It’s winter time, and that means the roads can be extra perilous for truck drivers. With icy conditions and ill-equipped drivers possibly traveling alongside you, there’s a variety of dangerous elements that lower temperatures bring. Not sure what to do on the road when that thermostat starts to drop? We’ve got plenty of best practices for safe winter driving, because if there’s anyone who takes truck driving safety seriously, it’s us!
First things first, you’ll want to inspect your truck and make sure it’s in tip top shape. Double or triple check it, even! Are your windshield wipers working their best? Are your tires prepared to take on inclement weather? During your prep, you’ll also want to make sure you clean off any snow from your windows, mirrors, lights, and reflective tape.
It’s also smart to do another cleaning before you get back on the road anytime you make a stop. Check those windows, lights, tape, and your license plate, too. You may also want to bring along some kitty litter to give your tires some traction during takeoff if there’s melted snow under them where you parked. Speaking of supplies to bring along, you can always refer to our list of must-have supplies for truck drivers.
Once you’re on the road, you’ll want to adjust your driving to the cold conditions so you don’t lose control of your vehicle. Firstly, you want to take it slow. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), you should reduce your speed by half if you’re driving on a snowy road. They also recommend slowing down on icy roads, and pulling over if it becomes difficult to control your vehicle.
It’s important to note: we do not recommend using cruise control to regulate your speed, as cruise control can cause skidding and spinning. Also to avoid spinning out, it’s a good idea to take evasive maneuvers instead of braking hard, when possible.
While driving in snowy or icy conditions, it’s imperative to be extra alert and drive defensively. We advised to “be prepared” earlier, and driving defensively is part of that.
To do this, make sure to give yourself extra space between your vehicle and the vehicles around you, especially in front of you, as this will give you more time to react if something goes wrong. In fact, it’s generally advised that you double your following distance from seven seconds to at least 14 seconds in slippery conditions. When driving on snowy roads, be sure also to avoid driving in the ruts of other vehicles, because their tires could compress the snow into ice, making it slippery.
You’ll also want to keep an eye out for vehicles that don’t have clear visibility themselves— if only their front windshield is clear of frost, but their other windows and mirrors are not, there’s a good chance they might not be able to see you. The risk only increases if it’s actively snowing or sleeting, too. For this reason, and out of general caution, you should be double checking your surroundings before making any sort of maneuver.
Above all else: stay calm, and don’t rush. If things get really bad, don’t be afraid to pull over; there’s no shame in prioritizing your safety and the safety of those around you. Your employers don’t want you crashing either, and a good employer understands the importance of staying safe out there. If you found this blog helpful and want to continue learning about our best safety practices for truck drivers, you can also check out these essential safety tips for driving all year round.