Modern transportation is the lifeblood of civilization, and when bad weather hits, companies that make it their business to haul goods can't let a little wind, rain, snow or ice bring them to a halt.
"When it comes to the big picture, companies that haul for a living have to be continually monitoring what is going on in the weather. And from the highest level manager to the individual driver, they all have procedures on how to move forward when bad weather or other unusual circumstances spring up," said David O'Neal, Vice President, Safety Program of the Arkansas Trucking Organization.
O'Neal describes professional truckers as the captains of their own ships, relying on training, experience and procedures to contend with unusual situations.
"On the large scale management level, companies will be monitoring weather patterns and other such issues that could interfere with flow of traffic," he said. "If necessary and possible, drivers will be routed around problem areas to ensure they can keep going. Every now and then, such a reroute isn't feasible, though, so it comes down to the driver making their decisions according to situational awareness."
"The ice storm we dealt with Monday night and Tuesday morning was forecast well in advance, so companies were able to work around that. They don't always have that luxury, though," he said.
Drivers are professionally trained, know procedures and their vehicles and have safety and situational awareness drilled into them, but the type of weather and the area it hits make a big difference in the risk level.
"A little bit of ice is more of a hazard than snowfall," O'Neal said. "Also, different regions react in different ways. For example, icy weather is much more of a hazard in the south than in the north. Down here, depending on what comes in terms of winter weather, differences in infrastructure, equipment and expectations can make the difference in response to changing environmental conditions. Up north, they are used to and prepared for intense winter weather conditions. That isn't always the case in the southern part of the country."
Regardless, truckers and the companies they drive for know safety comes first.
Locally, other professional drivers rely on training and more experienced drivers to help them through bad weather. Domino's Pizza, known for its deliveries in 30 minutes or less, prepares its drivers to make their appointed rounds.
"We want our drivers to start out with a certain level of experience before we let them do this job," said Ivana Stephey, assistant manager at the Domino's, 110 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. "You have to be a license holder for at least three years to be eligible for this job."
New drivers also train and ride along with senior drivers who must sign off on their going solo.
The company delivers under most weather conditions.
"If it is raining, thundering, lightning, we will still deliver a pizza to you," she said. "If it is icy like it was this (Tuesday) morning, we will wait until road conditions improve. But under most situations, rain or shine, we will deliver."