Women in Trucking - A Woman Driver's Guide

Road Hazards

By Daren Baird

Road Hazards...the best time to notice them is before they are heading toward you or are in your path! Pay attention to everything that is hauled, stacked, loaded, packed or carried by any vehicle. Also realize that any part of a big truck can fall off and always view all of it as a potential road hazard. Decide right then what you would do if it landed in front of you. You won't have time to make the correct decision when it happens.

With most things, you are much better off dealing with them right there in your lane. If that will not be the case, then back off, pass them or change lanes. Do something before it happens and, believe me, just making up your mind not to leave your lane can save your life. At least, NOT without knowing where you are going, and being in control of the maneuver, and adjusting your speed.

It is very unlikely that a lightweight, aluminum ladder will cause a vehicle to go out of control. It is much more likely the driver's knee jerk reaction, rather than a thought out response, will cause the vehicle to go out of control.

The things to do to avoid a crash are: increase your following distance, leave yourself an out, slow down as much as possible when it happens, and hit it in your lane. There are over 4,000 collisions with animals every day in our country. If you leave the road to avoid it, THAT IS A CRASH OR AN ACCIDENT. As a trucker you will be charged, if you are still alive, with a preventable accident, but not if you hit it in your lane.

I remember the death of a young girl on a two lane road northeast of Atlanta maybe 10 or 15 years ago. She swerved to miss a ladder and hit a UPS package truck head on. In Florida a few years ago a prominent lawyer, age 67, swerved to miss a rubber container and hit a concrete barrier. That same year a mother swerved to miss a low flying bird, realized she was heading toward water and swerved back, the car kept going in the same direction, but it flipped upside down. When it hit the water that way one of the children hanging from the car seats died at the scene the other at the hospital. There's NO WAY that bird could have killed them. At the worst, it would've cracked the windshield.

Every time you here that someone lost control of their car or truck, realize that they probably gave it away.

There are other types of road hazards, those caused by weather. With winter approaching it is not too soon to start thinking about how to handle those problems. We all fear black ice, but we can learn the best ways to spot it and deal with it. The shiny road can appear wet, but if the temperature is hovering around 32 degrees and the car in front of you is leaving neither tracks nor spray, start backing off the accelerator. Where does ice occur first? Bridges and overpasses, and under them as well as any other shady areas, and intersections also.

If you get on ice on a bridge and you have not jackknifed, remember, when the front wheels are back on the pavement they will likely pull you out of the skid. So don't brake or turn your wheel, you could cause it to bend! But if it does that on its own, steer in the direction you want to go, release the accelerator, push in the clutch, DO NOT BRAKE, and when you are headed in the right direction, slowly let out the clutch. Don't shift to a gear low enough to make the engine slow the truck down or it could cause another jackknife.

During bad weather leave 50% more room as you normally would between vehicles and when stopping. Drive as conservatively as you can and find a safe place to get off the road if it gets bad. A after a winter storm has passed, look out for flying snow coming off the roofs of vehicles.

Remember the three P's of winter driving:

  1. Prepare for the trip
  2. Prepare yourself
  3. Prevent crashes!

Carry with you a change of clothes, a blanket, food, water, and a supply of candles, matches and a metal coffee can to burn them in. This will keep you from freezing to death or being overcome by exhaust fumes!