Truck driving during winter time can be dangerous because heavy snow, strong cold winds, and icy roads may create poor visibility, poor traction, and increased unpredictability of other drivers on the road.
That adds an extra layer of stress and safety concerns for the truck driver.
A truck driver has to adapt to bad weather conditions and apply the proper preventive safety skills for driving in poor conditions on the road.
Below, find some useful truck driving tips during the winter season.
1. Check the weather conditions upfront
When you do runs during the winter season, check the weather forecasts upfront for your route.
That allows you to change or plan your stops during the route in such a way that keeps you and the customer's load safe.
You can download Weather Nation, AccuWeather, or The Weather Channel app to stay up to date on the latest weather forecasts from your phone.
2. Be aware of road hazards during winter
Trucking in winter can be seen as a hazard in itself.
However, during the winter season, there are two particular hazards that you should watch out for:
Black ice is a dangerous road condition.
The most basic definition of black ice is a thin coat of highly transparent ice. The reason it is transparent is that it blends in with road pavements since it is so thin, making it nearly impossible to see. It's called black ice since it looks black, like the color of the road pavement it forms on.
It presents itself as a thin layer of transparent ice that makes the road look slightly wet.
Thick fog limits visibility.
If you drive during road conditions, use your lights to let everybody else know about your presence on the road and slow down.
If you struggle to see the road ahead due to heavy snowfall, then it’s advisable to slow down.
3. Pack for warmth
Driving during winter, you count on your heater. But what if it fails?
To be prepared for this kind of situation, you need to carry a lot of warm clothing.
- Thermal underwear.
- Hat and gloves.
- Waterproof winter boots.
- Extra blankets.
- Sleeping bag.
Adjust your layers according to how warm or cold you are.
To avoid sweating, Remove additional layers when you feel too warm.
4. Be prepared for every situation
If you anticipate snow or winter conditions, check that you have the right equipment for driving during winter.
In these conditions, if your equipment fails, you'll need the below essentials.
- Ice scraper – the front and rear windscreens must be clear of snow and ice.
- Windshield washer fluid.
- A shovel and a bag of sand or salt – minor roads don’t tend to be gritted and it’s quite easy to get stuck.
- Jump cables - in case your truck (or someone else’s) won’t start.
- A flashlight - keep a light source available in case of being stranded during the night.
- A high-visibility jacket.
- A warm blanket, and extra warm clothes – it’s always worth carrying extra clothes in case you get stranded.
- Food and water – just in case you get stuck and are awaiting recovery or help up in heavy traffic.
- Non-perishable food items: Such as canned food and dehydrated or freeze-dried foods.
- At least half a tank of gas always – journeys make take longer than planned or you may need to find alternative routes.
- Warm clothing, winter jacket, hat, lined gloves/mitts.
- Insulated socks.
- Lined waterproof and winter boots.
- Extra blankets or sleeping bag.
- Cell phone and charger (keep charged up).
- Anti-gel fuel additive.
5. Inspect your truck
During winter, a thorough pre-trip equipment inspection is the number one thing in the driver's control to prevent accidents.
Check the below:
- Ensure that the truck's engine is running properly.
- Check that the truck and trailer brakes and their connections are working properly.
- Make sure that the truck's fluids are topped off and not frozen.
- Make sure that the heater and defroster work properly.
- Make sure that the truck's tires are in good condition with no cuts, bumps, abrasions, or punctures.
- Check steering systems.
- Check all lights and reflectors.
- Check all coupling devices.
- Check horn systems.
- Rearview mirrors.
6. Warm up the windshield
When your windshield becomes foggy, turn on your defroster high for a minute to warm the glass.
In a minute, the snow on the windshield will start melting and you will be able to clean it.
7. Drive carefully
Careful driving during winter means that you drive without doing sharp moves, hard acceleration hard braking.
- Keep a steady and consistent speed.
- Hold the distance between you and the vehicle in front to retain a comfortable braking distance in icy conditions.
- Slow down - the speed signs are intended for dry roads and good weather conditions.
- 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 the vehicle as well. If you end up having to brake, you’ll need that extra space to slide over the packed snow or ice.
8. Keep fuel tanks topped up
The next winter driving tip is to keep the fuel tanks topped because it can add extra weight to the tires and better traction on the road.
Having good quality lug tires improves the stability of the truck while driving snowy roads.
Also, full fuel tanks will help you stay warm, in case you're stuck in the middle of the road waiting for help.
9. Keep an eye on the trailer tires
The next winter driving tip is to pay attention to the trailer tire.
That is especially important when you have connected them to the tractor.
Check if the tires are turning properly by:
Checking for frozen valves.
Frozen shoes for the brake drums.
If you find any of these situations, get under your truck and hammer the ice layer while keeping the red button on.
10. Keep the tail lights clean and working
Don’t follow the tail lights of the vehicle ahead
When the snow is heavy on the road, visibility is low.
In such a case, the truck's tail lights play an important role. They let the driver behind that his vehicle is too close to yours.
That's why when you stop after driving in the snow, clean your tail lights. Keep them clean.
11. Be careful when entering and leaving your truck
When the truck's steps are icy, don't rush to get in and out of the truck to prevent falling and injuring yourself.
During winter, wear boots with good grip.
12. Know when to stop
There’s a good time and a bad time to stop driving.
When winter conditions make driving dangerous, stop driving.
However, even in such a case, there is a good time and a bad time to stop driving:
- a bad way to stop driving is to not stop on the hard shoulder as this increases the chances of being hit.
- a good way to stop driving is to stop on the side of the road or, even better, to drive to the nearest gas station or any 24-hour establishment and wait until the weather improves.
13. Stay parked
If you’re nervous about driving in bad weather, stay parked.
Call your dispatch and have him reschedule the delivery appointment.
On the road, a nervous truck driver can be just as dangerous as a careless driver.
14. Carry a bag of kitty litter, salt, or sand
During winter, your truck can get stuck on a slick road. Or, when you stop, the truck's warm tires can turn the snow you parked on into a patch of ice. That creates problems when you want to start.
To start the truck, clear the snow around the tires. After that, throw kitty litter, salt, or sand around the tires to create a bit of traction for the truck with the road.
15. Use snow chains
If you plan to roll through snowy weather, practice chaining ahead of time.
You don't want to start learning how to chain your truck wheels when you are stuck in the snow and outside is cutting cold wind.
Practice applying tire chains during your downtime in warmer weather so that when you have to do it for real, you’ll have fewer problems.
Some states such as Colorado, Nevada, Washington, California, and Oregon have strict chain laws that require that you use chains during the winter months and/or if you haul heavy loads. While some states will post chain requirements on lighted message signs on the highway, your best bet is to check the state’s highway website to get information on chain laws.