There’s no denying it now: Winter is definitely upon us with the first snow coming as early as October in some regions. Here are 7 winter trucking safety tips for staying prepared while on the road -- especially when visibility and road quality is compromised by snowy conditions:
1. Slow down
Driving at the speed limit may be legal, but is often too fast for snow covered or icy road conditions. It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often speeding is the root cause for at-fault accidents.
2. Keep A Safe Following Distance
Keep a safe driving distance at all times -- if the leader of the pack makes an error, you likely will too. Additionally, don’t follow the tail lights of the vehicle ahead. When the snow is heavy and overall visibility is low, seeing the tail lights of the vehicle ahead means you’re following too closely.
3. Be Smart
Judgement counts for a lot when the weather is especially inclement. If the weather is so severe that you need to get off the road, do it. Find a place to get off the road safely and wait until conditions are safe. You may be concerned about hours of service rules and dispatchers, but it’s this kind of extra pressure that leads to poor decisions being made and truckers being put needlessly at risk.
Simply put: Do not engage the jake brake on icy terrain. Also, try to avoid overusing your foot brake, unless the entire unit is absolutely ‘straight’ on the road. If the entire unit isn’t straight, the trailer can slide and spin you out of your position simply because the truck slows down, but the trailer does not.
5. Check And Recheck All Systems
Do a full 360 degree check of all your systems before you leave. Check that the defroster and heater are working properly. Be sure your wipers, wiper motor, console lights, and brake and tail lights are fully operational. Top up your washer fluid, drain the moisture from air tanks, and clean all your windows and mirrors before you head out on the road.
6. Fuel Up
Keep your fuel tank topped up and make sure you’ve got good quality lug tires with proper tire pressure. These are both essential elements for good traction on slippery, icy, and snowy roads.
7. Stay Prepared
Pack winter driving essentials like extra food, blankets, a fully charged cell phone and the like in addition to your mandatory roadside emergency kit.