Blow The Truck Down

July 26, 2013

A recent accident shows the perils of driving a big rig in heavy winds. The Mackinac Bridge in St. Ignace, MI, was closed for several hours on July 18 when 80 mph gusts of wind caused a tractor-trailer to tip over on its side and fall onto the bridge railing.

In this instance, the trucker came out unscathed, but heavy winds can be a deadly proposition in a semi, especially if you're traveling too fast.

While winds cause problems for all motorists, they are particularly dangerous for high-profile vehicles such as tractor-trailers. A single gust of 55-mile-per-hour wind can carry a truck across multiple lanes or knock a trailer over in a matter of seconds.

Wind is a safety concern for all truck drivers, especially when traveling with a light load. The less weight in the trailer, the more likely it is to be picked up and carried by the wind. Therefore, truckers should take extra precautions when traveling through the wind with an empty trailer.

Essurance, an Allstate company, says drivers traveling in the Midwest, should always be alert to tornado warnings. And if you travel through Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, or another East Coast state, keep an eye out for hurricane warnings before hitting the road.

If a storm's on its way, it's best not to drive, the insurance provider warns. But if you're caught on the road or just can't avoid it, use these tips to your advantage:

Slow down

Crosswinds make it harder to control your vehicle, especially if you drive a big one (truck, RV, bus, etc.).

Don't stop on a bridge

The insurance provider cites another tragedy that happened on the Makinac Bridge in 1989. A woman driving a small '87 Yugo stopped her car on the bridge. Gale-force winds helped carry her car over the bridge's barrier, and it was later determined that the act of stopping (along with the car's light weight) made it easier for the wind to push her car off the bridge.

Keep both hands on the wheel

Whenever you drive through unpredictable conditions, keep your hands at 9 and 3 (or 8 and 4). This'll help you react to sudden gusts or unexpected moves by drivers around you.

Stay away from trucks and buses

Trucks, busses and RVs are particularly vulnerable to high winds. Steer clear of other high-profile vehicles.

Watch for downed power lines

High winds can knock down power lines. Beware of them during and after high winds and call 9-1-1 if you come across any.

Watch out for flying debris

Crazy winds can cause building damage, downed trees, and other debris to fly into the road and toward your car. It may take awhile for this stuff to get cleaned up, so be a little extra cautious for a few days after the storm.

Expect the unexpected, especially if the wind suddenly calms

You might be in the eye of the storm, which means it's far from over. Keep your guard up until you're able to get off the road.

Avoid flooded areas

Not only are floods bad for your vehicle, but they may be housing hidden electrical currents if a power line fell nearby. Don't try to drive through them — and never attempt to walk or swim through them.

Prepare an emergency kit

Keep these items in the truck just in case:

Food and water

Extra fuel (this will come in handy if you're stuck in traffic while trying to evacuate)

Cell phone and charger

The weather channel offers the following tips for driving in high winds:

- Be aware of vehicles around you. High winds are more problematic for drivers of trucks, buses, recreational vehicles, campers, and drivers who are towing trailers

- Reduce your speed and correct your steering, especially when moving from a protected area to an unprotected area, or when meeting large vehicles.

- Wind is often accompanied by heavy rain or winter precipitation. Stay alert for slippery areas.

Trucking safety experts at J.J. Keller offer an "Extreme 7-Minute Solutions: Wind! - Pay Per View Training Program" to help train drivers on dangerous situations involving wind.

The Pay Per View wind training program:

- Advises drivers how to control their vehicles in extremely windy conditions

- Discusses that with the longer "sail" surface on 53-foot trailers, and with newer trailers being built lighter, rollovers can occur more easily in extreme conditions - even when at a standstill

- Covers intense, emotionally charged, and dangerous situations your drivers can face on the road

- Features lively graphics and a pulse-quickening soundtrack

Includes real-world insight from seasoned drivers and safety professionals

For more information go to

Here are some videos that demonstrate the dangers of driving big rigs in high winds:

Links to sources for the story:

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