How Trucking Companies Can Plan for Extreme Weather Events

The Transwest Team
The Transwest Team
Jan 18, 2021
Commercial truck in a winter storm

Extreme weather events can happen during inconvenient times. For trucking companies, extreme weather can mean delays, fleet issues, and even potential safety risks for drivers.

Trucking businesses need to think ahead about potential weather events that might have a negative impact on their operations.

From purchasing the right trucks to following critical safety protocol, having policies and procedures in place ahead of a big storm is key.

The following guide will walk you through extreme weather event preparedness, offering actionable insights for those involved in the trucking industry.

Keep Your Fleet Well-Maintained

While there is nothing you can do to change the weather, you can ensure that your fleet is as ready as possible for extreme weather events. A well-maintained fleet will be safer and more capable of handling extreme weather than a poorly maintained fleet.

The following are all critical to ensuring your fleet is ready for the weather ahead:

  • Create a Maintenance Schedule: No matter how big or small your fleet is, be sure you have a specific maintenance schedule outlined. This should include routine oil changes, tire rotations, brake inspections, and safety checks.
  • Keep Impeccable Records: Record keeping is critical to being prepared for severe weather events. Knowing when the last time tires were changed, for example, can let you make the right decisions before sending a driver out into the rain.
  • Know Your Fleet: Not all trucks are designed for the same weather. For example, the higher the profile of the vehicles in your fleet, the more concerned you have to be around wind danger. Be sure you understand the exact height, weight, and specs of every vehicle in your fleet.
  • Follow Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Guidelines: The FMCSA outlines numerous maintenance tasks that are centered around road safety. These range from ensuring that emergency equipment is present to frequent brake, tires, and coupling inspections. Additionally, the FMCSA 6.3.10 offers guidelines around hazardous weather conditions, requiring that drivers lower speeds in hazardous weather and that drivers suspend the use of all vehicles when conditions are deemed too dangerous.

Offer Training to Your Team

The trucks in your fleet are operated by your team. As such, your team members are the ones out there on the frontline, during the worst weather. Investing in your team is critical to the safe operation of your business during extreme events.

Ensure that every single member of your team is equipped with proper weather safety training. This can mean the difference between a life-saving decision being made at the right time and a tragic accident.

Focus your training on all of the following weather safety aspects.

What to Do in Case of Ice / Snow

Be sure your team understands how to operate a vehicle during snowy or icy conditions. Additionally, equip your team with the right gear, such as tire chains, to ensure safe travels when the unexpected hits.

Train your team on knowing when the conditions are too dangerous for travel. The following important National Weather Service (NWS) notifications should always be heeded, as outlined:

  • Winter Storm Watch: “A Winter Storm Watch is issued when there is the potential for significant and hazardous winter weather within 48 hours. It does not mean that significant and hazardous winter weather will occur...it only means it is possible.”
  • Blizzard Warning: “A Blizzard Warning means that the following conditions are occurring or expected within the next 12 to 18 hours. 1) Snow and/or blowing snow reducing visibility to 1/4 mile or less for 3 hours or longer AND 2) Sustained winds of 35 mph or greater or frequent gusts to 35 mph or greater.”
  • Winter Storm Warning: “A Winter Storm Warning is issued when a significant combination of hazardous winter weather is occurring or imminent.”
  • Ice Storm Warning: “¼ inch or more of ice accumulation.”
  • Winter Weather Advisory: “A Winter Weather Advisory will be issued for any amount of freezing rain, or when 2 to 4 inches of snow (alone or in combination with sleet and freezing rain), is expected to cause a significant inconvenience, but not serious enough to warrant a warning.”

Every driver should be equipped with an emergency safety kit that would keep them warm and protected in case of sudden winter weather conditions.

What to Do in Case of Severe Storms / Tornados

Train your staff on the NWS storm watch and warning system. Be sure they understand the difference between all of the following severe weather notifications:

  • Severe Thunderstorm Watch: “A Severe Thunderstorm Watch is issued when severe thunderstorms are possible in and near the watch area. It does not mean that they will occur. It only means they are possible.”
  • Severe Thunderstorm Warning: “A Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued when severe thunderstorms are occurring or imminent in the warning area. Severe thunderstorms are defined as follows: 1) Winds of 58 mph or higher AND/OR 2) Hail 1 inch in diameter or larger.”
  • Tornado Watch: “A Tornado Watch is issued when severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are possible in and near the watch area. It does not mean that they will occur. It only means they are possible.”
  • Tornado Warning: “A Tornado Warning is issued when a tornado is imminent. When a tornado warning is issued, seek safe shelter immediately.”
  • Flash Flood Watch: “A Flash Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flash flooding. It does not mean that flash flooding will occur, but it is possible.”
  • Flash Flood Warning: “A Flash Flood Warning is issued when flash flooding is imminent or occurring.”

Your drivers should be trained and tested on how to react to each unique warning.

What to Do in Case of High Winds / Fog

High winds can be extremely dangerous for semi-truck operations. In the case of high winds, ensure your drivers understand when they need to pull off the road. This will vary based on the size of the trucks in your fleet and how much sail surface they have.

Fog can reduce visibility enough to make driving unsafe. Drivers should exercise extreme caution during fog advisories and should ensure all safety lighting is working properly.

Be sure your drivers are actively watching for wind and fog advisories targeting high profile vehicles.

Build a Culture of Safety

In addition to proper training, it is critical to build a company culture where safety takes center stage. While it is important for cargo to be transported on time to ensure deadlines are met, this should never take precedence over the safety of your employees and the safety of others on the road.

A culture of safety doesn’t happen by accident, and, in the end, an investment in safety will actually lower company risk and liability.

Implement the following as you build a company founded on safety:

  • Every Trip Starts with An Inspection: Require that your drivers inspect their truck before leaving on any trip. This can help them catch maintenance issues that will be compounded by extreme weather, such as poor tire tread or damaged brakes.
  • Have Policies in Place for Extreme Weather: Don’t leave the decision-making of your drivers up to chance. Put in place policies that ensure driver safety, with clear guidelines of when a driver should deem the road conditions unfit for travel.
  • Have Strict Drug and Alcohol Compliance: Strict drug and alcohol policies are more than simply a way to stay compliant with federal regulations. This also ensures that your drivers are at their sharpest when bad weather strikes.
  • Create Clear Messaging to Reinforce: From the way you communicate through emails to daily standups, be sure that every chance you get, you reinforce that safety is the first priority.

Replace Trucks as Needed

Finally, the older the trucks in your fleet and the more repair issues they face, the more of a risk they pose when extreme weather events occur. Be sure that you are replacing trucks in your fleet as needed to help ensure safety, even in the roughest of weather.

At Transwest, we are here to help you ensure that you have the best trucks for your fleet. We can walk you through anything from quick tips to the latest technology on the market geared toward ensuring driver safety on the road.

Our team is knowledgeable and experienced. We are here to help and to discuss what financing and management options are the best fit for your specific company. Talk to us today about ensuring you have the right trucks in your fleet.


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