There is no way to completely avoid being shut down on the interstate because of weather. It's happened to me twice - once in 1998 on I-40 in West Texas and again in Big Cabin, Oklahoma around 2000. Both of those instances only lasted a few hours. I've never been stuck on the road for longer than about four hours. I have been shut down in parking lots a time or two. One thing is for sure - there is NO EXCUSE for not being able to survive 24 hours of a shut down no matter where it happens. Let's talk about a few options and preparations that can save you from starving or freezing when the unthinkable happens.
AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS
This week I was on my way from West Virginia to Connecticut when I learned that bad weather a possibility. Honestly, my first thought (based on years of dealing with the "news" and weather forecasts) was, "This probably won't be as bad as they're saying." Ok, one point for the meteorologists. They were right this time. As the time passed and the forecasts became more clear, it was obvious that this was going to be a significant event. I had booked a load out of Connecticut going to Texas. The shortest route (I-81) was in the direct line of the storm. My trailer was scheduled to be ready at 17:00 Thursday evening. I ran the numbers and saw that, as long as everything worked out, I could get loaded and try to get into Tennessee before it hit. By Wednesday, it was clear that plan was a no-go. I would get to Roanoke or maybe Johnson City and be stuck. My only option at that point was to go around it. I made adjustments to my trip plan and calculated the out-of-route mileage. If instead I took I-84 to Scranton and then across I-80 to I-71 in Ohio, I could be south of Columbus, Ohio by Friday evening and, according to all the weather reports, had a 99% chance of missing all the snow completely. The out of route mileage was 154. At the current average fuel cost, that's less than $50 in fuel - a no-brainer. I would still have to wait until the snow in Central Kentucky and Tennessee was cleared, but there was enough time in my trip to take a 34 hour restart. (Had the storm not come, I would've eaten the same out of route mileage to take the load home with me and do the restart there, but we got almost two feet in WV.) By the time my restart is up, the roads in KY and TN should be clear and I will make my delivery with no issue. COMPANY DRIVERS: You have this option as well. In this situation, you need to count the cost (Figure the OOR miles) and call your dispatch and say, "Look guys, It's 150 miles out of route for me to miss this storm completely and still make delivery. I need the authorization to go around it." Once you have done the math to back up your plan, you'll be approved every single time.
SO YOU COULDN'T AVOID IT AND NOW YOU'RE STUCK
Any over the road truck driver should be able to survive 24-48 inside their truck. Period. In the age of information, ignorance is not an excuse. "What if my engine quits?" Well, you best have some some warm clothes and a heat source. Even as poorly as my truck is insulated, I could survive 0-20 degrees for a night or two. I have extra blankets, thermal underwear, and enough food to make it until help arrives. If worse comes to worst, then there should be another truck (or car) close by that you can get in and be kept warm. I have some candles that would generate enough heat inside the cab that would keep me from becoming a Popsicle. I'm looking into adding a portable propane heater ($80 on amazon) that would be more than enough to allow me to survive in most cases.
LET'S GO OVER A LIST OF SUPPLIES THAT SHOULD BE IN EVERY TRUCK DURING WINTER
- Warm clothes - insulated coveralls, thermal underwear, winter boots, good gloves, insulated sleeping bag
- secondary heat source - candles in a coffee can, propane heater
- food - chocolate bars, granola, water (If you're already living in the truck, your normal food supply should sufficient)
- Some type of makeshift potty. There are some impressive items on the market that can turn a trash can or five gallon bucket into something to take care of important business if you're stuck on an interstate and nature calls.
The bottom line is that, as professional drivers that live on the road, we should be able to survive almost anything while we are on it. Not only should we be able to take care of ourselves, we should have some surplus that can be shared with others who either aren't prepared or are struck by unfortunate circumstances.