Dealing with winter trucking can be brutal thanks to blizzards and below-freezing temperatures. Yet you must keep rolling in order to do your job.
Stay safe this winter with these trucking safety tips. These tips include ways to maintain your tractor-trailer in winter, as well as defensive driving suggestions specifically for winter trucking.
Equipment Best Practices for Winter Trucking
Winter weather makes the months of November through March difficult for truck drivers. The season requires drivers to have a heightened sense of awareness and to develop driving skills that can help them handle snow, ice, wind and subzero temperatures.
In the same way that winter trucking challenges truck drivers’ abilities and resilience, it is equally difficult on trucking equipment. Keeping your rig rolling in the cold and deadly winter months leads to a strain on truck batteries and a thickening of oil. You have to be cautious that your seals don’t crack. Furthermore, you need to use additives to ensure your fuel doesn’t gel up. Plus, your air system takes a whole new onslaught with the winter conditions, which can also cause it to freeze up.
Here are ways to remedy these problems:
- Keep startup problems at bay by not turning the engine off frequently. Also, use an engine block heater when the engine is warm and leave the key in “off” when you are parked.
- Prevent your fuel from gelling up in temperatures below 10 Fahrenheit by running the engine at 900 to 1000 RPM for half an hour every 6 hours.
- To avoid freezing up your brakes, dry them out by dragging them gently prior to parking.
- Check your air dryer and drain the moisture from your air tanks every time you start up the engine.
Defensive Driving Tips for Winter
Winter trucking will involve routes and hauls that will test even the best truck driver’s experience and skills. You want to have a solid grasp on defensive driving during winter so you will be prepared for anything. If you hope to avoid getting into an accident in the winter, follow these trucking safety tips.
Visibility is crucial:
- Always look ahead as far as possible to help you determine what other drivers around you are going to be doing — i.e., turning, veering into a different lane, etc. Pay special attention to the brake lights of those around you.
- Whenever you stop for fuel or for off-duty hours, check your lights before you head back out on the road to make sure they are operational.
- If you have ice or snow on your lights, mirrors, windows or reflective tape/decals, clear it off.
- Your air conditioning system shoots out dry air, making it ideal for keeping your windows free of frost and condensation. Use it.
- If you see a vehicle with snow on the hood or top, or a windshield that is barely scraped free, be aware of that vehicle’s driver’s lack of visibility and anticipate that the snow will likely fly off of their automobile.
As far as roadway conditions are concerned, use these trucking safety tips:
- Follow the local weather reports to determine if black ice or glazed roadways will be a factor on the route you mean to travel. If they will be, slow up your speed and be on alert.
- Use extreme caution when approaching exit and on ramps along highways — especially when there is traffic.
- Bridges and overpasses are likely to freeze faster than roads so take extreme care when crossing them.
- If you are driving in open areas, such as the Midwest, or through hills or tunnels, heavy winds can whip through and create dangerous situations for high-profile vehicles such as big rigs. Keep your hands on the wheel.
- Mist and fog are serious threats in subzero temperatures where they can create sheets of ice and falling sleet. Use caution.
Other Consideration for Winter Trucking
Traffic conditions for winter driving are unpredictable. On the first day of a snow or ice storm, no matter what part of the country you are driving through, there are bound to be problems. From snowplows not yet in operation to drivers who don’t know how to drive in winter conditions, traffic will be hairy for a day or two.
This is especially true in the South, where an unexpected two inches of ice or snow can shut down roads, but is also true of the North and Midwest, where the first snowy days can create havoc as drivers adjust to the new season. Always err on the side of caution and remember to keep your distance and stay alert.