One can never be too sure the road ahead is without ice, especially considering the freeze-first nature of bridges. The question is: Are you willing to take your chances?
Reliance Partners Vice President of Safety Brian Runnels explains why bridges are the last place a driver would want to hit an ice patch and how to avoid such a scenario when things get icy.
“Ground warmth insulates the roads, keeping [them] from freezing as fast — bridges don’t have that,” Runnels said.
That’s because bridges are susceptible to winter conditions such as wind, rain and snow on all sides, even below. For this reason, Runnels urges drivers to also brace for ice when traveling over bridges and underpasses when temperatures approach or dip below freezing.
“Underpasses rarely get sun exposure,” he said. “Everything that’s dripping from the top of the bridge is now falling there and freezing.”
In general, ice-related truck accidents are caused by excessive speed and/or brake use. On one hand, acceleration causes your tires to spin, while on the other hand, braking causes them to slide. Regardless, a spinning or sliding tire will want to take the lead, often resulting in a jackknifing accident.
It sounds counterintuitive not to use your brakes, but Runnels believes you’re better off with constant rolling traction.
“You’ll want to try to keep that rolling traction as best you can on or under a bridge,” Runnels said. “Disengaging the power and not braking is probably the best way to do that.”
If a skid starts to happen, Runnels finds it helpful to pick a point straight ahead and steer toward it.
The more space around the truck the better, which creates more lanes, places to ditch and no other traffic around you. But bridges often lack these securities.
There may be an emergency lane to your right to aid a recovery — but not by much. You can only hope the guardrails or concrete barriers are enough to prevent a terribly high fall.
“There comes a point in a skid where you lose the ability to get it back,” Runnels said. “Especially on bridges, you don’t necessarily have a lot of room to correct it.”
Whatever the conditions, be mindful of your truck’s speed and approach bridges and underpasses with caution when the temperature sits around or below freezing.
What’s more, remember to always check the weather report before hitting the road and obey any signs warning of hazardous road conditions. Don’t hesitate to wait it out if you suspect the roads have yet to be treated for ice as those conditions worsen.
Click for more FreightWaves content by Jack Glenn.
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