It happens every year to one degree or another (that’s a pun): Drivers run in to what the Department of Transportation (DOT) calls “adverse driving conditions” during the winter months.
According to DOT §395.2, “adverse driving conditions” means snow, sleet, or fog, as well as other adverse weather conditions such as a highway covered with ice or unusual road and traffic conditions, none of which are necessarily apparent known to the person dispatching the run at the time it was begun on the basis of the information they have access to.
Adverse driving conditions can set a driver back, which is why it’s important to think about them before you drive and know what to do when they cause significant delays, putting you close to the 14-hour limit.
Know Before You Go
Many have run into adverse driving conditions because they failed to properly plan for their trip. Weather reports and forecasts are available on the Internet and TV 24/7, which gives you access to real-time information about the weather but it also may make it hard to meet the definition of “unexpected.”
As a professional driver, it is wise for you to know the forecasts for the areas you’ll travel through as part of your trip planning procedures before you roll. Once you have your information, you’ll have to decide if it is safe to drive — and how far you’re willing to go.
Remember you are the pilot and you are responsible for how the truck is operated. If at any time you feel it’s unsafe to start or continue your trip, you can stop at a safe location and notify your dispatcher so the load can be rescheduled. Once it’s safe to proceed, let your dispatcher know you are able to safely continue your trip.
Log It Like It Happens
According to §395.2, on-duty time includes all time from the time a driver begins work or is required to be in readiness for work until the time the driver is relieved from work and all responsibilities for performing work.
What do you do if you have a breakdown? After putting your flashers on and triangles out correctly, you will have to remain on duty until you are able to move. Also, if you are being towed, you will have to remain on-duty until you get to the shop and are relieved from the responsibilities of performing work.
“Oh no, I’m going to go over my 14 hours if I stay on-duty! Help!” you say. Keep in mind that being on duty for more than 14 hours will not cause a violation. However, driving beyond your 14-hour clock will result in a violation.
But what if you’ve hit your 14-hour mark and you need to move your truck once it has been repaired? Are you supposed to leave it in on the side of the road?
No. You will need to take your truck to the nearest safe place to park and take a 10-hour break. And that doesn’t mean the nearest truck stop, motel, or place of comfort. That means the nearest safe, legal or authorized location where your truck will no longer pose a danger to the motoring public.
Moving Forward During the Season of Adverse Driving Conditions
Whatever you encounter out there this winter, remember: You are not alone! Make sure you keep your driver manager and the Log Department in the loop, document your situation via the Qualcomm, and make notes on your logs. If you keep good records and stay in touch with the people you work with, it will all work out.
Also, make sure to prepare for the worst. Stock up on emergency provisions — food, water, and clothing — in the event you are unable to travel for a short time.
In general, take a minute to breathe, plan, and communicate. We’re professionals and this is what we do. You’ve got this!