Each year, we warn about the dangers of driving here in our part of the country with our severe winter weather and the odds of sharing roadways with semi-trucks moving at high rates of speed. It’s not the excitement of TV’s “Ice Road Truckers” here; it’s a life-threatening situation for all concerned.
Semi-Truck Accidents in Winter Weather
This week, in the midst of our holiday season, we’re feeling the need to warn about winter truck accidents once again. Why? For one thing, a huge winter storm blasted through Indiana and Illinois this week that has made national news coverage for its severity. This December is breaking records for ice and snow.
That’s reason enough. However, given that most of Indiana and Illinois drivers share the roads with huge big rigs and semi-trucks, understanding the increased risk of a truck crash in winter weather is extremely important for all of us.
Baltimore: 55 Car Pile Up After Tanker Truck Skids, Explodes
Already this week, a great number of people have been seriously injured or killed in all sorts of traffic accidents in this single storm surge.
Maybe you read about the huge 55-car pileup in Baltimore? That began when a truck driver lost control of his tanker truck on the iced roadway and went into a skid.
The tanker was filled with gasoline. The gas ignited. The truck exploded. Two people died in the chain-reaction accident that happened alongside the big rig explosion.
Indiana: Semi Truck Parking Lot; Over 500 Accidents
There was also a huge problem here in Indiana as I-65 iced over here in Indianapolis. In fact, most of the state was covered in ice and freezing rain this weekend.
Some are calling the past few storm days as unprecedented. Over 500 motor vehicle accidents have been reported in Indiana (so far).
What happened? Winter hit. As a big winter storm advanced over Illinois and Indiana this past weekend, authorities shut down parts of several interstate highways (I-65, I-70, and I-465) because ice covered the roadways.
Semi-trucks could be seen stalled out all over our local highways. (Click that link to see images of big rigs sitting still all over the highway last weekend.)
It was something that Sgt. John Perrine of the Indiana State Police – Indianapolis described in a tweet as something that “could be the worst, widespread, road conditions I’ve ever seen. This ice is very unforgiving.”
Semi-Trucks and Winter Weather: Dangerous Combination
It’s risky to be near any moving vehicle during a winter storm, because the driver is always at risk of losing control and causing a wreck. However, the danger of being on a roadway in Indiana or Illinois alongside a semi-truck in bad winter weather cannot be exaggerated.
Don’t do it! The risk is high for a semi-truck crash when the truck’s path includes road conditions made slick and slippery from snow, sleet, freezing rain, or ice. Respect that behemoth and the reality that it will move and maneuver on the winter road much differently than your sedan, minivan, or SUV.
And if you are a truck driver, then seriously reconsider your decision to be driving that rig in conditions of ice or snow. Your life is not worth the risk of trying to beat an Indiana or Illinois winter storm.
Hazards of a Semi –Truck Driving in Ice, Sleet, or Snow
Why is winter weather so perilous for big rigs? First of all, these big trucks cannot move gracefully on the roads in the best of conditions. In bad winter weather like we’re seeing this month, it is almost impossible for the driver to get, or to keep, traction on the roadway.
Snow, sleet, and ice on a straight stretch of road may cause the trucker to lose control. If there’s a curve or a hill, the big rig’s tires may not be able to grip the road surface at all.
It’s not surprising that there were several big rig semi-truck crashes here in Indiana this past week, all in icy or slick roadways. The Indiana Department of Transportation was warning everyone on Saturday that rain was “transitioning to snow/ice in northern 2/3 of the state.”
Danger of Driving the Rig in Snow or Ice
Consider the following factors that every truck driver faces, which are made even more perilous when they are carrying a full load of heavy cargo:
- It takes longer for a semi-truck to come to a stop than other vehicles in all conditions. Much more time is needed when the roads are slick with ice or snow.
- Winds often blow steady and hard during winter storms. These high winds can make it difficult for the truck driver to keep his rig steady in his lane of traffic.
- Visibility lessens in winter storms. It’s harder for the truck driver to see not only what’s ahead of him, but to understand the traffic that may be approaching him from behind, or to the side.
- Semi-trucks are built higher off the ground and with a different center of gravity than other motor vehicles. In winter storm conditions, a combination of wind with slippery roadways can cause the rig to rollover or jack-knife even if the driver is maintaining a slow speed.
Drivers Deciding On Driving in Winter Weather
Truck drivers may or may not have companies that watch out for the drivers in the danger of a winter storm. Some companies may have rules for pulling over in bad snow storms, others may not. They’ll leave it up to the truck driver to decide.
Which means truck drivers may feel the pressure to keep going to meet their deadline, or just get a little further up the road before they have to stop and wait out the storm. It’s their job to get the cargo delivered, and they may decide to keep driving regardless of the risk.
Also, drivers may or may not be required by their trucking company to make sure that snow and ice is removed from their rigs before the drive. Snow and ice can accumulate on a tractor-trailer, for example, creating a real hazard. It may be up to the individual driver to decide whether or not to remove it, or risk of someone being hurt or killed by that debris flying off the rig and into their vehicle.
Accidents in Winter Weather: Beware Driving Alongside a Semi-Truck
All this means that everyone in Indiana and Illinois needs to recognize the extremely risky conditions of winter storms as they drive and how those risks are so much higher if they have to share the road with a huge semi-truck, or big rig, or tractor-trailer truck.
It may not be possible to avoid traveling on an Indiana or Illinois highway without having to share the road with a big rig or semi-truck. We live in the Crossroads of America, and there is a high number of commercial trucks driving through our part of the country. Still, in bad weather conditions like we have seen this week, think twice about it. Be aware of how quickly that semi-truck can lose control and how fast a serious or fatal truck crash can happen. Be careful out there!