We have entered the time of year in the Midwest when icy roads and parking lots can sneak right up on a driver. As experienced drivers know, asphalt can freeze fast in the right conditions. It’s time for that seasonal reminder about not only driving on icy roads but walking on icy parking lots and loading docks too.
Ice Ice Baby
What’s the number one ingredient of ice on the roads? Well, water, of course. It doesn’t take much water to create slippery surfaces—just some moisture in the air, such as in a fog, can be enough to coat the roadway with a thin layer of ice. Snow that melts due to the sun shining on warmer black asphalt or because of the friction of tires, as on a busy highway, will re-freeze at night when there is less traffic and temperatures drop below freezing. These are the conditions that create the hazard of black ice.
What You Didn’t See Coming
Black ice—it happens seemingly unexpectedly and can initiate an inappropriate response from an unseasoned driver. Even experienced drivers can use a quick reminder of just how to respond when they feel the tires suddenly slipping on the road. So, here is your annual prompt: Let up on the accelerator, resist the urge to jump on the brake, and hold the wheel steady.
Knowing the weather conditions that can cause black ice to develop will help you be prepared for when it happens. Encountering black ice is just like any other ice with the exception that it is virtually clear, making it look like the road is either dry or maybe wet. Black ice is a thin layer of clear ice that forms to the contours of the road. The transparency of black ice is the property that makes it so dangerous. Black ice can form when snow falls, when rain freezes, and even just from dew or fog that freezes. So generally, if it’s cold enough for ice or snow, it’s cold enough for black ice.
The US Forest Service has a good guide explaining black ice and how to deal with it while driving. “Black ice forms most commonly at night or in the early morning when the temperatures are at their lowest, or when the sun isn't around to warm the roads.”
Stay Alert After the Drive Too
After an NTB driver has negotiated slick road conditions successfully, it’s also important to be just as careful after leaving the warmth of the cab to unhook a trailer at the loading dock. While our customers are always careful to maintain their lots for the safety of all, just like the roads, these lots can freeze quickly too.
A good pair of traction cleats that can easily be worn over boots may be one of the best investments a driver can make to keep yourself upright during winter months. Yaktrax and STABILicers are a couple of brands that make highly rated attachable cleats that can keep you from slipping and sliding when your feet hit the frozen ground.
Stay safe out there NTB drivers!
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