April 7, 2022
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There are many factors that can make driving a semi more difficult or treacherous. Some may seem obvious, like snow and ice or winding mountain roads, but wind can play a significant role in dangerous driving conditions. High wind speeds have been known to flip semi trucks because of the high profile of the trailers. But even if your trailer isn’t in danger of flipping, high speed winds can affect whether or not you’re able to keep your truck in its lane.
When thinking about wind speed and whether or not your truck can stay upright through a patch of high wind, you need to consider a few things. First, your total weight. Obviously a fully loaded trailer at 60,000 lbs will be harder to flip than an empty trailer that only weighs 35,000 lbs. Second, what direction is the wind traveling? Crosswinds are far more dangerous to semi trucks than a headwind or tailwind. Wind speeds of about 60 mph or higher can potentially flip a semi truck. But you should use caution any time the winds are approaching or above 40 mph.
There are a lot of ways you can remain safe while driving in windy conditions. Below are some tips our drivers have found helpful.
You probably already know to check for rain, sleet, and snow when planning your trip. But remember to also check what the expected wind conditions will be. It is far better to be prepared for adverse conditions than to be caught by surprise on the road.
If you know that part of your route will take you through an area with high winds, you may be able to take an alternative route to your destination. If there is a safer route that doesn’t involve driving through windy stretches of highway, you can detour yourself before you get on the road. Avoiding danger is always safer than navigating through it.
If you can’t take a detour around the section of road that has high winds, you should drive very carefully and slowly. “Outrunning the wind” is a myth, and going faster in treacherous conditions is never safer. Use the same level of caution you would use if you were driving in heavy snow or rain. And make sure to turn on your flashers so other drivers know to use caution around you.
Keep both hands firmly gripping the steering wheel, and be prepared for your truck to want to move in the direction that the wind is blowing.
If you have to drive through high winds, even if your trailer isn’t necessarily in danger of flipping, you might find that you have difficulty keeping your truck in its lane. Because wind speed and direction can change abruptly, it is important to keep your truck closer to the shoulder than it is to the other lane. If the wind starts to affect your lane-keeping, it’s better to have the trailer move on the shoulder side than the side with other passing vehicles.
If a strong wind comes up suddenly, and you’re not confident in your ability to drive through it safely, you should pull off the road and park in a safe lot. Rest areas, truck stops, or even a large parking lot are all good options for waiting out the windy conditions safely. If possible, park with your trailer facing the wind head-on to reduce the possibility of your trailer flipping.
Remember to consider wind conditions when planning your trip, and never drive in high winds with an empty trailer. Remember that you can always use your CB to talk to other drivers who might be more familiar with the area or more experienced at driving in winds than you are. They can be a valuable resource when you’re already on the road.
Stay safe, obey all local laws and regulations, and pay attention to any signs warning of adverse driving conditions.