Disturbingly, not much. The 2015 South Carolina Commercial Driver’s License Manual, which tuckers study to get their license, reports a tractor-trailer can hydroplane at speeds as low as 30 mph if there’s a lot of water on the road. But, the manual warns, it doesn’t take much to cause an accident.
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What Is Hydroplaning?
Consider this: an 18-wheeler hits water or slush on the road. The liquid acts as a lubricant—like a thin layer of oil on machinery. The truck’s tires lose contact with the road and begin coasting on top of the fluid layer. But it’s traction—the friction between the tires and the pavement—that keeps the vehicle securely on the road. Frighteningly, once hydroplaning begins, it can completely disable steering and brakes.
The manual describes it as “like water skiing”—except water skiers don’t weigh over 80,000 pounds or move at highway speeds. The damage caused by a freewheeling, hydroplaning tractor trailer can be devastating, even deadly.
How Trucks Prevent Hydroplaning in Wet and Icy Weather
The manual advises truckers to prevent tire pressure from dropping and be sure tire tread remains deep, since the grooves carry away water. Truck drivers should also be vigilant for warning signs on the road, like clear reflections, tire splashes, and even rain drops—all of which indicate standing water posing the looming danger of a hydroplane.
If you’ve been harmed by a hydroplaning tractor trailer—or any type of 18-wheeler or auto crash—tell us your story to see if we can help you gain compensation to recover from the effects. Feel free to start a live chat right where you are, or just call us toll free at (888) 230-1841. You can also download our free report about these cases, which has lots of information people want to know.