Fall is a season of change — for both physical surroundings and how fleet owners evaluate their operations. Rig drivers already face challenges on the road, but shorter days, unpredictable weather and increased traffic during fall can present even more danger to drivers and others they’re sharing lanes with. Ron Jessen, director of refined fuels marketing for CHS, shares best practices for keeping all vehicles safe on the road during this busy time of year.
Fall brings wetter road conditions and the first couple of rainfalls of the season can be especially dangerous, as water pools on top of dust and oil that hasn’t been washed off the roads. Dirt, mud and crop debris from farmers exiting their fields also gather on rural roads which can become hazardous to fleet drivers. “Drivers should allow extra space for cars in front of them,” says Jessen. “Roads may appear manageable, but even a little slipperiness can impact a rig’s stopping distance.”
In late fall, the first snowfall and frost bring driving challenges that need to be re-learned every year. “Because it’s been many months since drivers have traveled in the snow and ice, drivers need to take it slow as they get used to winter driving again,” says Jessen.
Less daylight and longer hours can also lead to increased fatigue. “Farmers, truckers, and machine operators are all working in full-force in the fall and many work extended hours to get the job done. This, plus the decrease in daylight, can lead to fatigue, which is a leading cause of accidents,” says Jessen.
Due to the rotation of the Earth in mid-to late-fall, the sun is often low in the sky, making sun glare a pressing issue this time of year. Glare bouncing off a mirror or other shiny objects can leave drivers temporarily blinded, causing accidents or near misses. Road signs and stoplights can at times be nearly impossible to read. “Approach stoplights very carefully,” says Jessen. “And keep your windshield clean, both inside and out. Dust and streaks can get illuminated by the sun and make it even harder to see the road.”
Frosty fall mornings can also challenge your visibility, as fog develops in low places or areas surrounded by hills, water and trees. “Truck drivers probably already know this, but never use high beams while driving in fog,” says Jessen. “High beams reflect off the fog and create glare, which reduces visibility even further. Instead, simply slow down and give the cars in front of you one or two additional car lengths of distance.”
“During fall, traffic on the road increases—both from other vehicles and wildlife,” says Jessen. Fall means kids are returning to school, so school buses will be out in full force. And harvest season brings combines and other equipment to rural roads. All drivers should keep a close eye for slow-moving vehicles and be prepared to stop or drastically slow down at all times.
Autumn activities, like hunting, pick up in October and November, which means drivers should be on the lookout for more cars on the road and parked in ditches. If hunters are out, it means the deer are as well. Autumn is mating season for deer, so it’s important to watch out for darting animals—especially when driving at night.
With sun glare and slippery roads, decreasing the number of times rigs get on and off the road can help mitigate risk. Switching to a fuel that increases overall fuel efficiency could be the solution. “A premium fuel like Cenex Roadmaster XL® or Cenex® Wintermaster® will improve fuel efficiency and keep drivers on the road for longer,” says Jessen. “With less time on exit and entrance ramps, and taking proper precautions during tricky autumn situations, drivers can keep themselves safe all year long.”
For more expertise and thoughts from Ron Jessen, visit the Cenexperts® blog.