Wyoming is the most dangerous state for driving in the snow.
That’s not just opinion, that’s backed by recent research and data-crunchers. Their answer for avoiding the dangers of Wyoming weather? Don’t drive in the snow. That may be well and good for a fair amount of workers whose office's close for bad weather. Unfortunately, that’s often not the case for truck drivers or transportation workers, especially in the Rocky Mountain States.
Tractor-trailer and long-haul truckers have some of the most hazardous jobs in the country. They drive for long stretches of time on the nation’s busiest interstates. They’re subject to the whims of other drivers on the road, have to fight for an open spot at a truck stop and their meals usually consist of prepackaged, high-calorie snacks. Plus in 2016, 786 drivers were killed while working — rising 17.3% since 2011!
The entire world relies on truck drivers to keep things running smoothly. The weight of the world can often sit squarely on their shoulders. So, what happens when the weather turns treacherous?
The show must go on.
Truckers can improve their safety on the road with a plan. Expect the best, but plan for the worst they say. The last thing you want is your lack of preparation to be the reason you’re stuck on the side of the road. Many disruptions on the road can be linked back to ineffective fleet preparedness. It makes sense. How many times has your driver’s log been maxed out to the point you don’t have time to stay current on your maintenance tasks? Often, these preventative tasks get left until the last minute.
Photo Credit: Ryder System
Winter storms can bring snow, thunderstorms, ice, winds and freezing temperatures. We all know what effect freezing temperatures can have on your rig’s performance.
Did you know that diesel exhaust fluid can freeze at temperatures below 10°F, even while idling?
Part of winter preparedness should include a thorough pre-trip assessment of trucks, personal safety equipment and on-board first aid. Last but not not least, pay attention to the weather! New truck drivers are often unaware of the specific dangers associated with winter driving, but veteran drivers could also benefit from ongoing education and training. Check out these simple, but effective tips to improve your safety at work, wherever the road takes you.
Plan Ahead for Bad Weather
You think snow and ice is all you need to worry about when traveling through Wyoming or any of the other mountain states? Experienced truckers will tell you a different story. Winter weather brings worrisome winds. High wind speeds are actually cited as one of the top risks facing drivers.
Plan ahead when traveling in these areas. For a good part of November until May, I-80 faces routine closures. This usually means trucks are stuck on the side of the road waiting for the road to reopen, sometimes for days.
Not paying attention to wind advisories and road closures can leave you without food, water or fuel. Not to mention, unpreparedness seriously interferes with your drive time and hours of service.
Gear Up with The Best PPE
The type of PPE you'll need will depend on your job duties. You may require winter gloves, hard hats, steel toed boots, safety glasses and long sleeve work shirts and pants when handling specialized equipment or freight. When winter weather makes a mess out of your plans, you may need to take added precautions when selecting the winter work wear you take with you on the road.
Snow, sleet, rain and night-time conditions can seriously impact worker visibility. In the event you have to exit your vehicle, make sure you are clearly visible in high traffic zones, low-light or complex backgrounds. Hi-viz vests, jackets or rain suits can help you stand out in bad weather and protect you from other drivers or equipment operators.
Pack A Winter Survival Kit
Vehicle failure, traffic jams, road closures or bad weather conditions can result in you and your rig getting stuck on the side of the road. Major winter storms can last for several days and can be accompanied by freezing rains, high winds and cold temperatures.
Packing an emergency kit can help you avoid cold weather dangers like cold stress, hypothermia, frostbite and dehydration. The question is, what should your winter survival kit include? Check out these suggestions for trucker emergency kits:
3 days of food
Cell phone and charger
Extra hats, gloves and socks
First aid kit
Fluorescent distress flag
Flashlight & extra batteries
Whether you drive the Wyoming terrain or you’re clear across the country, you can use these tips to stay safe on the winter roads. Don’t forget, companies also have a responsibility to make sure drivers aren’t pushed to drive when fatigued or take unnecessary risks in bad weather just to meet deadlines. Use your head, look out for yourself and other drivers on the road and arrive safe.
Check out RMI’s Winter Work Wear Catalog for solutions to all your winter challenges. Shop for your cold weather work clothes and all the extra supplies and gear you need. As always, if you need help all you need to do is reach out to one of our safety specialists. We’re here when you need us.