When temperatures plunge to sub-zero degrees, truck drivers need to perform safe practices when it comes to driving on dangerous road conditions like snow and black ice.
Reduced traction on the roadway along with poor visibility will make any winter driving miserable.
Every truck driver should follow the proper safety tips for winter driving to ensure they don’t run into major problems on the road.
Top Winter Driving Tips for Truck Drivers
Here are 16 winter driving tips that truck drivers should follow to ensure they stay safe while driving under bad winter weather conditions.
1. Inspect Your Vehicle for Any Problems
As a truck driver, you need to prepare your truck by performing the essential pre-checkups on your vehicle before driving on the roadway. Check the engine oil, antifreeze levels, and tire pressure before you hit the roads. Use our DVIR mobile app or ELD solution to track your vehicle’s maintenance.
To be extra cautious, you can visit a mechanic to have your truck inspected to ensure that it is equipped to handle the winter conditions and the wear and tear that comes with the bad weather.
2. Slow Down, Especially in Dangerous Road Conditions Such as Black Ice
One of the most important tips for safety skills on the road is to slow down when driving on slippery roads. Most accidents happen because drivers don’t adjust their vehicle’s speed based on road conditions.
For example, when you’re driving on a snow-covered road, you’ll need to reduce your speed because your truck has poor traction on these types of roads. Also, when you adjust your speed and abide by the proper speed limit, you’ll give yourself more time to react if things go wrong.
Therefore, it’s only common sense that you slow down in slippery conditions and go easy on the accelerator, especially during winter weather.
3. Give Yourself Extra Stopping Distance
On a wet road, the stopping distance should be twice the regular stopping distance. When it comes to ice roads or even black ice, the stopping distance should be nearly ten times more!
If anything unpredictable happens, you’ll have plenty of space between your truck and the vehicle in front of you to prevent potential accidents. You also never know when another driver is reckless who won’t abide by these winter driving tips.
4. Drive Smoothly
Always avoid doing anything sudden such as sudden cornering, sudden acceleration, and sudden braking especially, if you’re in an unsafe road condition. For example, you can pump your brakes lightly if you run into a sudden slick road covered in snow or ice.
One of the best tips any truck driver should follow is to avoid doing things that reduce traction and always maintain a consistent speed, especially on slippery roads and conditions with poor visibility.
5. Be Aware of Tire Spray
When accessing the conditions of the road, make sure to check the water that comes off the vehicle tires around you. You can tell that the road is wet if there is a lot of water being sprayed coming from other vehicles.
You’ll know that ice may begin to form, and the road is beginning to freeze when the tire spray is relatively less. In this situation, you must exercise greater safety precautions on your trip for the road ahead.
6. Turn On Headlights
Drivers should be wary when there are few or no traffic lights and poor visibility during inclement weather.
In this case, make sure to have your truck’s headlights turned on so that other drivers can visibly see you and maintain a safe driving distance from your truck. Also, clear the tractor-trailers and lights covered in ice and snow.
7. Maneuver Around Obstacles
One thing you should avoid doing is hard braking. Instead, you’ll want to take evasive action by maneuvering around obstacles, especially on roads covered in snow.
If you’re driving about 25 to 30 mph, you’ll want to slow your truck down a bit, then maneuver around any dangerous obstacles to prevent a collision.
8. Pull Over, When in Doubt
Always remember to prioritize safety over trying to keep up with your schedule or manage deadlines. When the weather is too dangerous to drive in, you should pull over instead. Vehicles that are stuck in stormy weather could suffer terrible consequences.
Try to get out in front by pulling over to the side before it’s too late. Find a safe roadway or a truck stop to pull on the side of. Then wait until the weather clears up for you to begin driving again. It’s never worth it to risk ruining your brakes or just getting into a collision because you’re driving when you shouldn’t be.
9. Bring Necessary Equipment
One thing to remember when the temperature is freezing is to bring blankets and warm clothes with you. For vehicles embarking on longer trips during bad weather, you should carry a bag of sand, traction devices, tire chains, matches, a shovel, and a flashlight.
