Blowing in the wind: Truckers’ tips for safe driving

By Nanci Dixon
Several interstates are notorious for wind, particularly in the spring and fall. I-40, I-10, and I-8 have all sidelined us at one time or another. I-40 near Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona, periodically report that semi-trucks have literally blown over in the wind along the interstate. So if trucks have a hard time in a windstorm, what about RVs? What do the truckers do to stay safe while the wind blows?

Truck trailers are measured in “sail” area, the area that can catch the wind. A 53-foot tractor trailer has about 500 square feet of area that can be pushed, create thrust or be disrupted by high winds, similar to having a sail. RVs have “sail” too – just, thankfully, less.

The tips below are ones that long-haul truckers know about driving during a windstorm, but they are also very useful for RVers.

  1. Know how your rig preforms in the wind. The “sail” area can cause an RV to move out of its lane and out of control. There are after-market parts that can improve handling for RVs in the wind.
  2. Reduce speed in the wind. Don’t let the vehicles behind force you to drive at unsafe speeds.
  3. Check existing wind speeds before setting out. There are several apps available to check the forecast and existing winds. Windy, WindAlert, and Windfinder are all good apps that we use consistently. Check out both the prevailing wind and gust speed. The gusts are the ones that can unexpectedly cause an accident.
  4. Check out the weather reports. A wind advisory or a red flag warning are both indications of windy weather. Arizona weather reporters tend to say “breezy,” when in Minnesota they would say it is “windy”. If we hear “windy” in Arizona, Oklahoma, or Texas, we take in the chairs and tables, fasten down the patio rugs and stay in place. Winds have been so strong at times we have had to pull in the slides.
  5. Keep both hands on the wheel and avoid distractions. A sudden gust of wind during a windstorm can jerk the wheel out of your hands. Avoid distractions. Rubber-necking, reaching for something, even turning on the radio can be enough to lose attention on the road conditions.
  6. Watch the signs on the road. They are there for a reason. Wind socks, gusty winds ahead, dust storm area are all signs to be cautious. Bridges and open mountain ridges are all the more prone to gusts that can cause loss of control.
  7. Watch the road too. Flags flying straight out, grass laying horizontal and trees moving back and forth not only give an indication of the amount of wind but also the direction.
  8. Pull over and stop when wind speeds are too high to drive safely. Find a campsite or spot to wait it out. We once spent four days in Oklahoma waiting out gale winds.

For a trucker, when it is determined that an accident is due to high winds, that trucker or company could be charged with negligence. Truckers have dispatchers that do the route planning for them. RVers are on their own determining the safest routes, particularly when high winds are expected. Don’t let an accident happen to you.

And as the old Irish blessing goes, “May the wind be always at your back”.


Lane-savvy driving – The safe way to travel


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