Driving a truck means working in all types of weather conditions. With strange weather patterns spreading snow and ice even in the southern states it is important, as fall and winter approaches, to take some time to plan for winter driving conditions and brush up on ideas to stay safe on icy, wet and snowy roads.
The key to winter driving for truckers, as for any other type of driver, is to make sure to be prepared. The good news is that there are now a number of apps for smartphones as well as automatic notification programs that can alert you to problematic winter driving conditions and bad weather miles before you reach the area. This not only lets you prepare for the difficult roads but it also may allow you to plan alternate routes that keep you out of the worst of the weather.
Tip 1: Know Your Limitations
Just because you are driving a truck that has a legal weight of over 40 tons and measures 70-80 feet from end of the trailer to front of the cab, it doesn’t mean you can across any type of road safely. Ice, snow and combinations of ice and snow can lead to treacherous conditions even on straight, flat roadways. Combine this with curves, hills, stops and turns and you have a definite recipe for disaster.
If you are unsure of the road conditions or feel completely out of control in the vehicle stop and pull over. This could be because of heavy snowfall, blizzard conditions or clear visibility but terrible road conditions. It could also be due to concerns about black ice on the road that is impossible to see until you are into a skid. Trying to simply drive your way through is never the answer as stress, tension and mental fatigue will all play a part in making your drive even more dangerous in these types of conditions.
Tip 2: Know Your Route
In the winter it is not advisable to try a new route. It is far better to stay with a familiar route where you know where the chain-up areas are as well as where you can safely pull over to get out of traffic. Knowing your route means you also know where rest areas are located, where parking is available for rigs, and also where fuel stations and restaurants are that are trucker friendly.
If you have to take a new route be sure to study the route using a navigation program. Most of the trucker specific travel apps for route planning have very detailed information and are much better than a standard mapping app or program. Many of these also provide the option for travelers and truckers to post current weather conditions, road closures or road conditions that are usually more up to date than anything you will hear on the news or through radio reports. Keep your CB on and listen to the chatter, other truckers will be a great resource as to road conditions and weather issues.
Tip 3: Check Your Truck Each Day
Winter inspections before heading out are cold and not much fun, but they are essential for you stay safe on the road. Be sure to check each tire, you don’t want to have to deal with changing a flat in the snow and ice. Not only is this difficult to do but you are at greater risk of being injured or, in a worst case scenario, being hit by a vehicle that simply couldn’t see you in the snow.
Check all airlines and brakes and make sure everything is working and all tires are turning. Sometimes if the truck is parked overnight and the brakes freeze all it takes is backing the truck up to correct the problem.
Lights, including those on the trailer sides and top, should all be working. Each bulb adds to the ease of visibility for your truck for other drivers. Always carry a few spare bulbs for all lights on the truck and trailer and change them out as needed.
You should also make sure your chains are ready for the season and in good repair. Chains are a relatively low cost way to add grip to your tires, especially when traveling through the mountains or in snowy conditions on less travelled roads.
Tip 4: Have The Right Winter Gear
Plan to have the gear you need to stay warm, frostbite free, and able to work on your vehicle should the need arise. Most winter gear is very compact and easy to store in a small space. With the various thermal materials available you have a good selection to suit the type of conditions you think you may encounter.
You should have on the truck with you a good pair of winter boots. These should have a solid sole that has lots of traction if you have to get out on icy roads. In addition look for a winter parka that has reflective material or consider a reflective vest in a large size that will go over your outside coat. Warm hats, several pairs of gloves and a full balaclava are all must have items in your winter kit. Also pack several pairs of warm full length socks so you can switch out wet socks and gloves as needed.
Make sure you have road flares and signs as well as a good flashlight and lots of extra batteries. If you have a sleeper make sure you have power, food and a heater that will work off of your inverter. Always travel with your diesel tank full and make sure to use anti-gel with each fueling, don’t wait for problems before adding.