If you’ve been driving for some time, you’ve probably seen signs on the highway that mention something about high-profile vehicles. But if you’re like most people, you might not know exactly what this term refers to.
If you’re a safety-inclined motorist (and you should be), you’ll likely want to learn more about high-profile vehicles, as there is generally more risk involved in operating and sharing the road with them. But what exactly is a high-profile vehicle?
A high-profile vehicle is a vehicle that has a large surface area that can be adversely affected by crosswinds. High-profile vehicles include:
- Pickup trucks
- Box trucks
- Semi trucks/tractor trailers
If you still have some questions or safety concerns about high-profile vehicles, don’t worry. This post aims to answer these questions and educate you about these kinds of vehicles and the risk involved in operating them. We’ll also give you some practical tips for operating and sharing the road with high-profile vehicles. Just keep reading for more information.
What Types Of Vehicles Are Considered High-Profile Vehicles?
Like we mentioned, high-profile vehicles are vehicles that have a large exposed surface. The common factor with the types of vehicles we listed earlier is that they all have large surfaces that are practically asking to be caught in crosswinds.
Pickup Trucks And SUVs
Some might not consider trucks and SUVs high-profile vehicles, but the side surface area of these vehicles is significantly larger than that of smaller cars. Thus, crosswinds can more easily affect these vehicles.
Box trucks are generally tall and narrow — the epitome of a high-profile vehicle. Box trucks come in many different sizes, and the wind-risk is proportionate to the side surface area.
Semi Trucks/Tractor Trailers
Semi trucks are perhaps most susceptible to strong wind gusts. Their trailers are often over 50 feet long and around 9 feet tall, which means there’s a whopping 450 square feet of surface area for strong winds to take hold of. Check out this video of an Amazon Prime truck battling strong wind gusts on a Colorado highway -
RVs are also considered high-profile vehicles. The taller and longer the RV, the more susceptible it is to strong crosswinds.
What Wind Speed Is Dangerous For High-Profile Vehicles?
Wind affects high-profile vehicles in a couple of ways. We’ll break this topic down into two sections: how wind affects the front-facing surface and how it affects the side profile.
Front Surface Drag
To better understand the effects of wind on high-profile vehicles, we first need to learn about drag. Drag (which is sometimes referred to as “resistance”) is a force that tends to slow objects down as they move. Drag always acts in the opposite direction of an object’s motion. And perhaps most importantly, the force of drag increases with the speed of the object in motion.
If you have ever stuck your arm out of the window of a moving car and flattened your hand against the oncoming wind, you have felt the force of drag. You probably noticed that your hand got pushed back with more force the faster the vehicle was moving.
The force of drag comes into play primarily with very large vehicles like tractor trailers and box trucks. These vehicles have not only a large side profile but a large front surface as well. This front-facing surface creates a lot of drag which can be quite dangerous in the event of sudden wind gusts or a turbulent headwind.
High-profile vehicles are extremely vulnerable to crosswinds due to their large side profile. The larger its side profile, the more susceptible the vehicle is to being knocked over by strong winds. Thus, a large tractor trailer is more likely to be knocked over by strong winds than a smaller box truck, all other things being equal.
The National Weather Service says that winds of 30 miles per hour will make it difficult to drive high-profile vehicles. If wind speeds are any higher, namely higher than 40 miles per hour, it’s best not to drive high-profile vehicles. A crosswind that strong can easily knock over these taller vehicles.
Are High-Profile Vehicles Rollover Hazards?
High-profile vehicles have an inherently higher center of gravity which means that they are more susceptible to rolling over. If you’re not sure whether or not your vehicle has been deemed a rollover hazard, look inside the vehicle for a sticker that warns of rollover risk. A lot of manufacturers include this information somewhere in the cabin, sometimes on the sun visor.
However, it’s important to note that some manufacturers might not provide adequate warning of rollover risk. If you drive a pickup truck or a larger SUV, it’s best to treat it like a rollover hazard by driving accordingly.
For more general driving tips, be sure to check out this guide - Why Is Driving So Hard? [And 7 Ways To Make It Easier]
Tips For Driving High-Profile Vehicles Safely
We want to conclude this post by giving you some practical tips and considerations to safely operate and share the road with high-profile vehicles.
- Before you set out on a trip, be sure to check wind advisories along the route. If you know where and when there will be inclement weather, you can either modify your route, postpone the trip, or find a safe place to hunker down and wait out the weather.
- In windy conditions, drive well below the speed limit. This will give you better control of your vehicle.
- If you find yourself caught in an aggressive crosswind, don’t make any hard or sudden movements. Make small adjustments with the steering wheel to try to counteract the effect of the wind.
- If you aren’t driving a high-profile vehicle, try to spend as little time as possible next to these tall vehicles. This is a good rule of thumb always, but it’s especially true in windy conditions.
We hope this post has helped you better understand what high-profile vehicles are and the risks associated with driving them. Before you go, be sure to check out these other posts you might benefit from -