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Lorry Driver’s Handbook: Driving in Stormy Conditions

The UK is known for its erratic weather and changeable conditions but last winter, we set a new record for the wettest winter ever recorded. The 2013/2014 winter season had some of the worst storms we’ve seen in recent history, with the East Coast and South-East Coast taking a lot of damage.

Between 1st previous record from 1995. These weather conditions obviously had a severe impact on our roads and with our climate changing every year, we are seeing more extreme weather.

So what are the considerations for driving safely on the roads, especially in a high-goods vehicles?

Bad weather can affect our visibility and therefore our reaction times and ability to control the vehicle fully. It’s important to consider things you wouldn’t normally think of if you were driving in regular weather conditions, especially when you are on the roads in a storm. It’s quite a contrast.

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Top Tips For Lorry Drivers

Wind

  • Wind is bad enough on the motorway when you are driving a car but when you are controlling a high-sided vehicle it can be deadly. You’ll be familiar with what you’ve been told about motorway driving of course, but always be sure to drive slower than your normal rate and keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times. This will ensure you have complete control of the lorry and any sudden gusts won’t take you by surprise.
  • It’s common to experience swaying, effectively setting you off on a persistent right-to-left motion but to combat this you need full control of the vehicle; slow gradually and “level” out the steering as best you can.
  • Keep any eye on other vehicles around you as they are the greatest danger to your safety once you are in control of your driving
  • If there is debris and you are unavoidably driving in violent storms, we recommend stopping altogether and getting off the road. However, if there is a gusting wind and a lot of debris you should aim to distance yourself from other vehicles on either side of your vehicle, so that you can effectively clear them should you need to avoid tree branches or any other dangerous flying debris coming your way.

Rain

  • Set your heater controls correctly so that your windows don’t mist up. Always check you are clear in the windscreen and rear view mirror before setting off. This is applicable for any vehicle driving in a storm.
  • Go slow. Rain always doubles the distance for braking even in cars so with a lorry carrying a considerable amount of extra weight, it’s likely to be at least tripled. If you are driving slower anyway, you won’t be caught out unnecessarily.
  • Don’t make sudden movements or turns. If you miss a turn it doesn’t matter, take the next turn and re-route back. A lot of accidents are caused by drivers not knowing the route before setting off and then switching or cutting back at the last minute. In stormy conditions it will be darker, slipperier and more congested. So always plot your route and don’t make erratic movements with the steering.

Settling in for the Storm

  • There will come a time when you just have to stop driving due to the weather being that bad. When the time comes you will need supplies and start to think about your health.
  • Make sure you have at least one bottle of water in the lorry with you and preferably for long-haul trips, some food with high protein and carbs to keep your sugar levels up.
  • You should also make sure you have a blanket in the cabin with you in case it gets cold. Storms are more than likely going to be severe during the Winter but if temperatures drop, you need to be prepared and keep yourself warm.
  • A torch is handy. You won’t necessarily want to leave the engine running or leave the battery on as you could be holed up for a while and potentially, you could be miles away from civilisation, so keep a light source close-by for emergencies.
  • A medical first-aid kit is standard in most heavy goods long-haul vehicles but just check you have the minimum of bandages, plasters and anti-septic cream. A storm can catch us all out and just because you are in a vehicle doesn’t mean your 100% safe from the elements.
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