Slow, sleet, ice… winter storms and cold weather can be an absolute nightmare. Winter driving can be no fun at times, and it can be costly: To your well-being and your bottom line — whether it be in damaged equipment or worker’s compensation expenses.
According to Driver’s Ambition, “Many trucking companies experience a spike in workers’ compensation claims during the winter months as a direct result of winter hazards that are completely unrelated to driving a truck. Statistics show 48% of all injuries occurs in the winter. 63% of injury costs result from winter events.”
Driving in winter conditions melts down to two things: Being prepared and being careful. Sure, sounds like commonsense, but if you follow our tips it will help you get through the winter in one piece.
How slick is it?
According to Popular Mechanic magazine, the greatest risk for losing traction is when the temperature is between 22 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s colder than that, snow-covered and icy roads actually have more traction.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you can drive faster in colder conditions. During high and/or slower traffic, there’s more heat on the surface and traction is reduced.
Black ice is dangerous because it’s difficult to spot. Pay attention to ice buildup on your truck. If you see it on your mirror arms, antenna or corners of your windshield, black ice is likely out on the road. Also, watch for the spray from tires on vehicles in front of you. If there’s no spray, there’s ice.
Driving in bad conditions is about being smart. And yes, much of it is commonsense. But as simple as many of these tips may sound, the key is keeping them top of mind.
— Slow down. Most accidents happen because drivers are simply going too fast. Slower speeds give a driver control and time to react.
— Turn on your lights. This is so the other drivers see you during the storm as much as for your own illumination.
— Extra space. Give yourself more room from other vehicles.
— Obey the signs. There’s a reason road signs are there, pay attention to the warnings and speeds.
— Keep a firm grip. Avoid sudden or sharp moves, which can make you lose control. Also, keep your truck steady through ruts in the road.
— No heavy feet. Always brake and accelerate lightly. Also, pump your brakes lightly if you have to slow down suddenly. This will help you avoid locking your tires or spinning. If you have anti-lock braking, press and hold the brake as far as possible during an emergency.
— Don’t push it. Pay attention to weather reports. If it sounds too bad to go out, be safe and stay off the road. Also, if you’re already on the road and it’s looking nasty — reports are getting worse, and you’re seeing plenty of vehicles in the median — get off the road and wait out the storm.
Always be ready for whatever you may encounter, any time of season. It’s a simple reminder, but it takes habit-building and discipline to avoid the lure of simply jumping into your truck and taking off.
— Have the right gear. Always make sure you have emergency accessories: Extra clothes, a flashlight, food and water, a blanket, a bag of salt, washer fluid, a scraper, jumper cables, tire chains/traction mats and at least half a tank of gas.
— Plan carefully. Make sure you know your exact route and what weather conditions you may hit. The last thing you want is to get lost or hammered by unexpected snow and ice.
— Inspect. Remember to do your pre-trip inspection. Check the tires, wiper blades, fluids and lights. And before winter, make sure a mechanic checks your vehicle.
— Treat your diesel. When it gets cold, remember diesel gels and your truck won’t run. Before you fuel in wintery conditions, make sure you put an anti-gel additive in your tanks.
— Listen up. Pay attention to your CB radio and talk to drivers in your area. For new drivers, find an experienced driver to get advice and information from.
While it’s always tempting to fight through the storm, no load is worth dying for. If the roads are too dangerous, get to a safe spot and wait till the worst passes. If the truck stops are full, park on a ramp or find somewhere off the road. Just remember not to park on an incline, where you might get stuck.
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— Sources: NDI Truck and Trailer, Inc., Popular Mechanic, YRC Freight, Driver Ambition