speeds and don’t brake while taking a curve.
  • Understand that road and vehicle temperatures vary widely.
  • Keep a larger following distance and don’t drive next to other vehicles when you don’t absolutely have to.
  • Slow down or stop until traffic jams are cleared.
  • Do your best to anticipate stops so that you can slow down gradually, rather than abruptly.

The fact is, you have to take extra care when operating a commercial motor vehicle on slippery roads. By keeping the rules of winter roads in mind, you can ensure safe operation every time you’re hauling a load.

Dealing With Wet Brakes

When you are driving in heavy rain or deep standing water, your brakes are going to get very wet, and when your brakes are wet, the water reduces their effectiveness. As a result, effective braking power can be paused or interrupted. In this situation, you may find yourself pulling to one side or succumbing to a jackknife.

If at all possible, try to avoid driving through deep puddles or flowing water. If you can’t avoid it, however, take the following steps:

  • Slow down.
  • Shift into a lower gear.
  • Increase your engine’s RPMs.
  • Cross the standing or flowing water while keeping light pressure on your brakes.

When you make it out of the water, keep light pressure on your brakes for a short distance. This will heat up the brakes and dry them out, which increases their effectiveness. If you can, make a test stop to ensure they are functioning properly.

If your brakes don’t seem to be operating properly, try once more to apply light pressure for a short distance. Remember to never apply too much pressure while also accelerating, so as not to overheat them.

With that final wrap-up, we complete our series on handling extreme driving conditions. We hope you’ve been able to take some valuable tips away from our look at how to operate your vehicle when operating conditions aren’t optimal. Be safe out there on our nation’s roads!