As the weather gets chilly, the roads can become slick, which can pose a real threat to your safety. Everyone wants to get their freight to their destination as soon as possible, but when ice and snow hit, that may not be possible. What steps can you take to keep yourself safe when winter strikes?
Here are a few winter driving tips for truck drivers that can help you to be careful when the road conditions start to worsen.
Check the weather
Before you embark on any trip, be sure to check the weather for your route. Though it may be nice weather where you currently are, you could only be a few hours away from a complete snowstorm. Map out your route and plan for the weather at each destination during your travel.
You’ll also want to count on time for stops during your travel. This could be anything from a lunch break to stopping for the night. Be aware of how much time you’ll be spending at each destination to determine if you’ll be driving in when bad weather starts.
Inspect your truck
Before you make any drive, bad weather or not, you should perform a pre-trip inspection of your truck. During the winter, this is especially important for your safety. Before you start a trip you should determine:
- Are your tires low? Low tire pressure can lead to an inability to control your truck on a slippery road.
- Are you lights free of ice and snow? Low visibility is a major cause of accidents, so make sure you can see clearly with your lights.
- Are your steps icy? Run your foot along your top step so you don’t slip and fall each time you get out of the truck.
Part of your pre-trip inspection should be checking to see if you have all of the necessary supplies you’ll need should you get stranded or stuck. You should have these items in your truck at all times:
- Extra food and water
- A coat, gloves, hat and other winter protective gear
- A phone charger and batteries/chargers for other electronic devices
- A tank full of gas – full tanks can give your truck extra weight and help you maintain your footing on ice
- Chains for your tires
Going fast during bad weather won’t get you to your destination any faster. In fact, it only puts you more at risk of hurting yourself at others. When the roads get slick, there’s less traction, making it more difficult to turn and stop. To keep yourself safe, decrease your speed as soon as road conditions worsen. When you do accelerate, do so slowly to prevent from sliding. Don’t set your cruise control when the roads are poor, as you may have to stop or slow down progressively during your drive.
In the event that you do skid, don’t panic. Don’t slam on the brakes, as this can cause them to lock and can cause the trailer to jackknife. Pump the brakes slowly and shift the truck to neutral, then try to guide the truck back to the direction it needs to go.
Be careful to watch for trouble spots that can occur on bridges and exit ramps as well. Black ice can be a prominent problem, so drive as though there could be ice at any point.
Don’t be afraid to stop
While not ideal, sometimes all you can do is wait for the road conditions to improve. Roads may shut down during snow or ice storms and you may be stuck whether you want to or not. Taking the slow route there is better than damaging your cargo, or worse, losing your life.
When you do decide to stop, be careful about where you stop. In a perfect situation, you can drive safely to a rest stop and park there for the night. Parking on the side of the road should be avoided if possible, as other cars or trucks on the road could easily slide into you. If you must stop on the side of the road, make your presence clear with emergency triangles, cones and flashers to show others where you are.
If you’re looking for a trucking company that values the safety of our drivers, consider driving with Prime.
Sign up for our student driver program today and we’ll set you up with a recruiter to discuss your options for obtaining your CDL to get you on the road.