We all know that driving in challenging winter conditions can be difficult. Even for the most experienced drivers, unpredictable bad winter weather makes driving dangerous.
For truck drivers, driving on snow covered roads or icy highways is twice as difficult, as you’re driving a big rig vehicle that demands greater skid control and maneuvering skills compared to smaller vehicles.
Since the roads are slippery this time of year, truck accidents tend to rise during this season. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 17% of all vehicle accidents occur during the winter months. These accidents are avoidable, however, so follow these winter driving tips in order to stay safe, keep the risks minimal, and get through the rough months without incident.
Tip 1: Prepare your rig
Before starting any journey on icy roads, make sure your truck is properly prepared by checking all important items:
- Tires. Check that all your tires are winter ready and that you have tire chains with you. Remember to check that your tires are inflated properly because as the temperature drops, your tires’ air pressure drops too.
- Windshield wipers. To keep a clear view through your windshield, check that your wiper blades are not brittle and are still wiping properly. You should also make sure that you have the correct windshield washer fluid reserve that can withstand the winter temperature and won’t freeze.
- The truck’s fluids. Determine if your truck’s oil, coolant, transmission fluid, and brake fluids are all at the correct levels. Keep your truck in its optimum running condition during the cold months by changing oil or refilling fluid as needed.
- Lights. Before you leave, make sure that you check all your lights, and remember to check again after each stop.
- Brakes. Your truck should stop immediately once you hit the brakes. If not, or if you hear a squeaking noise, there might be a problem with the brake pads or brake linings. If that’s the case, immediately bring your truck to your mechanic to have it checked. A frozen valve could also cause problem. If this happens, some experts recommend that you pour some methyl hydrate through the brake system in order to thaw it.
Tip 2: Prepare yourself
Aside from bringing a warm jacket and other winter clothes, take a few extra items along with you such as:
- A flashlight and batteries (Note: Aside from the one you have, you can also bring an extra flashlight and extra batteries. Remember, two is one, one is none, so it’s better to be prepared.)
- A blanket
- Non-perishable food and water
- A bag of sand or salt
- A windshield scraper
- Jumper cables
- A hammer and a putty knife (to unfreeze brakes)
- First aid/emergency kit
Tip 3: Adjust your driving style
As a responsible truck driver, you should know how to adjust your driving style based on the weather conditions. To keep yourself safe, as well as the lives of others, you can:
- Drive slower and put more distance between you and the vehicles in front to give you more time to react if anything happens in front
- Take extra caution and be gentle when accelerating and braking so you don’t lose control of your truck
- Always be on the lookout for black ice patches, which are very hard to spot. Black ice is a sheet of slippery ice, which can cause your truck to lose traction. There’s a higher chance of black ice when there’s ice build up on the truck’s mirror arms, the top corners of the windshield, or the antennas. You can also tell if there’s no spray from the tires on vehicles in front of you.
- Keep in mind that mountain roads can be very dangerous especially during bad weather conditions. Stop and find a safe place if necessary. If you really need to keep driving, though, drive slowly with your hazard lights on.
Tip 4: Don’t force yourself
Truck driving requires focus and all of your attention, especially during the winter season. You have to be in the zone. When you get tired or sleepy, pull over and get some rest. Don’t push your limits. If needed, reschedule your delivery appointments. Always be alert so you won’t be risking your life or anybody else’s.
As previously stated, seek shelter if the weather conditions become bad. One of the major reasons for truck accidents is the driver’s belief that they can drive no matter what the weather conditions are. Your years of driving experience don’t make you invincible, so don’t fall into the trap of being overly confident and thinking that you can pass through the worst weather conditions. Don’t take the risk of driving through bad road conditions.
Tip 5: Plan ahead
Along with winter comes the hazards of winter driving. Although we can’t avoid rough weather conditions, we can still stay safe by simply planning ahead. Here are some reminders to make you prepared before your trip:
- Check the weather forecast for the route you’re going to engage on
- Plan the best route ahead of time, and, if possible, avoid roads with sharp curves or hills
- Give yourself extra time to make your trip
- Make sure your fuel tank is full so you don’t run out of fuel
For truck drivers, driving in snow and ice is challenging due to poor traction, poor visibility, and unpredictable drivers and other circumstances on the road. Reports show higher rates of vehicle crashes during snowfall every year. These accidents, once they happen, can take a toll on your finances, so you’ll need to prepare for this eventuality by having the right truckers’ insurance from the right company. CoverWallet’s Commercial Truckers Insurance gives you peace of mind as it offers better protection at lower cost.
If you can’t avoid or reschedule your delivery during the winter months, you can at least incorporate the above driving tips for truck drivers to stay safe and arrive at your destination without incident. Finally, always remember these two extremely important things: Always be prepared and know the limits.