Driving a truck during the winter comes with its fair share of challenges. From icy roads to reduced visibility, navigating the highways can feel like an obstacle course. Nearly two out of ten weather-related accidents occur on snowy, slushy, or icy roads. Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to stay safe on the roads during winter.
Winter Driving Safety Tips for Truck Drivers
Here are ten essential winter driving safety tips for truck drivers:
Inspect Your Truck
Pre-trip inspections are vital to a safe journey. Before you hit the road, check your tires, brakes, lights, windshield wipers, and defrosters. Ensure your tires are well-inflated and have proper tread depth, and consider switching to winter tires for optimal traction. Also, ensure all your fluids are topped up and not frozen.
If you encounter any mechanical issues you can’t fix, hire a mechanic to resolve the issue to enhance your safety.
Pro tip: Consider adding 100% alcohol to your windshield washer fluid to prevent it from freezing.
1. Pack a Winter Survival Kit
Journeys don’t always go smoothly. If you encounter any challenges during your journey, for instance, if your vehicle stalls, you will have to halt your journey. Make sure you carry an emergency kit in case you get stranded in the middle of nowhere and have to wait for roadside assistance. Ideally, the emergency kit should include the following items:
- Warm clothes
- Non-perishable food and water
- Jumper cables
- A small shovel and a bag of salt
- A reflective jacket
- A flashlight
- Back-up cell phone battery banks
2. Check Weather Reports
Stay updated with weather conditions before you commence your journey via weather apps or radio and plan your route accordingly. Set aside time for potential delays and explore alternative routes if the conditions are treacherous.
3. Clear the Way
Ice and snow can reduce visibility when driving. Before you start your journey, clear all the ice and snow off your truck’s windows, mirrors, and lights. Additionally, allow your windshield to defrost and clear any snow on top of your trailer, as it can become a hazard for other drivers.
4. Slow Down
While it may seem a no-brainer, we can’t stress this enough. Drive slowly and leave ample space between you and the vehicle ahead. Why? Well, trucks require more time to stop than other vehicles. So, if you drive slowly, you will have more time to react should you encounter an issue up ahead, such as an accident or a snowdrift. As a rule of thumb, double or even triple your usual following distance to give you more time to react to unforeseen situations.
5. Avoid Abrupt Movements
Trucking requires dexterity, particularly when driving during the winter. Avoid sudden acceleration, braking, and steering movements, as they can cause you to lose control. Remember, tires lose traction on icy roads, so smoothness is pivotal to maintaining control on slippery roads.
6. Be Aware of Hazards
Driving during the winter comes with several potential risks, but there are three particular ones you should be mindful of:
Black ice can transform even familiar roads into treacherous paths. It presents as a thin, transparent layer of ice, making roads look slightly wet. This makes it difficult to see, especially in low-light conditions. That said, here are some tips to help you spot black ice:
- Look for patches of road that appear darker than other areas, like the surrounding pavement.
- Watch out for areas where water has accumulated and frozen.
- Pay attention to the temperature, as black ice is most likely to form when the temperature is below freezing.
Elevated areas like bridges and highway overpasses freeze faster than the regular road. Additionally, black ice is more likely to form in elevated areas, which aren’t always defrosted. So, exercise caution when approaching elevated areas to avoid losing control if you hit black ice.
Heavy fog can reduce visibility significantly. If you encounter fog, slow down and turn on your fog lights to increase visibility. Also, use your wipers and defrost system to clear your windows and windscreen.
7. Communicate With Other Drivers
While you may exercise caution when driving, you may still get involved in an accident due to other drivers’ actions. Use your turn signals and hazard lights to let other drivers know your intentions.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Stop
Trust your gut. Don’t hesitate to stop if you’re having reservations about proceeding with your journey because of treacherous conditions. Look for a safe location to park your truck and wait for conditions to improve before you resume your journey. Remember, your safety comes above everything else.
9. Exit Carefully
Even at the end of your journey, some perils could put you at harm. In fact, falls from height are a leading cause of injury for many truckers, majorly due to slippery steps.
Examine your steps for any ice or snow before you exit your truck. Also, always wear appropriate footwear with good grip and slip-resistant soles to reduce your chance of slipping and injury.
Finally, familiarize yourself with your truck to learn the placement of the handholds, handrails, and steps and practice using them to enter and exit your truck several times. This will help you ingrain their location in your muscle memory and develop a tactile sense of their location, even with poor visibility.
Navigating a truck during the winter isn’t a walk in the park. However, by following these winter truck driving tips, you can make your winter driving experience a safe and successful one.
That said, remember, no cargo is worth your life. If you need to halt your journey and wait for weather conditions to improve, get in touch with us today to learn more about clean and secure lots.