Make sure you can easily contact roadside assistance for trucks if you get into trouble while driving in severe weather.
10. Look Twice Before Proceeding
When the temperature gets bad and a snowstorm occurs, this is severely compromising your visibility.
In addition, this affects your ability to see signs and traffic lights. As a result, you should look twice before turning into a one-way street or driving through an intersection.
11. Defrost and Clean Your Windshield
Only extremely cold days with lots of ice on or snow, your windshields will need cleaning. One way is to perform some heating to increase the temperature of your windshield. Warm the glass on your windshield and melt the ice by turning on the defroster on high for about a minute.
Truckers can also use windshield cleaning fluid since they are designed to work in temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero.
The fluid can freeze on the windshield because the alcohol evaporates faster than the fluid. Also, you can pour several ounces of brake line antifreeze into your vehicle’s washer fluid to prevent the windshield from freezing.
12. Have the Heater On
When it’s freezing temperatures, ensure all of the general heating and defrosting functions are working properly. Also, keep in mind, your car will warm up faster if your engine is running rather than just staying idle for long periods.
If you’re a trucker that needs to use their cell phone for navigation or work, you’ll want to be extra cautious. Ideally, you’ll want to turn the heater on because charging your cell phone below 32 degrees can result in damaging the battery.
So instead, warm up the car temperature to about room temperature at least 30 minutes before you start charging it.
13. Be On the Lookout for Black Ice
When it gets to near-freezing temperatures, drivers can be on the lookout for clues that could indicate whether there is black ice on the roads. Black ice typically shows itself as a thin layer of transparent ice that only makes the road look slightly wet.
Here are signs that drivers may be in danger of black ice:
- The vehicle in front of you is kicking up spray.
- There may be an excess buildup of ice on the top corners of the windshield, antennae, or mirror arms.
14. Protect Your Vehicle’s Air Tanks
A driver should carry a hammer and a putty knife to chisel and eliminate any ice from unwanted areas. Unfortunately, air tanks freeze very quickly. After drivers have driven in excessive amounts of snow, they should check under their vehicle to see if there isn’t any ice or snow stuck onto the air tanks.
The air inside of these tanks or heat from the motor should melt the snow. Any snow that doesn’t melt could lead to ice caused by the cold metal beneath it.
14. Remove Snow and Ice Off Your Truck Tires
Truck tires can easily go from warm to having patches of ice. The friction will melt the snow but forms a water boundary between the snow and tire. As a result, the snow absorbs the water and will freeze into smooth ice.
One way to warm the tires up and remove ice is to throw some kitty litter beneath the tires. This is an environmentally and effective method to get more traction on your tires. In addition, truckers can also add some salt or sand to their tires as well.
15. Always Check Your Trailer Tires
When you initially hook up the trailer, you should check the trailer tires. Ideally, you want to be monitoring and checking them often. First, ensure that the wheels on the trailer are still turning. However, if you run into the issue where the brakes are frozen, you’ll need to find the cause.
Typically it’s because there is a frozen valve or there are shoes frozen to the drums.
You can pour some methyl hydrate into the system in the event of a frozen valve, which will melt it. If a shoe is frozen to the drum of the tires, use a hammer and tap the drum while the red button is pushed in.
16. Monitor the Checks Using an App/ELD Device
Use your Ascent Fleet Service’s GPS or ELD unit to check the health of your vehicle. As a trucker, you can use your electronic logging device or DVIR mobile app to perform your pre and post check inspections. This is especially important to check when you are driving through hazardous conditions. Logging the vehicle data electronically versus by hand will save you time and future headaches.
If you follow these steps laid out in this article, you’ll have understood all things that put you in harm’s way, and you’ll be well on your way to staying safe during days with inclement weather.
In addition, you should be aware of all the security features that your vehicle has at its disposals, such as off-road capabilities, safety collision alerts, lane-keep assist, and more. Every layer of safety feature will come in handy to protect you from collisions while driving on the road as as a safety measure.