Michigan Laws on Semi-Trucks and Winter Driving

Winter in Michigan is unpredictable, and road conditions can turn on a dime, making travel dangerous at times. For drivers, it can be scary, especially when sharing the space with much larger vehicles like semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles. What might come as a surprise are some of the specific rules under Michigan laws for semi-trucks and winter driving.

Semi-Trucks and Winter Driving Speed Limits

Most who frequently drive in the snow likely take extra precautions. However, it’s not uncommon to see a semi-truck or other motor vehicle fly past as if the road conditions were not a cause for concern. However, in some cases, even if obeying the technical speed limit, those not taking precautions while traveling in hazardous conditions could be breaking the law. Michigan’s statute plainly states the following regarding road conditions and speed:

  • An individual operating a vehicle on a highway shall operate the vehicle at a careful and prudent speed, not greater than, nor less than, what is reasonable and proper having due regard for the traffic, surface, the width of the roadway, and any other conditions existing at that time.
  • An individual cannot operate a vehicle at a speed greater than will allow them to stop within an assured clear distance ahead.

This means a motorist cannot drive faster than what will allow them to safely stop or faster than what is reasonable for the conditions on the roadway. This includes traffic and weather conditions and applies to all motor vehicles, including semi-trucks.

Winter Driving and Removal of Snow and Ice from Semi-Trucks

Also often seen during Michigan winter driving is heavy snow blowing and falling off the back of cars, trucks, and, of course, semi-trucks, which can obstruct the vision of those following behind. Additionally, there are laws in place for all motor vehicles concerning snow removal before operation. That statute states as follows:

  • A person shall not deposit, or cause to be deposited, snow, ice, or slush onto or across the roadway in a manner that obstructs the safety vision of another driver of a motor vehicle.
  • A person shall not deposit, or cause to be deposited, snow, ice, or slush on any roadway or highway.

This simply means that all motorists, including semi-truck drivers, must clear their vehicles of snow ice, and slush so that snow, ice, and slush does not fall from the vehicle onto the roadway.

Federal Regulations for Semi-Trucks

Another important note about semi-trucks and commercial vehicles driving during bad weather conditions is that commercial motor vehicles are subject to a very specific set of federal regulations. Michigan has adopted those regulations as well. There is a specific rule concerning bad-condition driving that states the following:

  • Drivers of commercial motor vehicles must use extreme caution in the operation of those vehicles when they are in hazardous conditions.
  • Hazardous conditions include snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, smoke, or anything that could adversely affect the visibility or traction of the vehicle.
  • Speed must be reduced when those conditions exist.
  • If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated.

It’s important to understand that federal regulation has no exceptions.  Thus, when the conditions become sufficiently dangerous, there are circumstances where the commercial motor vehicle must cease to operate.  That means commercial truck drivers must pull off the side of the road and park until it is safe to travel again. This is especially important in the event a motor vehicle is involved in a crash with a commercial motor vehicle in hazardous weather conditions when perhaps the commercial vehicle or semi-truck should not have been driving at all.

As a rule of thumb, all motorists should make sure they exercise caution when driving in hazardous weather. Following Michigan laws on winter driving can not only prevent a crash but potentially save a life. If you or a loved one is injured in a crash because of the careless driving of another, it’s important to protect your rights, and consult with a legal expert who can help you take the right steps. Sinas Dramis offers free consultation and serves those injured throughout all of Michigan.