Driving in high winds

Given that the news is consistently full of storms and gale forecasts, as a professional HGV driver you probably don’t need to be told that this is becoming an increasing problem for the road haulage industry in the UK.

Even when speaking to seasoned professionals, the Freight Transport Association and other professional bodies are keen to periodically re-state some best practice advice*.

Here, we at Isis Insurance will reproduce some of that along with a few other points you may wish to consider.

Put the SatNav away when high winds are forecast – use your map and experience instead

This is based upon the old wisdom that places like bridges, flyovers and isolated windswept rural roads are all examples of locations where HGVs just shouldn’t be in very windy conditions.

Satellite navigation systems aren’t always very bright when making allowances for prevailing weather conditions. So if things are rough, get back to the old basics of planning your route yourself using a map or atlas.

Secure your vehicle

Driving along in high winds with your tilt, tarpaulins and securing ropes flapping around behind you is likely to be terrifying for other road users and potentially dangerous.

Make sure these are all well secured at any time but particularly when gales are forecast – unless you enjoy the prospect of a frank roadside exchange of views with the police.

Try to avoid hoisting a sail

If at all possible, try to fold or secure at one end of your vehicle, any side canvases or curtains.

That will avoid them being caught by lateral winds and acting as a sail that might be perfectly capable of turning your vehicle over.

Make a special effort to think of other road users

People on bicycles, mopeds, low-powered cars or those towing caravans, might all be struggling to cope with the winds at the same time you are. Remember that if you are passing them with an HGV, there may be some very complex and powerful vortices of winds that act between you and them, thereby making their job of staying stable even more difficult.

So, drive particularly considerately in those conditions and watch out for unexpected movements from other road users.

Keep your speed down

Irrespective of whether or not local speed restrictions are in force, in strong gusty conditions make sure that you keep your speed below the prevailing limits.

Quadruple-check the securing of your load

It’s not unusual in very strong windy conditions to see lorries trailing debris or components of their load along the road behind them as they go along.

Make sure yours is completely secure and remember again that this could be both a safety and police issue if you get it wrong.

Keep in mind also that failing to secure your load may put elements of your haulage insurance at risk.

Look ahead for shocks

If you are driving along a stretch of road that is relatively sheltered from the prevailing wind direction, you may be lulled into a false sense of security.

Watch out ahead for gaps in the cover that might result in a sudden and entirely unexpected sideways blast of strong wind.

Plan ahead for rest periods

Leaving aside the statutory requirements for maximum driver hours, recognise that driving in gale force conditions is stressful and exceptionally tiring.

So, plan in extra stops. Remember also that if you are taking ferries, depending upon your sea legs, you may just need some time after disembarkation to recover your sense of the judgment and balance.