If you’ve ever skidded or lost control of a vehicle while it’s raining or wet outside, you’ve likely experienced hydroplaning. But what exactly is hydroplaning? What causes it, and how can you avoid it? These questions are important for all drivers to answer, especially for commercial drivers, who must be vigilant when it comes to anything that increases the potential of an accident.
Also known as aquaplaning, hydroplaning occurs when the tires on a vehicle are lifted above the pavement, separated by a film of water. The sensation is temporary in most cases, but can be a scary experience if you’re unprepared for how to handle it.
This short guide for commercial drivers covers not only what hydroplaning means, but what drivers can do to avoid it, including using technology that provides enhanced road and driver safety.
What does hydroplane mean?
Hydroplane means to ride on a film of water on a wet surface. It happens when a tire encounters more water than it can scatter, resulting in water pressure in the front of the wheel pushing water under the tire.
Even if there isn’t a huge amount of water on the road, hydroplaning can happen. Drivers who hydroplane can lose control of steering, the ability to stop, and power control.
What is hydroplaning caused by?
Hydroplaning is most likely to occur within a few minutes of rainfall. The rain mixes with oil residue on the road surface, making it slippery. Commercial drivers should take note of this short time frame at the beginning of rainfall, and exercise increased caution.
Several conditions influence the likelihood of hydroplaning, including:
- Depth of water on the road.
- Road conditions like ruts, cross-slopes, grade, and width.
- The speed of the vehicle.
- Improperly inflated tires.
- Driving on worn tires.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, rain and wet pavement are the leading causes of weather-related collisions in the U.S. While some hydroplaning incidents are unavoidable, drivers can help prevent them with proper driving techniques and vehicle maintenance.
What to do when hydroplaning
Because road safety is one of the biggest concerns for those who drive professionally, it’s essential to take extra caution when traveling on wet roads. If you find yourself hydroplaning, here are some steps you can take to recover from hydroplaning and regain control of your vehicle:
- The first step is to remain calm.
- Don’t slam on your brakes! Sudden braking can cause the vehicle to skid out of control.
- Instead, release the accelerator to allow the vehicle to gradually lose speed on its own.
- Make small steering corrections in the direction you’re drifting. Sharper steering wheel movements can cause your vehicle to swerve into another lane. Remember, you’re gliding over water, so your control is limited at best.
- As your vehicle starts to slow, you should regain some contact with the road. At that point, you can safely ease onto the brakes.
How to avoid hydroplaning
You can avoid hydroplaning in a vehicle with proactive vehicle maintenance and careful driving. A few other tips are:
Slow down when driving in wet conditions, and consider driving in a lower gear.
Don’t use cruise control when it’s wet
Cruise control measures wheel speed to regulate engine output. Because hydroplaning causes tire traction to break, the cruise control sensor can’t reliably detect the vehicle’s speed.
Keep up with tire maintenance
Tire condition is of utmost importance in avoiding hydroplaning. Tires should be kept properly inflated, rotated, and balanced regularly. Replace tires when the tread is worn.
Pay attention to your surroundings
Drivers should avoid puddles and standing water, and try not to make sudden maneuvers, like sudden or tight turns.
Other useful driving techniques include driving in the tire tracks left by cars and using center lanes rather than outer lanes (where water tends to pool). For more driving safety tips, check out our article on driving safety tips.
How to stay safe in all weathers with Motive
Safe driving techniques are a commercial driver’s first line of defense in a hydroplaning incident; however, some fleet management companies often employ additional techniques to improve driver safety.
Motive offers comprehensive fleet safety solutions for enhanced road and driver safety.
Technology has become a big part of commercial vehicle fleets over the last few years. ELDs, fleet management software, GPS tracking, and, specifically, dashcams, play a crucial role in improving driver safety.
The Motive AI Dashcam recognizes risky driving behavior, such as cell phone use, sudden lane shifts, and close following. It instantly detects unsafe driving behaviors with industry-leading accuracy, and alerts drivers in real time so they can modify their behaviors in the critical seconds before an accident happens. This video footage is also shared with safety managers for real-time visibility into driver behavior and to use in coaching conversations. This data is recorded and reflected on the DRIVE risk score, which you can use to monitor driver performance over a period of time and improve your fleet risk management programs.
The DRIVE risk score benchmarks every driver behavior against 400,000+ vehicles in our network, to provide you with an objective measure of risk that studies show is five times more predictive of future accidents than the industry’s leading safety score. Every driver in your fleet receives a DRIVE score, which can be monitored via the Motive Safety Hub and used to guide ongoing coaching conversations.
Improve driver safety with Motive
Driver safety is more important than ever for the fleets that power our economy, and running a safe fleet has never been more critical to the health and success of a business.
Fleets can reduce accidents by up to 30% with Motive’s AI Dashcam, automatic video review and coaching, and the DRIVE risk score.
Request a free demo today to explore how Motive is increasing safety and simplifying fleet management for commercial fleets of all types and sizes.