With hurricane season upon us, it’s time to talk about inclement weather. As a former dispatcher, I have seen many severe tractor-trailer accidents that easily could have been avoided. I used to pass around a phrase to my drivers any time the weather started to turn: “It’s more than rain.”
“It’s more than rain.”
I repeated this phrase often; I wanted it to resonate with my fleet. I always wanted it to be in the back of their mind. At any moment, even a sprinkle shower on a sunny day can turn into a life or death situation.
And in one case, it did.
Jeremy Reynolds was a Rookie
A serial over-achiever striving to prove himself. He always performed to the best of his abilities, but sometimes to his own detriment.
After delivering a load of flash-frozen veggies to a packaging plant in Nebraska, Jeremy called in to report his delivery. We made small talk about the trip and I started looking for another load. The only load I could find near his location would require 85 miles of deadhead to pick up, but he wanted to run it anyway.
He mentioned some drivers down the highway were talking about a storm that was forming right along that route. There had been no storm reports or warnings from my company’s weather department. On the surface, it seemed there would be nothing to worry about.
I asked him to consider three things in this circumstance:
- Boots on the ground drivers were warning of bad weather along the route.
- The route was a long straight stretch of highway along the flatlands of Nebraska.
- His trailer was now empty.
I told Jeremy that since he was the one behind the wheel, it was his call. I also asked him to consider our mantra, “It’s more than rain.”
I put Jeremy in charge of his truck, and I supported his decision. He decided not to take the risk. I rescheduled the pickup for the next morning and he started his 10.
The Next Morning
I arrived at work to an email encouraging all dispatchers to check on all drivers currently not moving in the Midwest. Overnight, the storm winds raged, and 3 trailers had been blown over.
It wasn’t the rain or the wet roads that led to these accidents. It wasn’t a flooded street or downed branch. It was the wind. One strong gust of wind was all it took to catch these drivers off guard and push them off the highway. The exact highway Jeremy would have been traveling.
Thankfully, the drivers were not injured. Two of the trailers were loaded, however, costing their companies thousands of dollars in OS&D and damaged equipment.
I called Jeremy immediately to see if he was ok. He told me he was surveying the damage along the highway while driving to the pickup location. He saw one of the trailers, still on its side. It was more than rain. He and I both learned a lesson that day. Yes, we turned down a load, but even though it seemed like a small rain shower, the unforeseen risks turned out to be much higher.
Make sure your fleet managers know it’s ok to shut their drivers down in bad weather. On-time loads should never take precedent over a driver’s safety.
Fleet managers should then empower their drivers to make sounds judgement calls about operating in inclement weather.
I was often questioned about my decision to give all the power to the driver in these situations.
“What if your drivers take advantage of it, just to get some time off. What if they shut down when they could have made the delivery on time?”
My response was always a resounding: “So, what?”
So, my driver felt it was better to shut down than risk driving in weather that made him uncomfortable. So, we picked up a load a couple of hours late. Everyone was safe.
The benefits of empowering my drivers more than outweighed the risk:
- No loads were damaged due to an accident.
- My driver was not injured due to an accident
- My driver did not injure any other person on the highway.
- All equipment remained undamaged.
- My driver and I bonded. Trust was born out of the situation.
How IWS Can Help
Current Infinit-I Clients:
Check out the September 2020 Catalog release for current courses specifically designed to encourage safe driving in inclement weather. There are also existing training courses to prepare your drivers for emergencies such as rollovers, runoffs, jackknifes, etc.
Contact your CSR today! We can assign these videos, along with any of your custom content, to your entire fleet! The inclement weather conversation must be ongoing; get your driver’s talking about it.
Future Infinit-I Clients:
We offer 850+ safety training videos designed to enhance safety culture and create safer drivers.
And now, take advantage of our 30-day complimentary trial. You’ll be able to train your entire fleet at absolutely no cost.