Snow and ice are two of the most dangerous weather conditions that truck drivers must deal with.
When the roads are covered with ice and snow, the truck will have less traction, and the truck driver must be able to control the truck on the roads.
The visibility may be decreased with heavy snow, and the driver must decide if it is time to get off the roads until the weather improves.
Winter is soon approaching, and truck drivers will have to deal with different types of weather and road conditions.
One of the most hazardous jobs in the United States is being a truck driver.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly ten percent of all fatalities on the highways are with truck drivers.
Check out this link to the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) website for large truck and bus crash data by year.
Poor weather conditions such as ice, snow, fog, sleet, and wind are the cause of literally thousands of truck driver accidents each year.
Bad weather conditions can and will affect every truck driver, even truck drivers that have many years of driving under their belt.
Regular precautionary routines can and will help truck drivers during winter driving conditions.
Truck drivers should always check the current road conditions and weather forecast before taking off on their trip.
The Department of Transportation for each state post highway information twenty-four hours each day to update travelers. (www.transportation.gov)
1. Keep Windows and Mirrors Clean
Keeping windows and mirrors clean while driving on ice and snow is very important for every truck driver.
A truck driver needs to have good visibility.
A couple things that truck drivers can do to keep their windows and mirrors clean during winter driving include:
- Clean the windshield thoroughly, then apply four or five coats of Rain-X. Between each coat of Rain-X let each coat dry for approximately thirty seconds. (Rain-X is a product that makes water bead, then roll off the windshield, and sometimes without the driver needing to turn on the windshield wipers. You can also use Rain-X on the mirrors too.
- Make sure your window washer fluid is -20F or a De-Icer. You want to make sure that the windshield washer doesn’t freeze up.
- A truck driver can also wipe down the windshield with antifreeze. Make sure you use a small amount. This can also keep ice and snow from sticking to the windshield. You can also use the antifreeze on mirrors too.
- Make sure that the mirrors are clean and all road grime is removed before taking off.
- Make sure your mirrors are in the right position before you take off.
- Keep a decent snow brush (like this one here) in your truck to brush off the snow from the windshield and the hood of the truck. You don’t want to be driving with snow or ice on the hood, then it blows up onto the windshield while you are driving. The snow brush must have a long handle so you can reach the windshield and the hood with ease.
2. Plan Your Trip With Weather In Mind
It is very important for truck drivers to plan their trip and route knowing what the weather is, so you know what to expect.
Truck drivers have strict schedules to keep, and during winter it can be difficult to do that, because nobody controls Mother Nature.
Planning ahead is essential for truck drivers. The N.O.A.A.’s National Weather Service is a free website that truck drivers can go to and see if there are any snow, ice, sleet, or rain alerts.
The Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration post any road closures or highways that are having issues.
They also have road cameras for every state, so truck drivers can actually see the road conditions for themselves.
If you think the roads are unsafe for you to drive, then contact your dispatcher, and let them know the road conditions, so they can change the pickup or delivery time for your load.
Remember, your life is more important than trying to drive on roads that are too dangerous.
3. Don’t Get Comfortable in Snow and Ice
It doesn’t matter how many years you have been driving professionally, you should never get too comfortable in snow and ice.
Snow and ice are unpredictable.
Truck drivers should always slow down when you are driving in snow and ice.
Slowing down isn’t just the speed that you are driving, but also slow your steering down as well as this will keep you from jackknifing.
Truck drivers should also use their brakes slowly too, because the brakes could lock up.
Don’t get distracted while driving in snow and icy conditions.
Truck drivers need their complete attention on the road and the truck that they are driving.
4. No Shipping Deadline Is Worth Your Life or Driving Record
A smart and professional truck driver makes sure they are prepared for winter weather conditions.
This means that they will always use their best judgment when driving in winter weather conditions.
If the roads are too bad to drive in, then don’t drive!
It is understandable that a truck driver is only out there driving to make a living, but you will be no good to your family if you have an accident that affects your driving record or worse yet, end up dying.
Simply contact your dispatcher and let them know that the roads are not safe, and to reschedule your shipping deadline.
It’s better to be safe!
5. Go Slow
One of the most important things that a truck driver can do while driving on ice or snow is to go slow.
This is very important! I’m not alone in suggesting to slow down, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration highly recommends it too. As a matter of fact this is directly from their website:
“You should reduce your speed by 1/3 on wet roads and by 1/2 or more on snow packed roads (i.e., if you would normally be traveling at a speed of 60 mph on dry pavement, then on a wet road you should reduce your speed to 40 mph, and on a snow-packed road you should reduce your speed to 30 mph). When you come upon slick, icy roads you should drive slowly and cautiously and pull off the road if you can no longer safely control the vehicle.”
