Friday, February 3, 2017

PSA – Don’t pass the plow

After the second snowplow in as many weeks was run off the road by a truck driver, it seems like a good time to review a few best practices when operating around the plows. Multiple crashes between commercial trucks and snowplows in the mountains out west suggest that it is time for young and even experienced drivers to review guidelines for safe traveling around those work vehicles. Maybe veteran drivers can share these with some of the younger guys and gals they mentor.

The latest crash occurred around 12:34 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31, on Interstate 84 near Pendleton, Ore. According to reports, 38-year-old Bryon Kilmer, of Sweet Home, Ore., was cited for unsafe passing on the right after he attempted to pass an Oregon DOT snowplow and instead ended up knocking the vehicle off the road.

Earlier last month, a Utah DOT plow driver was seriously injured when another tractor-trailer passed a plow on the right and struck the vehicle, sending it careening through a guardrail and 300 feet down a snow-covered canyon.

Tom Crowley, a regulatory compliance agent with OOIDA’s Business Services office and former trucker, has also been driving snowplows since 2000. He said the thing all drivers need to remember when they’re behind the plow is that someone’s life isn’t worth the extra 15 minutes you might gain trying to pass.

“Snowplows are really locally oriented,” he said. “It’s not going to stay in front of you for 100 miles. You’re going to follow that plow for 10 or 15 miles, and then it’s going to turn back around and go the other way.”

The Iowa DOT has a handy guide for safe travel around snow plows, and they encourage drivers to keep the following in mind:

  • Don't try to tailgate and try not to pass
  • Don’t crowd the plow; give snow plows room to work
  • Snowplows frequently stop and back up
  • Stay back at least 200 feet
  • Plows travel below the speed limit 
Crowley said even if it’s not snowing when the plow is out, visibility is often reduced by spray coming from the plow blade. The best thing other drivers can do is to give the plow plenty of room.

“They’re out there doing their job, just like you are,” he said. “And without them, you’re not doing yours.”