Winter weather presents one of the largest safety challenges to any truck driver. Successfully operating a tractor-trailer or any large vehicle in icy climates requires specific knowledge and skills. Winter driving can be especially difficult because it heightens the dangers of decreased visibility, poor traction, increased stop times and the missteps by other drivers. In order to safely operate during bad weather conditions, you’ll need to properly prepare your vehicle and understand how to negotiate the elements.
Prepare Your Truck
Whether you drive in the northern states or over the road, at some point you will head into cold temperatures. Beyond standard vehicle winterization, there are a few things that you can do to make your work during winter weather a little safer.
- Visibility Check: Things like good windshield wipers and defrosters make a difference. You want to always maximum visibility.
- Lights: Check your lights to be sure they aren’t caked with snow or ice before driving.
- Footing: As the temperatures drop, handles and steps can accumulate ice just like roadways. Be aware of your truck and always double check your safety.
- Getting Started: Warm tires can melt snow and create ice. One option is to carry a bag of kitty litter in your cab. It may help you gain traction after you have made a stop.
Handling Slippery Roads
Icy climates pose a real set of challenges and can drastically change your driving conditions. You’ll need to approach every aspect of driving with that in mind. Consider these safety tips before braving the winter weather.
- Slower Speeds: Snowy or freezing conditions reduce the amount of tire traction for your vehicle. The faster you are traveling, the longer it will take to come to a complete stop or change lanes without losing control. Slow down and reduce your chances of an accident.
- Safe Distance: Drivers tend to travel in groups. As a result, vehicles slowdowns and accidents can lead to quick road congestion. The last thing a tractor-trailer operator wants is to be too close to other vehicles in less than pristine driving conditions. Leave as much space as possible between you and others during freezing or inclement weather.
- Tail Lights Are Not A Beacon: During snowfall, some drivers tend to lock their vision on the vehicle in front of them. Unfortunately, you would be placing your safety into the hands of someone who is also struggling with winter conditions. Do not rely on other drivers. If you can’t see well, find a truck stop or rest area and wait out the storm.
- Braking: Drivers of small vehicles may pump the brakes in icy conditions to decrease speed. As a truck driver, that strategy could cause your vehicle to fishtail if you are not perfectly straight. Also, do not employ the Jake brake. It’s important to be frugal and cautious with braking during frigid weather.
Napier instructors have experience in all different types of weather climates. Refreshing your CDL knowledge or enrolling in CDL training classes could help you learn how to better handle your vehicle during these winter weather conditions.