Winter driving can be hazardous and even scary, especially in the regions that get snow and ice. Additional preparations can help make a trip more safe, or help professional drivers deal with an emergency. Remember these safety tips to get through the winter chill:
- Slow Down– Excessive speed is the cause of most at-fault accidents. Driving the speed limit may be legal, but it is often too fast for snow covered or icy road conditions.
- Keep a Safe Following Distance– Leave plenty of room between your truck and the vehicles in front of and beside you (approximately ¼ mile).
- Do Not Travel as a Pack– Find a safe way to get away from the pack and travel alone, with the goal being to maximize the distance around your vehicle.
- Do Not Follow the Tail Lights of the Vehicle Ahead– When the snow is heavy, visibility is low…and seeing the tail lights ahead of you means you are following too closely. Trucks can leave the road, and so could yours if you are following the tail lights.
- Use Extra Caution When Approaching Bridges– Elevated structures, such as bridges and overpasses, usually freeze first, and black ice can often be found. Black ice is transparent and very dangerous to drivers, so be sure to use extra caution to avoid spinning out of control.
- Use Good Judgment– If the weather is so severe you need to get off the road, do it! Find a safe place and wait until conditions are safe. Don’t stop on the shoulder of the road. In low visibility situations, other vehicles can mistake your position for being on the road and as result, slam into the back of your rig.
- Braking– Try to avoid overusing your foot brake, unless the entire unit is absolutely ‘straight’ on the road…otherwise the trailer can slide and spin you out of your position. The truck will slow down, but the trailer will not…this is especially true when the trailer is empty.
- Conduct a Thorough Pre-Trip Inspection– ensure the defroster and heater are working properly. Be sure the wipers and brake lights work properly. Be sure all fluid levels are topped off. Check your tires, and be sure to clear snow and ice off tractor and trailer lights to help ensure maximum visibility.
Smart truckers are always prepared for bad weather conditions. Be sure the truck is equipped with the necessary supplies, such as tire chains, jumper cables, and food and water. If your judgment is to shut down when the weather is bad, be professional when notifying your driving managers. Having good communication with your driver manager goes a long way; be clear and explain your situation. Remember, no load is so hot that it needs to cool off in a ditch somewhere. When conditions get bad, continue to drive only if you feel comfortable. When you start contemplating stopping or pushing on, it’s time to stop.