Bad weather is rarely the cause of a truck accident—bad decisions are. Wind may not be the most often-discussed driving danger, but high-speed winds can be extremely dangerous to large commercial trucks and the cars around them. Let’s look closer at the way high-speed winds affect truckers as they work to safely operate their vehicles. For further questions about truck driving laws and safety regulations, reach out to a lawyer practiced in truck accident law.
How Winds Affect Truck Driving
Most people are familiar with the dangers associated with snowy, rainy, and icy conditions. But how do high-speed winds actually affect truckers on the road? Very strongly, in fact, due to the trailer’s extensive surface area and high center of gravity. Strong winds can cause large trucks to sway and lose balance, and can cause drivers to have difficulty steering or lose control of the vehicle.
It only takes a high-speed wind of less than 60 miles per hour to overturn a tractor trailer. Winds between 40 and 60 mph can pose serious risk, depending on wind direction and truck load weight. Lighter-weight cargo loads are especially vulnerable to overturning. The danger comes when the wide, flat sides of the trailer catch the wind, resulting in a “sail” effect. And when that event is combined with the vehicle’s high center of gravity, it’s easy to see why wind can be an exceptionally dangerous element for large commercial trucks.
The following is a list of the potential trucking hazards which can result from high-speed winds:
- Loss of vehicle control
- Being pushed off the side of the road or across a median
- Swaying into the path of other cars
- Rollovers (overturning on or beside the road)
- Lost load accidents
How Truckers Can Safely Handle a Large Truck in High-Speed Winds
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines on “Hazardous Weather Conditions,” warns truckers to take wind danger seriously. Commercial truck drivers are required to operate with “extreme caution” when facing any weather situation which could adversely affect driving conditions. Under the guidelines, drivers are required to reduce speed or discontinue driving as appropriate in consideration of weather conditions.
Truckers need to be attentive and adaptive to weather factors. This includes checking weather reports before beginning a drive, looking for signs of approaching winds, knowing the vehicle and load weight, and taking action immediately to prevent an accident.
As dangerous winds are most commonly associated with the area of the Midwest known as “Tornado Alley,” many non-Pennsylvanians are surprised to learn that our state has a long history of tornado activity. Out-of-state truckers need to take into account the possible weather hazards of the area through which they will be travelling. Pennsylvania is home to several major east coast trucking routes, some of them considered among the deadliest in the nation, and there were an estimated over 7,600 large trucks involved in accidents in PA in 2019.
Most importantly, truck drivers need to be willing to sacrifice driving time for the sake of safety. It’s easy to give into the pressure to go those few extra miles, especially when a dispatcher is urging the driver to continue. But truckers owe a duty of care to themselves and every driver who shares the road with these enormous, powerful vehicles. If there is a wind-related risk present, the driver must slow down, change routes, or pull over and wait until the danger has passed.
What to Do If You Witness a Dangerous Truck Incident
Large tractor-trailers operated by careless drivers have the power to cause the highest number of deaths in a single accident. If you observe dangerous truck driving in bad weather conditions, stay as far from the vehicle as possible, taking additional care to avoid the trucker’s blind spots. If a truck or any other vehicle is in imminent danger, pull over safely and dial 911 as soon as you are able.
If you observe careless or negligent truck driver behavior, you can contact the FMCSA to report bad driving in non-emergency situations. This government agency receives and investigates complaints filed by phone (1-888-DOT-SAFT) or online at the FMCSA National Consumer Complaint Database.
At Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco, we have worked with many individuals and families whose lives have been affected by careless, reckless, or negligent driving. We have helped both truckers injured in accidents and passenger vehicle drivers hurt in truck-involved collisions. If you have been involved in a truck-related accident, contact one of our truck accident attorneys. We can schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.