Lightning Strikes on Ground

To Drive or Not to Drive

So let’s get down to business and talk about what you are required to do and what you are not required to do in this industry. Obviously, you are a driver, it is your job to transport your load from point A to point B. But what do you do when you are not comfortable driving in the weather that you are controlling your steel steed in? How do you manage that? What are you legally required to do? What does FMCSA say about what your company can demand that you do? Do you have any rules and regulations about it? Can you legally and rightfully tell your company NO, I will not drive in this weather?

Know Your Limits

When you become a driver you are told from the beginning of school that you have to know what you are in control of. You are taught and primed to know EVERYTHING about that commercial vehicle. So what are you taught about yourself? What are you willing to drive through? What SHOULD you be willing to drive through? When should you be willing to push yourself? As my mom has always told me, “I have to know”. Do you know enough as a newbie to safely navigate weather and road conditions that may not LOOK dangerous, but are treacherous? Do you know how to navigate what looks treacherous but really is a “mirage”? You have to know what you are willing to drive in. Knowing your limits is key. Let’s discuss those.

Snow and Ice

Knowing what is black ice is almost impossible. However, there are some key ways to know what you are driving on. If you look out your mirrors and don’t see any spray coming from your tires, slow down, DO NOT HIT THE BRAKES. You are driving on ice. This is so dangerous and treacherous, for many reasons. You have no traction, you are now a missile in motion. You cannot stop like you may need to as you will slide. This is dangerous for so many people including yourself. You are putting yourself, your truck, your load, and the motoring public at risk. However, how do you know when you must drive on ice and when not to? If you can get off the road, that is always the best option. If you cannot and you must travel, do so slowly and with caution. Feather the throttle, DO NOT BE IN A HURRY. Turn into a skid if it happens. Watch your trailer, and make sure it isn’t hanging out in the lane next to you. This happens frequently. Know how to correct that if it happens.

Driving in snow is a little different. If you are driving in snow it will likely provide some traction or melt under your tires. Look at the road and see where the tracks are that others have made. Follow those if possible. If you are in snow ON ICE, you have just compounded your issues. As always in weather of this type take it SLOW!!

But do you have the ability to tell a dispatcher that you don’t feel safe driving in that weather? Are you allowed? Absolutely. You are ALWAYS the captain of your ship. Whether company driver or owner-operator. You are ALWAYS in control of that right. Know it, learn it, live it, and love it. You are the extension of your semi. You make the calls as to what is right. On the flip side of that can your company DEMAND that you drive or threaten your job if you don’t? The simple answer is no. The more complicated answer is they may make life on you hard.

Tornadoes, Rain, and Wind

Knowing what you are watching for and driving into is key. No one can PREDICT where or WHEN the weather will change and become dangerous to drive in. However, you can watch the signs that present themselves so you can make an educated decision to keep driving or not. Heavy rain and wind makes it tough to drive in. Especially if you are empty, the wind makes your semi just a huge sail. So knowing when to call it quits or turn on your hazards and keep going is key. Watching what other truckers are doing around you is also important. Back to where a CB radio is so handy. Communication, while you are in that truck, is so helpful. Weather alerts are helpful also, trip planning is key. Study where you are going, and check the weather for all kinds of conditions. Do not put yourself, your load, or your motoring public in any danger that you could have prevented. We are back to that question, can your company DEMAND that you drive and threaten your job if you don’t? So let’s actually look at the law behind it, shall we? But first, let me show you a video of when I decided to pull over because of a storm. It was too much for me to drive in.

Coercion, Legal or Not

What is coercion? Let’s take a look at what the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association) says about it. Coercion according to FMCSA can be seen on their website, you can access it by clicking HERE.

I will copy and paste the top portion of what it states qualifies as coercion:

“Coercion occurs when a motor carrier, shipper, receiver, or transportation intermediary threatens to withhold work from, take employment action against, or punish a driver for refusing to operate in violation of certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSA), Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) and the Federal Motor Carrier Commercial Regulations (FMCCRs). Coercion may be found to have taken place even if a violation has not occurred.”

At the end of the day, they cannot MAKE you drive in an unsafe situation. You have the choice to say NO, I do not feel comfortable driving in a specific type of weather and you have made all efforts to get to where you need but are feeling that it is unsafe for truck, trailer, driver, load, or the public. STOP! Call your dispatcher and talk with them. If they FORCE you or COERCE you do drive, tell them to send it to you over your on board communication system with them. This may be a tablet, Qualcomm. However, you communicate with them on the truck, this is where you want them to send you the REQUIREMENT that you must drive even if you FEEL UNSAFE. This gives you a backup if you do drive and something happens that could have been prevented.

Captain, My Captain

As you have heard me say you are the captain of your ship. In this case, that ship happens to be at least 18 wheels and a sleeper semi for me. But I am still the captain. I still call the shots. Is that something you are willing to take on? Because it is a requirement in this field. You are the one making the calls for that truck and its safe passage from point A to B. You are the one that is required to make sure that the load is safely delivered. With that comes the responsibility of making sure you are keeping the motoring public safe and your truck safe in all kinds of weather and conditions. Know your laws, know your limits and stick to them. You are the one in charge of so many things while sitting behind the wheel and navigating the mistress we call the road. So be able and willing to make the tough calls that will protect you and everyone else out on the road.

Happy Trucking

Les

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