As a veteran trucker, and now owner of a fleet, I’ve seen a lot out on the road. Earlier this week, I experienced something I hope to never see again. I was driving through the night in Montana and had a 300-mile stretch to go on a two-lane road. The weather was relatively warm, and I knew I would be climbing in elevation, but I wouldn’t be getting above 4,000 feet, so I wasn’t terribly concerned (typically 5,000 feet is where you start to see the bad weather conditions). The road was in good condition and had a nice, wide berm.
As I drove along, it started to drizzle, but the temperature was well above freezing. That, however, changed very quickly. As the elevation increased, the temperature dropped, and flurries began to mix in with the rain. Around this time, shoulder of the road dropped off, so there was no longer anywhere to pull over should I need to. I dropped my speed and proceeded with caution.
All of a sudden, I was in whiteout conditions. The road went from wet but clear to four inches of accumulated snow! The massive flakes were disorienting—I could hardly tell if I was driving into them, or they were driving into me. And there was absolutely nowhere to stop and pull over, because I knew that the sides of the road were banked and feared rolling if I pulled off.
Shortly after this began, another truck passed me on the other side of the road. As there were no other vehicles around (I counted a total of 7 other cars the entire 300 mile stretch), I pulled into the other lane and followed that truck’s tire tracks for about 15 minutes, until conditions cleared.
I want to stress how important it is to always be aware of your surroundings when driving. Although I was actively monitoring the temperature and elevation, this whiteout hit me out of nowhere. By observing the road’s shoulder, I was aware that I could not safely pull over. Some quick thinking, and a little luck, got me through a very scary situation that could’ve bested even the most experienced driver. Stay safe out there!