Distance Trucking leans on tech to limit severe weather surprises

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Updated Mar 31, 2022

Checking a weather forecast for home is pretty easy, but when you're clocking 500-plus miles per day across multiple states it's not uncommon to run into some weather-related surprises. 

Just last week a storm system dropped multiple tornadoes across Texas and Louisiana before pushing north and eastward, placing almost 70 million people across the Southeast and into the Great Lakes region under a severe weather alert. 

When you're dragging a 53-feet-long wind sail, or trying to schlep 80,000 pounds up a snowy mountain pass, an unexpected change in weather is both frustrating and dangerous. 

To take some of the guesswork out of weather awareness, Bridgeview, Illinois-based Distance Trucking partnered with AccuWeather to integrate tailored weather alerts, including long-range forecasts and up-to-the-minute data geared specifically for trucking operations into a customizable personalized app installed on drivers' phones.

Distance Trucking drivers receive severe weather alerts in real time via the app, both as they travel and before they get on the road. As long as the driver's location services are turned on, they will receive personalized notifications about the weather conditions on their route, including alerts in the event of bad weather.

"There was a huge tornado in Kansas in November and Distance Trucking had several of its trucks in the area," recalled Bojan Radojicic, owner of Distance Trucking. "The tornado came out of nowhere with little prior warning. Luckily none of our trucks were impacted, but they easily could have been."

That close call with a handful of its drivers was one too many, and Radojicic immediately kicked off a search for a solution for his 34-truck, FedEx-contracted fleet. 

AccuWeather notifies the Distance Trucking team about strong winds, snow spreads, fire risk, lightning detection, storm potential and more types of dangerous and disruptive weather. AccuWeather's app also provides team members with the option to customize which notifications a driver wants to receive, filtering data for the most relevant and essential updates for their specific needs and routes.

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Each app notification specifies the weather category, threat level, expected duration, locations affected and detailed comments from an AccuWeather expert meteorologist alongside Distance Trucking's recommendations and protocols for how drivers should respond in a given situation. 

Back at the office, Distance Trucking's admin team will receive weather alerts for their fleet and will monitor the weather developments in the entire U.S. on a large screen.

One of AccuWeather's over 125 meteorologists is available 24 hours a day for any Distance Trucking driver or dispatcher requiring immediate information from a certified expert.

Radojicic said among the benefits of having these real-time updates is that's its allowed the company to pull drivers off the road sooner, rather than waiting for them to actually hit severe weather and search for parking along with every other driver on the road. 

"The most important thing is once you get to the ice storm conditions, for example, even if you're trying to pull up on a truck stop, they're already jammed," he said. 

Radojicic continues to work with AccuWeather on deeper customization, removing notifications for territories the fleet doesn't cover and hazardous conditions that aren't applicable to his fleet (like wildfires), but add capabilities to notify the fleet of strong crosswinds and customize notifications based on the level of snow accumulation in specific areas. 

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].