Winter driving safety tips for truckers.
Driving a tractor trailer in serious winter conditions, demands a specific set of skills for all professional truck drivers.
It is necessary to adapt your driving style, when driving in poor weather conditions, especially on snow-covered or icy roads.
Good maneuvering and skid control skills are essential in poor weather.
Knowledge and implementation of proper, preventative safety skills for driving in poor conditions, can truly separate the professional drivers from the rest of the pack.
They have the smarts for making good decisions and knowing when conditions are not safe. They know when it’s time to ‘get off the road’.
Driving in bad weather, especially in snow and on ice, is risky due to more ‘ stop time’ required, poor visibility, poor traction and the increased unpredictability of other drivers on the road.
The job of a trucker becomes increasingly challenging, when handling a tractor trailer and load in foul winter weather.
Knowing some safe winter driving tips and tricks can be invaluable to the truck driver.
Driving in snow and foul weather is always a challenge, even for the most experienced truckers.
Table of Contents
Winter Driving Tips for the CDL Truck Driver — Helping to Keep the Rubber Side Down!
Slow down — At fault accidents are mostly due to excessive speed. Driving at the speed limit may be legal, but is often too fast for snow covered or icy road conditions.
Take as much time as necessary. DO NOT HURRY. Speed kills.
This rule should ALWAYS be at the top of any winter trucking safety tips list.
Keep a safe buffer zone around your truck – – Leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of your truck, and beside your truck, when possible.
Don’t travel as part of a pack — Traffic seems to move in ‘packs’ on the highway. Find a safe way to get away from the pack and travel alone, with the goal being to maximize the distance around your vehicle.
Don’t follow the tail lights of the vehicle ahead — When the snow is so heavy, visibility is low, seeing the tail lights of the vehicle ahead…means following too closely.
Never push beyond the limits of your equipment — Knowing what your equipment can handle is very important. It’s one of the best ways to stay safe.
Stay parked — If you’re nervous about driving in bad weather, stay parked. Call your dispatch. Have your delivery appointment rescheduled. A nervous truck driver can be just as dangerous as a careless driver.
Carry a bag of kitty litter — under your bunk. Warm tires can turn that snow you parked on into a patch of ice in a short time. Throwing kitty litter under your tires is a good and environmentally safe way to get that little bit of extra traction needed to get you going.
Warm up the windshield — What to do on those really cold days when your windshield is dirty and needs cleaning? Turn your defroster on high for a minute to help warm the glass.
I know it says on the jug it’s good to 40 below temperatures. But that only applies when its still in the bottle and lines.
The alcohol evaporates faster than the fluid and the fluid can freeze on the window. I like to put a few ounces of brake line antifreeze in with my washer fluid to help prevent this.
Carry a hammer & putty knife — Air tanks can freeze up pretty quick.
I carry a hammer and putty knife with me. If I’ve been driving in excessive amounts of snow, I’ll get under the truck and make sure there’s no snow or ice packed up on my air tanks.
Don’t think that the heat from your motor or the air in your tanks will melt the snow. Compressed air is cooler. Any snow that does melt is going to turn to ice from the cold metal beneath it.
Keep an eye on your trailer tires — Watch your trailer tires often especially when you’ve just hooked up to a trailer.
Remember, when the last driver dropped that trailer the brakes were warm.
Make sure the wheels are turning. If the brakes are frozen, there are 2 possibilities to check out:
- a frozen valve or
- the shoes are frozen to the drums.
- If its a frozen valve, pour some methyl hydrate through the system to melt it. If it’s a shoe frozen to the drum, go under with your hammer and gently tap the drum with your red button pushed IN. It’s easy to diagnose this problem. Did your trailer air up? One or two wheels not turning?
Check tail-lights — Every time you stop after driving in snow, look at your taillights and license plate. Keep them clean. Even a tail wind or draft will cause them to be covered in snow.
Being highly visible is one of the most important safe winter driving tips for a truck driver.
Keep a safe driving distance — Stay back from the vehicle ahead, at all times, especially in bad weather. If the leader of the pack makes an error, you will too.
Trucks can leave the road, and yours could follow the lead vehicle off the road.
Use good, solid judgment — If the weather is so severe that you need to get off the road, do it.
Find a place to get off the road safely and wait until conditions are safe.
Don’t stop on the shoulder of the road –– Especially in low visibility situations.
When driving in winter, especially ‘blinding snow’, other vehicles can mistake your position for being on the road and as a result, may slam into the back of your rig.
Don’t try to be a hero –– When the road conditions are severe, you need to recognize that it’s very dangerous to be out there.
Hours of service rules, dispatchers etc., are extra pressures when in a difficult, dangerous position.
Don’t feel that you’re letting anyone down by not meeting a scheduled appointment.
Pay attention to braking — Some drivers like to use the jake brake in less than perfect weather conditions. Some don’t.
DO NOT ENGAGE THE JAKE BRAKE ON ICY ROADS.
Try to avoid overusing your foot brake, unless the entire unit is absolutely ‘straight’ on the road.
Don’t over brake when the entire unit isn’t straight. The trailer can slide and spin you out of your position.
Remember, the truck slows down, and the trailer does not. This is especially true, when the trailer is empty.
Ensure all systems are a go — Be absolutely certain during your circle check before you leave, that the defroster and heater are working properly.
Check wipers, wiper motor, lights, esp. brake and tail lights. Be sure washer fluid is topped up, drain moisture from the air tanks, all brakes are set up.
Be certain windows and mirrors are completely clean before departure.
Keep fuel tanks topped up — By keeping the fuel tanks topped, this gives extra weight over the drive tires which helps to give extra needed traction.
Good quality lug tires, with the proper tire pressure, are essential for good traction for the best safe winter driving.
Keep tractor and trailer lights clean — When you’re able to stop in a safe place, clear the lights off of snow and ice, which builds up in foul weather. They are vital, more than ever when visibility is poor.
LED lights especially accumulate snow and crud. Keep everything clean, so you can BE SEEN.
Essential Trucker Supplies For On the Road in Winter
It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
There are some winter driving essentials all professional truckers should carry along if they anticipate snow or winter driving conditions.
Being prepared, in the event of an equipment failure is a necessity.
You’ll need more than the mandatory roadside emergency kit for trucking safety.
It’s a good idea to be sure you have the following with you:
- Warm clothing, winter jacket, hat, lined gloves/mitts
- Insulated socks
- Lined waterproof, winter boots
- Extra blankets and/or sleeping bag
- Food (dried foods/water supply)
- Propane heater and lighter
- Fuel conditioner
- Methyl hydrate (for fuel & air lines)
- Extra fuel filters and wrench
- Windshield washer fluid
- Tire chains (can get stuck in parking lots)
- Cell phone and charger (keep charged up )
- Truck should be outfitted with good quality ‘lug’ tires/winter tires
Drive According to Winter Road Conditions
- It is of the utmost importance to travel at a speed that is appropriate for bad weather conditions.
- Double check to be sure the truck is equipped with necessary supplies and outfitted for all driving conditions.
- Ignore dispatcher advice to stay on the road, when road conditions and visibility are poor.
- Use common sense and good judgment always. If you put your truck, trailer and load in the ditch, chances are, you’ll find yourself standing alone without support from anyone. The finger will be pointed at you. You are the captain of the truck.
- Do the right thing and park it if the going ‘gets too rough’. Know your limits. Don’t be overconfident. You are not invincible.
- Do what you need to, in order to stay safe and keep others on the road safe. SAFETY ALWAYS TAKES PRIORITY.
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