Truck driving can be hazardous in all weather conditions, but winter truck driving presents unique challenges that can make it particularly dangerous. Depending on where you’re driving, you may experience rain, snow, ice, and unsafe roads.
During the winter months, it’s especially important to be prepared for long journeys. Whether it’s stocking up on necessary supplies, or educating yourself on local laws and roads, we’ve got you covered. Before heading out, read up on our essential tips for safe winter truck driving.
Prepare for Truck Driving in Snow Ahead of Time
Safe winter truck driving begins long before hitting the road. To help prevent accidents and negate risks while on the road, you can start by taking time to prepare yourself and your rig.
Conduct Standard Inspections
As with any trip, you’ll want to take extra time to inspect the trailer, container, and mechanics before heading out. This includes:
- Windshield wipers
- Tires: pressure, tread, chains, winter tires
- Fluids: washer, brake, radiator, transmission, power steering
- Lights: headlights, taillights, warning lights, and make sure they’re free of dirt
- Brakes: not just the brake pads and functionality, but the hoses for chaffing and leaks
If you know that extreme winter weather is on the horizon, it may be advantageous to have a mechanic check the entire rig. They may be able to spot potential problems that aren’t immediately visible to a driver and can check that all systems are running at their optimum.
Stock Up on Useful Supplies
After you’ve done standard checks and/or had a mechanic look at the rig, stock up on supplies that will help when truck driving in the snow. Having these essentials can make for a more comfortable, safe journey, and may even help you out of a jam.
- Kitty litter in the truck for traction on icy roads
- Hammer and knife to remove ice that can collect on air tanks
- Extra food and water in case you need to stop and wait out a storm
- Waterproof boots and all-weather gear
- Extra blankets in the event of a breakdown
- Tire chains
8 Winter Driving Tips for Truck Drivers
Now that you’ve prepared well for your trip, it’s time to get on the road. Even with all the great preparations, driving in winter weather–especially in snow and ice–can be a challenging endeavor.
Regardless of the size of your truck and trailer, the following 8 tips can be the difference between a safe journey and a troublesome one.
1. Maintain Space
It’s always important to keep ample space between your truck and other vehicles, but this is even more essential during inclement weather. The risk of sliding on wet or icy roads is amplified and allowing yourself more space gives you more response time.
2. Keep Headlights On
If you’re driving a truck in the snow, rain, or fog, it’s always wise to keep your lights on. This helps other drivers see you even from a greater distance.
3. Don’t Stop on the Shoulder
Even though it may seem like a good idea to pull over if the weather gets rough, stopping on the shoulder may be a mistake. If visibility is low and other vehicles can’t see you, there is a risk of them hitting your rig. If you need to stop, exit the highway and find a designated parking area.
4. Beware of Braking
When the roads are wet and icy, be mindful of how you are braking. While the natural reaction is to react suddenly, forceful braking can cause your tires to lock and your rig to skid. If you don’t have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), you can try lightly pumping the brakes to slow down more gradually.
5. Watch Out for Black Ice
Driving on black ice can be a scary experience. It often forms when the temperature outside is close enough to freezing to cause moisture to freeze on the road. It may look like just a wet road but can cause vehicles to slide. If you know that the temperature is close to freezing, check for ice build-up on vehicle antennas, mirrors, and windshields. You may also look for spray coming off other truck tires. If there is no spray, it may indicate black ice.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Off the Road
Always be aware of current and future weather conditions to make wise decisions about stopping. If forecasts call for severe conditions, it may be wiser to stop at a rest area or gas station rather than trying to forge through and keep driving a truck in the snow.
7. Notice What Other Truck Drivers Are Doing
While you don’t want to travel in a pack with other trucks, take notice of how other truck drivers are responding to the weather. If they are slowing down or pulling off the road, it may be time to do the same.
8. Slow Down
Truck driving in snow and other inclement weather always warrants a decent slowdown, so don’t be afraid to ease up on the accelerator. It’s always better to stay safe than cause a hazard on the road. Slower speeds give you more reaction time and can prevent hydroplaning that is more common at high speeds.
Prepare for Winter with a High-Quality Commercial Trailer
Being prepared for driving in the winter is worth the time and effort. It also helps to have a quality commercial trailer that can withstand the toughest conditions and protect your cargo. Whether you’re looking for a trailer rental or purchase, Hale Trailer Brake & Wheel, Inc. has expert representatives ready to help with all your winter driving needs. Contact us today or visit one of our 12 trailer rental locations to learn more.
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