Truck driving in winter can be challenging, especially when the weather is bad. Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures can make the roads treacherous. When the temperature plunges to 5℉, even the most experienced and skilled truckers can have a hard time managing the icy roads. Poor visibility coupled with reduced traction makes the job of a big rig driver extremely challenging.
In this article, we'll provide some best practices for truck driving in winter, including tips for handling weather, snow, and ice. We'll also discuss how to prepare your truck for winter driving and what to do in case of an emergency. By following these guidelines, you'll be better equipped to navigate the roads safely and efficiently during the winter months.
1. Inspect Your Vehicle
Preparing your truck for winter is essential to prevent any major problems. Check tire pressure, engine oil, and antifreeze levels daily before you hit the road. You can also take a preventative truck maintenance step and have a mechanic inspect your vehicle to make sure it's ready to withstand the wear and tear of harsh winter conditions. Use a pre-trip inspection checklist to confirm that you’ve covered the most important details.
2. Slow Down
Most accidents occur because drivers don't adjust their speed according to the road conditions. While driving on a snow-covered road, you may need to compensate for the poor traction by reducing your speed. Moreover, going slow will also give you more time to react if anything goes wrong. So, be extra-easy with your accelerator this winter.
3. Give Yourself Some Extra Space
Do you know that the stopping distance on a wet road is twice the normal stopping distance? And on icy roads, it's almost 10 times the normal stopping distance! So, leave plenty of room between your truck and the vehicle in front of you so that you have enough space to move out of harm's way in case of unpredictable situations. It's always good to put extra space between yourself and some of the terrible drivers you might meet during the winter months.
4. Stay Smooth
In cold weather, try hard to refrain from doing anything sudden – sudden braking, sudden acceleration, cornering, etc. If the situation demands you to slow down suddenly on a slick road, pump your brakes lightly. The key is to maintain a consistent speed and smooth deceleration to avoid doing anything that reduces traction on slippery roads.
5. Pay Attention to the Tire Spray
This is one of the most important (and commonly forgotten) winter truck driving tips. A good way to assess the road condition is to observe the water coming off the vehicles' tires around you. If there's a lot of water being sprayed, the road is definitely wet. If the tire spray is substantially diminished or absent, it means that the roadway has started to freeze, and you need to exercise additional caution.
6. Let There Be Light
Visibility is often poor in inclement weather conditions. So, remember to turn on the headlights of your truck. This will allow the other drivers to see you and maintain a safe distance from your truck. As a rule of thumb, if you need to use your windshield wipers, your headlights should be on.
7. Take Evasive Action
Sometimes, it's better to take evasive action than hard braking, especially on a snow-covered road. If your speed is around 25-30mph, consider decelerating your truck slightly and maneuvering around the obstacles to avoid a collision.
8. When in Doubt, Pull Over
If the weather condition is too severe to drive, take your time thinking about your schedule. Then, find a safe way to get off the roadway and wait until the weather gets better and it's safe for you to drive.
9. Be Prepared
Some states require snow chains for your tires (even if they're not installed), so you'll want to familiarize yourself with state regulations as some states have stricter laws than others. If you are going for an extended trip, you might want to bring a flashlight, shovel, matches, traction devices, a bag of sand, etc. Make sure you have roadside assistance for trucks to fall back on if you get stuck or run into trouble on the road. Remember to carry warm clothes, blankets, extra food, and water for yourself, too.
10. Check Twice
When visibility is compromised in a whiteout blizzard, it can be difficult to see traffic lights and signs. Make sure you look twice before proceeding through an intersection or turning down a one-way street.
These winter driving safety tips might appear quite simple, but they will only work if you follow them carefully. Ultimately, it's up to you to exercise your judgment and stay safe while driving on the road.
11. Proper Supplies
Heavy snows and icy conditions often lead to extended road closures. It is common for drivers to become stranded at times for extended amounts of time. The best thing to do for these situations is to prepare ahead of time by stockpiling the proper supplies on your truck. It’s best to maintain a three to four day supply of water and food to get you through the most extreme circumstances. Additional items you may want to have with you in the event of becoming stranded include spare batteries, devices for music, communication, etc.
12. Make Sure You Have the Proper Gear
Cold weather gear is essential for your comfort and survival in extreme winter circumstances. Coats, boots, hats, and other clothing items designed for extreme weather conditions should be an essential part of your winter kit. Communication gear including a cell phone and CB radio ensure that you can call for help if needed. Plan for additional heat sources such as Hot Hands in case your truck has a mechanical issue that interferes with your onboard heating equipment. Other items to keep with you during the winter months include:
- A bag of rock salt
- A bag of cat litter
- A shovel
- Ice scraper
- Ice cleats for your boots
- Spare antifreeze and oil for your truck
- Anti-gel for your fuel tanks
5 Best 18-Wheeler Trucks for Driving in Winter Weather
The Volvo VNL is a reliable and efficient 18-wheeler truck that is well suited for winter driving. It comes with advanced traction control and a four-wheel drive system, which helps improve stability and handling in inclement weather. The VNL also features a spacious and comfortable cab, which is important for long-haul truckers who may be on the road for extended periods of time during the winter months.
The Kenworth T680 is a popular choice among truckers and is known for its durability and reliability. It comes with a variety of advanced safety features, including a traction control system, which helps improve stability and handling in inclement weather. The T680 also has a spacious and comfortable cab, which is designed to keep drivers comfortable during long-haul trips.
This 18-wheeler truck is known for its powerful engine and advanced traction control system, which makes it well suited for driving in heavy snow and rain. The Peterbilt 579 also has a spacious and comfortable cab, which helps keep drivers comfortable during long-haul trips. Additionally, it has a high ground clearance which allows it to clear deep snow and tackle rough terrain.
The Cascadia is a reliable and efficient 18-wheeler truck that is well suited for winter driving. The Cascadia features a four-wheel drive system, which helps improve stability and handling in inclement weather. It also comes with advanced traction control and anti-lock brakes, which help to improve safety in snowy and icy conditions.
International LT Series
The International LT Series is a great option for truck drivers who need to navigate through heavy snow and rain. It comes with an available four-wheel drive system and advanced traction control, which helps improve stability and handling in inclement weather. The International LT Series also offers a spacious and comfortable cab, which is important for long-haul truckers who may be on the road for extended periods of time during the winter months.
The winter months can be a challenge, but with the proper preparation and an attention to detail you can keep yourself safe and comfortable. Pay attention to the weather forecasts for the regions your route passes through. Make sure you have the basic necessities for survival and a way to communicate in case of emergencies. Keep your head on a swivel, watch your speed and distance, and if you feel unsafe there’s no shame in getting off the road and parking until conditions improve. No load is worth your life.