Top Five Tips For Winter Truck Drivers

Barr-Nunn truck driving on highway in winter

During winter months, when roadways can become icy and snow-covered, safety is of paramount importance. After all, even the most experienced commercial drivers can experience a weather-related accident. Reduced traction combined with poor visibility can cause an extreme challenge to even highly skilled drivers. Here are our Top Five Tips For Winter Truck Drivers to help improve roadway safety for truck drivers, even during extreme weather conditions.

Top Five Tips For Winter Truck Drivers

1.) Slow Down

Most accidents involve speed in some way. Therefore, it’s important for drivers to slow down, especially during winter driving conditions. Drivers must compensate for poor traction and visual hindrances by slowing down, giving themselves extra time to react if something should happen in front of them. According to a Road & Track article, when temperatures are between 25 and 35 degrees, tires can lose their grip, even more than they might at lower temps. This means that colder temperatures don’t always mean worse roadway conditions and showcases how even moderately cold temps can lead to dangerous driving conditions. Therefore, winter weather driving means slowing down!

2.) Put Extra Space Between Vehicles

A wet roadway means it takes a vehicle at least twice as long as normal to stop. On icy roads, this number jumps up to 10 times as long. Consequently, it’s important for drivers to leave ample space between their trucks and the vehicle in front of them. This will give drivers the necessary to stop if the need should arise.

3.) Avoid Sudden Actions

During cold, wet, icy or snowy weather, it’s important for drivers to refrain from sudden actions. This means drivers should not accelerate, brake, corner or any other driving-related action suddenly. Consistent speed is of vital importance to prevent the truck from sliding due to a slippery roadway. If sudden braking is necessary on a slick roadway, evasive action is likely the better option, rather than slamming on the brakes. A driver traveling at around 25-30 mph, which is ideal for poor driving conditions, should consider maneuvering around obstacles with a deceleration in order to avoid a potential collision.

4.) Be Aware of Potential Hazards

Bridges and overpasses can become especially dangerous during winter driving conditions. These locations tend to ice quickly, before the rest of the roadway, and they can even be neglected during road preparation for winter weather. Therefore, it’s important for truck drivers to slow down when approaching bridges to reduce their risk of sliding on black ice or slick patches.

5.) Be Prepared

Another way truck drivers can reduce their risk of having an accident on a winter roadway, is to prepare ahead of time. Drivers should check their truck’s tire pressure, antifreeze levels, engine oil and lights before traveling. It’s also a good idea to have a mechanic inspect the truck before winter weather begins, to ensure it is in tip-top shop for winter driving.

What Else Drivers Can do to Stay Safe

Having an accident due to slipping and sliding isn’t the only risk associated with winter weather driving. Icy, snowy roadways can cause all sorts of issues, some of which can strand truck drivers on the road, without the ability to get to a warm, safe location. Consequently, truck drivers should prepare an emergency kit of sorts in the unfortunate event that they find themselves stranded, waiting on roadways to reopen. (listed below)

Drivers might be tempted to walk to find help if their truck is stuck on the roadway, but in many cases, if they can’t see a place nearby to walk, it’s best to stay put, bundle up and wait for the storm to pass. It’s important to remember that carbon monoxide poisoning is possible if the truck’s exhaust pipe gets clogged with snow. Therefore, drivers should check their exhaust pipe regularly and keep windows slightly cracked to ensure proper ventilation. It’s also a good idea to only run the engine for around 10-15 minutes every hour.  

The following are some supplies every truck driver should have on hand when driving during the winter months to keep them safe while stranded or help get them moving once again if possible: Emergency Kit:

  • Tire chains.
  • Flashlight.
  • Extra clothing, for layering.
  • Blankets.
  • Windshield fluid.
  • Rain gear.
  • Gloves.
  • Bag of sand, salt or kitty litter to give traction on icy parking lots or roadsides.
  • Jumper cables.
  • Brushes or snow scrapers.
  • Putty knife or hammer, for frozen air tanks.

General Tips For Winter Truck Drivers Keep Safe on Icy Roadways

In addition to all the tips listed above, truck drivers should also keep the following general advice in mind:

Warm-up The Windshield

A dirty windshield presents a problem when it’s icy and freezing cold outside. When the temperature plummets, it can be difficult to get the defroster to work. Some truckers like to add brake line antifreeze to washer fluid to address this issue. This prevents the fluid from freezing on the window the second it hits when it is freezing outside. Drivers should also give themselves enough time to warm their trucks up properly before traveling. This includes time to properly warm-up or defrost the windshield.

Address Frozen Brakes

Brakes can also be frozen during winter weather conditions. If they become frozen, there are two things drivers should check to address this dangerous situation. They are as follows:

  • Frozen Drums: If the shoe is frozen solid to the drum, drivers often can gently tap the drum with a hammer (mentioned above) to unfreeze.
  • Frozen Valve: A frozen valve can be remedied by pouring methyl hydrate through the system.

Understand Waiting it Out is Sometimes Best

If truck drivers know severe winter weather is coming and there is simply no way to avoid the area, they are often better off just waiting out the weather, instead of risk getting stuck on the highway. In general, exit ramps are plowed after main highways, then rest areas. Therefore, truck drivers should wait out winter weather at a hotel, 24-hour restaurant, or gas station parking lot, instead of trying to travel. Doing so when they know bad weather is inevitable and unavoidable can prevent them from getting snowed in on the highway.

Are you a truck driver? Let us know if you have more tips for winter truck drivers.

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