Even experienced truck drivers may have a difficult time navigating ice roads when temperatures drop below 5°F. Driving a large truck can be challenging in these conditions due to poor visibility and decreased traction. However, there are steps you can take to help ensure safe winter driving. Here are ten winter driving tips for commercial truck drivers:
1. Examine your truck
Getting your truck ready for winter is crucial to avoid any severe issues. Before you start driving you should perform a pre-trip inspection which includes checking your oil, antifreeze, washer fluid, electrical systems and tire pressure levels. To ensure that your truck is prepared to weather the hard season's wear and tear, you can also have a technician performing regular preventative maintenance.
2. Slow down
Reducing your speed is especially important on icy or snow-covered roads, as it takes longer to stop and you have less control over the vehicle. Slowing down can also help you avoid skids, slides, and other hazards.
3. Increase your following distance
The distance you require to stop on wet or icy roads can easily double that of dry roads, even more so if you are transporting a heavy load. Leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you to allow for extra stopping distance. A good rule of thumb is to leave at least three times more following distance than you would in good weather conditions.
4. Avoid sudden movements
Sudden movements on icy or snow-covered roads, such as sudden braking or steering, can cause the wheels to lose traction and result in a loss of control. To help prevent this, try to make smooth, gradual movements whenever possible. Avoid jerky movements or sudden lane changes, and brake gently to help maintain control of the vehicle.
5. Use caution when passing
It is essential to be extra careful when passing because the road conditions may be more slippery and difficult to navigate in the winter. This can make it harder to maintain control of the vehicle and can increase the risk of accidents. Additionally, there is often build-up of snow and slush between the lanes on the freeway which can pull your truck tires and quickly have your vehicle out of control. When passing in the winter, be sure to maintain a steady speed and keep a firm grip on the wheel.
6. Use lower gears
When driving up or down a hill in winter when road conditions are slippery, using a lower gear can help improve traction and make it easier to control the vehicle. It can also help prevent the engine from working too hard and overheating. If you're driving a manual transmission truck, use a lower gear when climbing hills or driving on slippery roads to help improve your vehicle’s maneuverability.
7. Stay alert
It goes without saying that staying alert at all times when operating a heavy-duty truck is important because it allows the driver to be aware of their surroundings and to react quickly to any potential hazards or challenges that may arise. This is especially important in the winter when the roads may be more slippery and visibility may be reduced due to snow or fog.
8. Pull over if unsure
If the weather is unsafe for driving, heavy-duty commercial truck drivers should not be concerned about sticking to their timetable and should instead prioritize safety. If the weather becomes dangerous while on the road, drivers should try to find a safe exit and postpone driving until the weather improves and it is safe to do so.
9. Pack a winter emergency kit
It is important for heavy-duty truck drivers to keep a winter emergency kit on hand because they may be more likely to encounter challenges or emergencies while on the road in the winter. A winter emergency kit can include items such as:
- warm clothing
- a flashlight
- a first aid kit
- a shovel
- a torch
- traction aids
If you are going on a long trek. Make sure you have access to truck roadside help in case you get trapped or have a problem while driving.
In a whiteout snowstorm, vision is reduced, making it difficult to see traffic signals and signs. Before crossing an intersection or going into a one-way street, check both ways.
While these winter driving safety recommendations may seem like common sense, it is important to actively pay attention to them in order for them to be effective. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the heavy-duty truck driver to use good judgment and take necessary precautions to ensure their own safety while operating the vehicle.
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