For commercial drivers, gravel is unpredictable and can be a difficult and sometimes dangerous surface to navigate. For starters, tires have reduced traction on gravel which translates into less stable control of the vehicle.
On rural roads, a common place for accidents to occur is when a paved road suddenly changes to gravel. Typically, the reason for the collision is that the driver failed to reduce speed before the changeover to gravel and then loses control of the vehicle.
Commercial drivers should review best practices for driving on gravel as they may unexpectedly come into contact with a gravel road. With the right advice in mind, drivers will be prepared to safely navigate this challenging terrain.
Experts offer these eight tips:
Adjust Tire Pressure
Drivers who know in advance that they will be driving on gravel should adjust their tire pressure in order to aid traction. As a general rule, aim for these psi (pounds per square inch) measures: firm dirt/gravel track 28-36 psi; rough gravel track 26-32 psi; rocks 22-28 psi or even lower, for very rocky terrain.
Gravel roads are no place for speeding as your vehicle can easily skid or spin out of control. It’s best to reduce speed and drive slowly with caution.
Drive in the Center
Experts say the center of the road is safest when driving on gravel. Stay in the center until you get to a hill then move off to the right side. Once past the hill, get back in center.
Use Existing Tire Tracks
Whenever possible, drive in existing tire tracks which gives you better traction and will make traversing gravel much easier.
Use both hands and avoid any sudden movements. However, it’s best not to use excessive grip on the steering wheel when driving on gravel. While you want to maintain control, because gravel has varied consistency less pressure on the steering will allow the vehicle to “go with the flow.”
Keep the Right Following Distance
If there are cars ahead of you, make sure to leave extra space between your vehicle and the vehicle up ahead. Experts recommend 6 seconds of following distance.
Pass with Caution
If you must pass another vehicle while traveling on a gravel road, do so with great caution. There are no road markings for guidance, so be very careful when passing.
Handle Skids Appropriately
If you do skid while driving on gravel, do not panic. Ease your foot off the gas and the brakes, focus on steering and gently turn the steering wheel in the direction the vehicle is pulling. This should help you regain control of your vehicle and get safely back on track.