A trucker going too fast for roadway conditions in bad weather has always been a serious cause of wrecks. The question is how do you define “bad weather” and what is the standard for trucker drivers who drive in adverse weather?
There is a specific federal regulation – federal motor carrier safety regulation – that addresses this topic. FMCSR §392.14 says:
Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be operated safely.
This FMCSR sets a very high standard of care on professional drivers when operating in anything less than ideal conditions. This high standard is appropriate because of the dangers posed by trucks in adverse weather conditions.
The duty to know when it is safe or not is on the trucker, but consider the real world. Truckers don’t get paid usually unless they are driving. Some trucking companies put pressure on drivers to get the truck to its destination because the trucking company does not get paid until the freight is delivered. So, I bet you can see the problem….
Another interesting source on the subject is the CDL manual. This is the manual all drivers have to study to get their CDL license. In the CDL Manual, it says:
Wet roads can double stopping distance. You must drive slower to be able to stop in the same distance as on a dry road. Reduce speed by abourt one-third (e.g., slow from 55 to 35 mph) on a wet road. On packed snow, reduce by a half or more. If the surface is icy, reduce speed to a crawl and stop as soon as you can safely do so.
It is hard for trucker drivers or trucking safety directors to run from either the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations or the CDL Manual when it comes to bad weather. The starting point is always the FMCSA.