Wet weather driving
After a long hot dry spell, rubber, oil and other contaminants build up on the road surface, causing it to become slippery after the first rainfall. Heavy or prolonged rain can also cause flash flooding making driving conditions even more hazardous. Driving a fully loaded truck in these conditions requires skill and the driver’s full attention. If you find yourself driving in a downpour or a quick moving storm, follow these safety tips.
It goes without saying that driving in the rain means you have to slow down and drive to the weather conditions. Speed and surface water can cause your vehicle to aquaplane (hydroplane) or skid, knowing how to deal with the situation can be the difference between life and death.
Aquaplaning happens when there is a build-up of water between the road surface and the tyres of the vehicle. When this happens, the tyres lose contact with the road surface completely making it easy to lose control of the vehicle. To reduce your chances of aquaplaning, disengage cruise control, slow down and avoid harsh breaking.
Skidding is different to aquaplaning. The vehicle skids when some of its tyres slip, but retains some traction on the road. A skidding truck is very difficult to control especially when loaded. Wet weather driving increases the risk of skidding, so reduce speed slowly and smoothly to allow all of the tyres to grip to the road.
It’s good driving practice to use your lights, both to see and be seen. This is even more important in the poor visibility caused by wet weather where road conditions cause vehicles to merge into the surroundings. Drive with headlights on low beam especially if there is fog in the area. Keep windscreens clear of condensation by using the air conditioner or demister. If conditions are really dangerous, slow down and pull off the road. Turn on hazard lights so other road users can see you. It’s preferable for drivers to stay inside the vehicle, but in circumstances where it’s essential to get out, wear high vis clothing and carry a torch.
Driving to weather conditions is essential in the rain. As a minimum, double the distance between yourself and the vehicle in front and avoid braking, accelerating or turning suddenly. Generally speaking, the safe braking distance is driving at least 4 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you. In wet weather, you need to double your stopping time to at least 8 seconds. A truck travelling at 60 kmh requires 85 metres to stop in good dry conditions, double when its wet.
When weather conditions are bad, it’s more important than ever to maintain the correct position on the road. Use road line markings to stay in the middle of your lane. Avoid changing lanes and maintain a safe distance between yourself and other road users.
Tired drivers cause road traffic accidents, in wet weather the hypnotic sound of the wipers can cause tired drivers to micro-sleep. Keep AC on cool and stop for regular breaks.