Safe Winter Truck Driving Tips
Be safe. Stay safe. It’s time to prepare for the changes to your driving that you’ll need to make in response to winter weather and adverse conditions.
Plan: Prepare for your trip. Check the weather forecast for your route, identify rest stops, meal and fuel stop locations, and allow extra time for traffic delays.
Dave Shepley at Driving Ambition Inc. shares additional driving tips for construction areas: “
- Expect the unexpected: Speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be changed, and people may be working on or near the road.
- Slow down: Speeding is one of the major causes of work zone crashes.
- Don’t tailgate: Keep a safe following distance between you and the car ahead.
- Keep a safe distance from construction workers and equipment.
- Pay attention to posted signs: Warning signs are there to help guide you, use them.
- Stay alert and avoid distracted driving: Work zones present extra challenges and obstacles. Although motorists need to pay attention to the road and their surroundings, they often don’t
- Four-wheelers often will use your vehicle as a wedge to race to the front of the queue and wedge-in right in front of you.
- Be more aware of your blind spots: Not all motorists are aware of your blind spots in front, back and either side.
- Be patient: Work zone crew members are working to improve the road and make your future drive better.”
Pre-trip: Do an inspection and check tires, wipers and fluid and lights. Check your truck frequently during winter conditions. For example, check that your taillights and mirrors and reflectors are clear and remove all ice and snow from hand holds and steps . Check coolant system, cab heating systems, air systems, batteries and electrical system and starting aids before the snow falls, too.
Pack for the change in weather conditions:
- Clothing (pack clothes that can be layered so you can add a layer or remove a layer with ease, gloves, boots, rain gear)
- A flashlight, ice scraper, jumper cables and matches
- A blanket, cooler with food and water
- A bag of sand, kitty litter or salt and windshield washer fluid and anti-freeze
- Tire chains or traction mats
- First-aid kit
Truckers apps: Smartphone apps can be very helpful while on the road especially during winter. There are many apps available to help identify traffic delays, find places to stop for food, or find the best diesel prices. The following are five smartphone apps, you might find useful. If you have an app that you like to use, please share it with us.
- Waze: The world's largest community-based traffic and navigation app. Join other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info, saving everyone time and gas money on their daily commute. https://www.waze.com/
- Truck Stops and Travel Plazas: Providing online truck stop information since 2003, this universal iOS trucker app is updated often with user input from both the app, websites and other brand partnerships. http://www.allstays.com/apps/truckstops.htm
- Around me: AroundMe allows you to quickly find out information about your surroundings. How many times have you found yourself in need of finding the closest Gas Station? AroundMe quickly identifies your position and allows you to choose the nearest Bank, Bar, Gas Station, Hospital, Hotel, Movie Theatre, Restaurant, Supermarket, etc. http://www.aroundmeapp.com/
- Truckers Tools: Need to find the nearest truck stop, get real-time diesel prices, or the fastest truck route to your destination? You'll get all of those features, plus a listing of scales, a fuel optimizer program and much more all in one free app - it's Overdrive's Trucker Tools! http://truckertools.com/
- The Weather Channel: This app has detailed forecasts to help you plan your day, week, or even the next hours, incredibly fast and accurate maps that offer past and future radar and push alerts and badges that help make sure you know about the severe weather around you. From big storms to bizarre findings, stay up-to-date with the latest weather news and videos. http://www.weather.com/
But of course, keep hands on the wheel. Hold the wheel firmly to be able to handle winds or road imperfections. Sudden, sharp moves or being distracted can cause you to lose control.
Extra space: Slow down and don’t drive faster than conditions allow. Double your following distance. Aim for at least a ten second following distance when driving on snowy and icy roads.
Smith System® safety education program shares the “Five Keys to Space-Cushion Driving.” Many carriers make this a required training for their drivers.
The five keys are:
- Aim High in Steering: Make sure you’re looking far enough ahead of your vehicle, so you have time to react to any hazardous situation.
- Get the Big Picture: Look all around your vehicle.
- Keep Your Eyes Moving: Continuously scan the entire area.
- Leave Yourself an Out: Always has an escape plan for you and your vehicle.
- Make Sure They See You: Make other drivers aware of your presence.
Black ice: Black ice is likely to form under bridges and overpasses, in shady spots and at intersections first, so be careful in these areas. The prime times for the development of black ice are around dawn and in the late evening, when temperatures are typically the lowest. Never assume because it’s sunny that the road is just wet.
Obey road signs: Warning information and speed limits are posted for a reason. Signs are placed after authorities have concluded what is considered to be safe and what drivers need to be made aware of.
Exit ramps: Decrease your exit ramp speed. Exit ramps might not be traveled frequently and can freeze over rapidly.
Braking and accelerating: If the brakes happen to lock, release them to avoid sliding. This will help to regain steering. Brake and accelerate lightly to avoid skidding.
Pull over: Use your best judgment. Listen to weather reports, warnings and advisories. Don’t continue to drive in unsafe or fatigued condition. Make sure to clear off windows, mirrors, and lights often, too.
We want to hear from you!
How do you prepare for winter truck driving?
Share any tips you have learned through the years. For example, what do you pack to be prepared for the change in weather? Share any bad winter driving stories (skidding, dumb passenger car drivers, bad driving habits you’ve seen, preventative maintenance, dash cam videos, etc) and what could have been done differently to increase the safety of all drivers.
e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment in the comments section.
photos by Oregon Department of Transportation
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