The majority of accidents that occur while driving on ice or snow happens because the driver was just driving too fast on hazardous road conditions.
It doesn’t matter what the speed limit is, if the roads are icy or snowy, you need to go slow!
6. Increase Following Distance
Truck drivers need to make sure they leave plenty of space between you and the truck or car in front of you when the roads have ice or snow on them.
If the person in front of you has a problem, and you don’t have plenty of space in between you and them, then you will probably have a problem.
A truck driver should try to keep approximately a quarter of a mile between yourself and the truck or vehicle in front of you.
If the car or truck in front of you hits their brakes suddenly or they hit black ice, you will have plenty of time to slowly move out of the way to go around them if need be.
7. Minimize Distractions
It is very important that truck drivers minimize distractions while driving on snow and ice.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that in 2013 approximately 425,000 accidents occurred with nearly 3,155 fatalities due to drivers being distracted while driving.
Truck drivers should minimize distractions by turning off the radio or any podcasts, the cellphone, and GPS, so they can have all their attention focused on driving.
- Here are a few tips to minimize distractions:
• Cell Phone – Turn off your cell phone. Although, truck drivers are prohibited from driving and talking on their cell phone, they are allowed to drive and talk on the cell phone when they use a Bluetooth, but this is just as distracting as a cell phone.
• GPS – Truck drivers should look over a map (Yes, maps are still available) so you know the route that you need to take before you head out. A GPS can be a distraction. You can have your GPS on, but turn the volume down until the roads are better or the weather has improved.
• Eating – Truck drivers should eat before you start driving. Don’t drive and eat at the same time, because if you happen to drop something, it is a natural response to try to find or pick it up. It’s just better if you make sure you eat before you start driving.
• Pets – Some companies allow their drivers to have their pet in the truck with them. If your company does, you should make sure the pet is in a carrier while you are driving during winter conditions.
Truck drivers that are driving during winter conditions should never try to multitask. It isn’t safe for you or for other drivers on the road with you.
8. Park It
The safest thing for a truck driver to do when the roads are unsafe for driving, is to park your truck.
Truck drivers should avoid pulling over and parking on the shoulder of the highway, because other drivers may just mistake your truck as a slow-moving truck, and hit the back of the truck.
Truck drivers should try to get off on the next exit and park the truck at a truck stop, rest area, or anywhere that allows truck parking.
It’s best to wait until the roads are safe for driving than to risk your life.
9. Use Tire Chains if Needed or Required
Tire chains should be used when the roads are becoming bad from the winter conditions.
Tire chains will provide added that extra grip that trucks need in bad winter conditions.
There are some areas in the United States that using tire chains in winter conditions is mandatory, and usually there will be signs telling drivers when to add the tire chains and where to put them on before continuing to drive.
Truck drivers should practice putting tire chains on before winter comes.
At first, they are a bit difficult, but once you practice it a few times, it will become easier.
Can a truck still slide if it has tire chains on? Yes, if the winter conditions are very bad, then the truck can still slide.
This is when you should pull over and wait until the storm passes.
10. Use Good Windshield Fluid For Winter
It is important that you have good window washer fluid that is -20 degrees F or De-Icer in the winter months.
This type of windshield washer fluid will not freeze when the temperature is very cold.
Another tip is to wash your windshield really good, then apply four or five coats of RainX.
Make sure that after each coat you let the windshield dry twenty seconds.
The RainX will keep rain beading on the windshield and falling off.
Another tip is adding 2/3 of a cup of white vinegar along with 1/3 cup of water will melt any ice on the windshield instantly.
You can also apply this on mirrors too.
11. Listen to Weather Advisories and Warnings
Truck drivers should listen to weather advisories and warnings before they take off on their route.
The N.O.A.A. National Weather Service (www.weather.gov) will let you know if there are any warnings or alerts.
They update their website all through the day and night.
Most truck drivers have a CB radio, and they will let other truck drivers know what the road conditions are and what the traffic is like.
12. Get a Portable Toilet In Case You Have to Park Your Truck
Having a portable toilet in your truck is important, especially when you have to park your truck somewhere that doesn’t have a restroom.
The one that I use and doesn’t stink is this one on Amazon.
You may never have to use the portable toilet, but you will be thankful you have one in the truck if you have to park your truck somewhere that doesn’t have a restroom available.
