It’s never a bad idea to double down on road safety with your driving employees or fleets. That’s especially true as we get into the rainy time of year.
Though saying so may seem redundant, it’s a good idea to hold a training session on driving in the rain. Such a session is an important exercise to reinforce the importance of being extra careful when the roads are wet, particularly if it has not rained for some time. One-quarter of speeding-related large truck accident fatalities happen in rainy or other poor weather conditions, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Training your driving employees takes planning, and there are some essentials that you should cover in your safety meetings and materials.
You could break up the training into two parts.
Part 1: Five things to do before you drive.
- Check the forecast. When it’s that time of year, train your employees to check the weather forecast before their shifts so they know what they are in for. While they should be comfortable driving in rainy conditions, they should pay particular attention when there are heavy downpours and the chance of flooding. Another risk would be if it rained the night before and then temperatures dipped below freezing, creating icy roads.
- Plan ahead. On rainy days, drivers should check Department of Transportation maps for possible road closures due to flooding or severe weather so they can plan alternative routes.
- Check the truck and trailer. Regardless of the weather, drivers should always inspect their equipment before starting their shifts to ensure everything is in safe and good working order. Check tires as well; changing weather may affect the air pressure in tires, so you’ll want your drivers to ensure tires are properly inflated to recommended pressures.
- Dress for the weather. If drivers are heading into a stormy and cold weather area, they should make sure to bring proper attire for the conditions, like a jacket or rain parka. It’s also recommended that they carry water, food, and blankets in case they are stranded.
- Let drivers decide. The final decision on whether to head out in rough conditions should be left to the driver. If they do not feel comfortable about heading out, urge them to contact their managers or supervisors.
Part 2: Driving in wet conditions.
- When the storm clouds set in, drivers must turn on their headlights. While it may not improve the visibility for the driver during the daytime, it does make the truck more visible to other motorists and pedestrians.
- In adverse conditions, drivers should keep their radios on stations that air regular weather updates.
- When driving in the rain, drivers should accelerate and decelerate slowly and gradually. Pressing on the accelerator too quickly can cause the truck to lose traction, and the same goes for applying the brakes too hard.
- If there has been flooding and roadways are submerged or have large puddles covering the pavement, drivers should not attempt to drive through the water. It’s hard to gauge how deep the water is, and the road underneath may have washed out. The safe thing to do is stop and turn around.
- In wet conditions, drivers should drive slower than the posted speed limit – at least 5 miles per hour slower in the rain, and even slower if they encounter heavy traffic, must navigate curves, or have a light trailer, which may not get as much traction as a loaded truck.
- Besides driving more slowly, drivers need to increase the following distance between the truck and vehicles ahead. Safety experts recommend seven seconds following distance for large trucks in good conditions. They recommend increasing the distance when it’s raining, and even more if it’s hard rain or storms.
- Drivers should avoid using cruise control because it makes it harder to detect that the vehicle is hydroplaning. They should also avoid using the engine brake in the rain.
- If drivers hit really bad weather and do not feel comfortable continuing, you should urge them to get off the road and park somewhere safe. They should avoid parking on the side of the road as visibility may be poor. They should inform headquarters where they have parked, and again when they feel it’s safe to proceed.
Ideally, you should incorporate rainy-day driving training at least twice per year for your driving staff to refresh their safety awareness.