With snow already falling in the midwest, the roads are about to become a little more hectic. Ice, slush, and snow create hazardous driving conditions, and many highway drivers do little to change their habits behind the wheel, which is why it’s all the more important for big rig drivers to use their best judgment and extensive road knowledge while driving during the winter months.
At Bison USA, we want our drivers to be as safe as possible on the roads, so we’ve compiled a list of the top ten winter trucking tips. Have your own tips for trucking in the snow? Let us know in the comments!
Slow Down and Keep a Safe Buffer
Even driving at the speed limit can be dangerous in inclement weather. When the roads are covered in snow and ice, make sure you slow down and keep a safe buffer between you and other vehicles on the road (in front of you, behind you, and to the sides). Snowy weather can also prevent visibility, so seeing the tail lights of the vehicle in front of you means that you’re probably following them too closely.
Check Equipment Before and in the Middle of Your Trip
You should always check your equipment before making a trip, but especially in winter weather. You want to be certain that all lights are working, air has been drained from the trailer and truck tanks as to avoid frozen brake lines, and that your tires are properly pressurized to prevent a flat on the road. In the middle of your trip, you should be sure to stop safely and clean off the tire flaps and undercarriages. Packed-on ice can cause damage to your rig, as well as other vehicles if the packed ice were to detach while driving.
Snow Gear on Board
It’s best to be over-prepared when it comes to driving in icy and snowy conditions. Even if you end up not needing it, you should make sure that you’re driving equipped with a fully-stocked winter road kit. This kit should include:
- reflective vest
- kneeling pad
- boots with good traction
- the right size of chains
- waterproof gloves
- extra washer fluid
- warm clothing
Know Your Limitations
You know what’s best for your truck. If the weather is too bad, it’s your responsibility to make the call that it’s too unsafe to travel farther. Your safety and the safety of other drivers on the road is always the biggest priority, so don’t push your luck if the storm gets too bad. Take a rest, and get back on the road as soon as conditions improve.
Warm Up Your Windshield
When visibility is already a problem, your windshield needs to be cleaner and more clear of obstructions than ever. Turn your defroster on high for one minute to warm the glass. In really cold weather, alcohol will evaporate more quickly than the fluid, and in turn, the fluid will freeze on your windshield. To prevent this freezing, add a few ounces of brake line antifreeze into the washer fluid.
No Stopping on the Shoulder
Stopping on the shoulder is especially dangerous when visibility is low. If you’re stopped on the shoulder, other vehicles traveling behind you may mistake your position for being on the road, and end up slamming into the back of your rig.
Fuel Tanks are Full
To aid with traction, make sure that your fuel tanks are topped off. This extra weight over the drive tires will improve traction; you should also invest in high-quality lug tires with the proper tire pressure for the safest winter driving.
Don’t Engage Jake Brakes
In snowy weather, some drivers will use jake brakes. When driving on icy roads, you should NOT engage your jake brakes. Safe winter driving means trying to avoid overusing your foot brake unless your entire rig is straight on the road. If you engage the foot brake when your rig isn’t straight, the trailer can spin and slide out of position.
Keep Tractor and Trailer Lights Clean
Before and especially during your trip, you should frequently check that your lights are clear of snow and ice. Just like ice can pack up around your tanks and flaps, ice and snow can pack up around your lights — LED lights are especially susceptible to snow and slush from the roads.
Monitor the Weather
Staying up to date on the latest weather conditions may seem obvious, but it’s the most important factor when trucking in the winter months. Winter weather can change, so even if you have your route planned ahead of time, make sure that you stay prepared by listening to the radio, watching radar maps, and tuning into the Weather Channel for real-time road conditions.