Winter preparation is critical for over-the-road trucking.
With the first day of fall behind us and harsher weather conditions on the way, it’s time for truck drivers to start revving up for winter. While there is a chance that some over-the-road truckers won’t see snow-covered roads this winter, the majority will, so it’s important for all carriers to understand the consequences of what the weather can bring. Drivers should be prepared to handle all conditions including heavy rain, high winds, flooding, mud and rock slides, snow, and ice.
Most carriers are aware that driving in winter weather means poor visibility, less traction, and an increase in stop time. It also means unpredictability in the actions of the drivers around you. As such, it’s critical to be prepared so you can stay productive, profitable, and prevent a potential catastrophe. Make sure you know your route and take advantage of mobile apps like WAZE that can indicate safer roadways with less traffic. It’s also important to know exactly where you can fuel up along your route as well as between loads using apps like Trucker Path. Most importantly, know what the conditions are ahead of time, make good decisions, and get off the roads when conditions are severe. Preparation is a necessity, and it starts with your vehicle and how you handle it. While maintaining efficiencies on the road, the following tips could even save lives.
Tips to keep drivers safe and your owner-operator business moving:
1. Slow down.
Accidents are often due to excessive speed. Driving at the speed limit may be legal, but it is often too fast for snow-covered and/or icy road conditions. Take as much time as necessary. Do not hurry. Speed can kill you or others on the road.
2. Keep a safe following distance.
Leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you, and watch the sides of your truck. Stay back approximately a quarter of a mile whenever possible.
3. Don’t travel as part of a pack.
Find a safe route to move away from the pack and travel alone; the goal is to maximize the distance around your vehicle.
4. Don’t follow the tail lights of the vehicle ahead.
In winter conditions like snow or heavy rain, if you can see the tail lights in front of you, you’re following too close.
5. Use good, solid judgment.
If the weather is really severe, get off the road. Find a place to exit safely, and wait until conditions are safe before you get back on the road.
6. Don’t stop on the shoulder of the road.
Blinding rain or snow could make your position look like it’s the roadway and result in a collision. Make sure you park in a way that prevents an accident from occurring.
7. Communication is key.
When road conditions are dangerous, stay in communication with dispatch in order to manage delivery deadlines and expectations. Take your time. Use your CB radio to learn about the weather conditions ahead of you, and communicate what you’ve already driven through so those behind you can be safe.
8. Use caution when applying your foot brakes.
Avoid using your foot brake unless the entire unit is completely straight. Even a slight turn can result in a spin—the truck slows down, but the trailer does not. This is especially true when the trailer is empty.
9. Keep tractor trailer lights clean.
Follow the motto, “Keep everything cleared and clean, so you can be seen.” This will also help you to see.
10. Ensure all systems are a go.
Be absolutely certain before you leave that the defrost and heater are working properly. Wipers, wiper motor, lights, brake and tail lights, washer fluid is topped off, drain moisture from the air tanks, all brakes are set up properly, and windows and mirrors are completely clean before departing.
11. Keep fuel tanks topped up.
Fuel management is not only smart for safety in long hauls, but a full tank also adds extra weight over the drive tires that will help aid with traction.
12. Good quality lug tires.
Good tires with the proper tire pressure are essential for good traction and help ensure safer winter driving.
Over-the-road trucking does not have to be dangerous if you’re cautious, you spend time preparing, and proper procedures are followed. Along with driver behavior in winter weather conditions, equipment and other tangibles should be attended to. While flashlights, windshield scrapers, chains, and bags of sand are routine winter extras, it’s also important that you have access to a flexible fuel card for use in potential emergency situations. Planning for winter is more than checking tires and windshield wipers. Know what you need even when you may not use it. Careful winter preparation can keep the company moving and the driver safe.