Truckers: ‘Best thing to do is park’

by Sarah Fay Campbell

At the Pilot truck stop south of Newnan late Monday, the Weather Channel was on and plenty of drivers were stopping to watch the forecast.

Late Sunday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal asked truck drivers to stay off Interstate 285 and to find another way around Atlanta. On Monday, representatives from the Georgia Department of Public Safety dropped off packets of information that store employees placed on the counter. The information provided included the forecast, advice on snow chains, and reminders of Georgia laws about tractor-trailers staying in the right lanes.

Truck drivers travel the roads all over the country and are typically well-versed in driving through every possible road condition.

But ice — well, nobody can really drive in ice.

“I’d just as soon not drive in it,” said Dean Foster. “The best thing to do is park and wait it out. Ice doesn’t care how heavy your vehicle is,” he said. If you drive on it, you will be sliding.

Foster had a load to pick up in Franklin early Tuesday, and then he was heading north. He was hoping to be in Kentucky before the storm struck.

“If it’s really bad, I’ll just park it. It’s not worth putting it in a ditch.”

Foster is based out of Iowa, so he has plenty of experience driving in wintry weather. He has snow chains, but “they’re kind of a pain to put on,” he said. Additionally, if you use snow chains and stretches of asphalt are relatively clear, the pavement will damage the chains — and the chains will damage the pavement.

“If I need chains, I don’t drive,” said William Martin. And anytime there is the threat of ice, he doesn’t drive at night.

A few weeks ago, he was stranded in Indiana for three days. So was everyone else. Only emergency vehicles were allowed on the roads, he said.

Martin was on his way to Texas, and so was Terrence Jones. His company tries to prepare for storms by scheduling trips that will take its drivers away from the worst-hit areas.

Everyone agreed that Georgia — and Georgia drivers — has a lot to learn, and could be doing a much better job in winter storms.

“If they’d learn to drive [in Atlanta,] it wouldn’t be so bad,” said one truck driver.

“They should make better preparations,” said Jones.

But, Georgia doesn’t really get enough winter weather to justify the expense of a lot more equipment, said Martin. “It’s hard to go to people and say 'we need to raise your taxes' to buy something” that may only be used every few years.

“They need the actual ‘ice melt.’ And they need to plan better,” said store clerk Nancy Scroter, who hails from Massachusetts. You can scrape roads with front-end loaders and other heavy equipment that we’ve already got.

During the January snow, Scroter said she didn’t have any problems — but she does know how to drive in the snow. And that means driving slowly.

“People drive too fast,” she said. “It’s a matter of not stomping the gas and not stomping the brakes,” she said. When you stomp on the brakes, “you’re not stopping.” You’re going to keep sliding. “So you might as well” let off the brakes, she said.



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