13. Food and Water: Keep Enough for Emergencies
All truck drivers should make sure they carry enough water and food with them at all times during the winter months.
You never know what the weather is going to be, and if you have plenty of food and water with you, you won’t go hungry or be thirsty.
You should also make sure you have extra blankets and warm clothes, because you may not be able to idle your truck.
14. Keep Your Eyes on the Road
Keeping your eyes on the road is just common sense.
Don’t let anything distract you while you are driving in winter conditions.
15. Carry Ice Melt, Kitty Litter, and Sand When You Are Stuck After Being Parked
Truck drivers should carry ice melt, kitty litter and sand with them.
It will come in handy when you have been parked for a while, waiting for the snow to let up or stop.
You can sprinkle any of these by the tires, and it should get your truck out when it is stuck.
16. Get Good Wiper Blades and Keep Extra Ones With You
Truck drivers should make sure that have good wiper blades on their truck before winter hits, and it is a good idea to keep an extra set with you in the truck, because you never know when one might break.
RainX is a good brand that specializes in good wiper blades that will keep your windows clear.
17. Supplies: Keep Extra Supplies with You
Having extra supplies with you is important for every truck driver. A few of the extra supplies that you should keep with you include:
• Extra blankets
• Warm gloves
• Snow scraper
• Snow brush (something like this one)
• Extra food and water
• 12-volt blanket (this is a good one on Amazon)
• Kitty Litter or ice melt
• Warm clothes
18. Watch Out For Black Ice
Truck drivers need to watch out for black ice that can be difficult to spot.
Black ice is ice that occurs when the temperature starts to freeze.
The roads look like they are just wet, but it is actually black ice.
Truck drivers should look for ice on the arms of the outside mirrors, the windshield’s top corners, and the antenna.
If you see ice on these, then the roads probably have black ice on them.
19. Be Careful On Bridges Because They Freeze Faster
Truck drivers should be careful on bridges and overpasses because they freeze faster.
The freezing wind and weather hits bridges and overpasses above and below them, so any heat is lost, which is why they freeze faster.
Truck drivers should remember this and be careful driving on bridges and overpasses during winter conditions.
20. Watch Tire Spray
Watching tire spray from other trucks and cars is an important thing to do for truck drivers.
If there is a lot of spray coming from other trucks and cars, then the roads are just wet, but if there isn’t much water spray and the road looks very wet, then this is a sign that the roads are beginning to freeze up.
It doesn’t take long for the roads to turn into black ice.
21. Keep Added Space Between You and Other Vehicles
Truck drivers need to make sure they keep more space between their truck and any vehicles in front of you.
If the truck or vehicles in front of you has a problem, you will have time to react and get out of the way.
22. Avoid Driving in Packs
During bad winter conditions, the traffic seems to be driving in packs, but truck drivers should avoid driving in packs, because you want to make sure you have plenty of distance around your truck.
23. Avoid Stopping Onto the Shoulder
When you feel the roads are just too dangerous to drive on and it’s time to pull over, you should avoid stopping onto the shoulder of the highway, because other drivers may mistake you as a moving truck, and hit the rear of your truck.
24. Make Sure Everything Is Working
Every driver should do a thorough pre-trip inspection before heading out.
You should make sure your wipers, defroster, heater, and all your lights are working.
You should also make sure that you drain your air tanks along with making sure your mirrors are clean.
You don’t want to get on the road and find out something isn’t working properly.
25. Clean All Lights
Every truck driver should make sure they clean their headlights and brake lights before taking off on the road.
You should also make sure the marker lights are clean too.
26. Have a Half of Tank of Fuel
During the winter season, truck drivers should make sure they have at least a half of tank of fuel at all times.
You don’t want to be parked somewhere waiting for the storm to pass, then run out of fuel.
Also, you should make sure you have the correct blended fuel, so your fuel lines don’t freeze up.
27. Cold Related Stress
All truck drivers should be aware of cold related stress. The cold related stress signs include:
• Extremely fatigued
• Slower breathing
If you have these cold related stress signs, you need to see a doctor immediately!
28. Keep Rubbing Alcohol With You
Keep rubbing alcohol with you, then add approximately 1/3 cup to air lines to keep the air lines from freezing
29. Get A Hammer Or Crow Bar For Ice
Keep a crow bar and hammer with you if your brakes happen to freeze
30. No Cruise Control or Jake Brake
When driving in wintry conditions, make sure you turn off the cruise control along with the Jake brake.
As winter is approaching, truck drivers can use these winter driving tips to keep themselves safe while driving in wintery conditions.