When roads are wet or icy and temperatures are below freezing.tbbasic As the temperatures plummet throughout the winter months, even the most experienced truck drivers may have a difficult time navigating dangerous roads and icy conditions. Poor traction, reduced visibility, and the unpredictability of other drivers can make winter driving a big challenge. However, by refreshing yourself on safe driving practices and implementing preventative safety skills, you can enjoy a winter season without any major weather-related problems.
Safe Driving Practices During the Winter Months
Driving during the winter requires extra time and preparation. Here are 10 tips for staying safe on the road when the temperatures are low.
Carry the Proper Supplies
A little preparation goes a long way in making sure that you reach your destination safely, especially when conditions are hazardous. Before heading out, truck drivers should make sure that they have a variety of cold-weather essentials on hand, so that they’re able to safely tackle the most common issues that arise when driving during the cold months. Consider putting together a winter driving kit that includes essentials like:
- Warm clothing, including extra gloves and rain gear
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- Heated Blankets
- Non-perishable food and water
- A basic first aid kit
- Tire chains or traction mats
- Extra washer fluid
Give Your Vehicle a Careful Pre-Trip Inspection
Preparing your truck for the winter is one of the best ways to avoid any problems later on. Before you set out, check your tire pressure and condition your engine oil and your antifreeze levels. Having your truck looked over by a mechanic can also help ensure that it’s ready to withstand harsh weather in the coming months.
While increased speeds and quick moves are rarely a good idea when you’re pulling 20 thousand pounds, this is especially true when road conditions are less than ideal. In many cases, accidents on the highway occur when drivers forget to adjust their speed according to weather conditions, as hydroplaning is often caused by going too fast. When driving in snowy conditions, you may need to reduce your speed to compensate for poor traction. Taking it a little slower also gives you more time to react if something unexpected happens.
You should also avoid sudden starts and stops when conditions are rainy or icy. If you need to slow down quickly and your truck is not equipped with an anti-lock braking system, lightly pumping your brakes may reduce the risk of locking your tires and losing control of your truck.
Give Yourself Extra Space
As any truck driver knows, car drivers can be unpredictable, and many who have never sat behind the wheel of a semi-truck do not accurately understand how much time it takes for a truck driver to stop, slow down or change course. Unfortunately, this problem is amplified when conditions are slick. To avoid an accident, increase the distance between you and other vehicles and avoid driving in packs. A general rule of thumb is when roads are wet or icy and temperatures are below freezing, keep following distances to a minimum of 300 feet, or in other words, one football field.
Keep a Firm Grip on the Wheel
To ensure that you maintain control, even when the roads are slick, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. Both hands should be on the wheel at all times, but especially as you’re driving through snow and ice. To keep your hands warm, reduce muscle fatigue and gain better grip and control, you may consider wearing driving gloves during the winter months.
Refrain from Sudden Moves
When temperatures are low and conditions are less than ideal, it’s important that you refrain from doing anything sudden, including braking, accelerating and turning. By maintaining a consistent speed and taking everything nice and easy, you can avoid doing anything that could compromise traction on slick roads.
Look at the Tire Spray
Especially when you’re driving in the early morning, the late evening or any other time visibility is diminished, it can be challenging to accurately assess road conditions. However, there’s a simple trick that can tip you off to whether the roads are dry or wet – simply look at the water coming off of the other vehicles on the road. If there’s a lot of water being sprayed from their tires, then you can be sure that the road is very wet. On the other hand, if there’s only a little bit of tire spray, then that likely means that the road has started to freeze and may be slick, requiring that you practice extra caution.
Practice Extra Caution When Driving Through Mountains
Curvy mountain roads can be difficult to navigate in the best of conditions, but these roads can be particularly hazardous in the winter. Mountain weather is often severe and can change on a dime, meaning that you can never be completely sure what to expect. As you’re driving on mountain roads during the winter months, be ready for strong gusts of wind and keep an eye out for snowplows and emergency vehicles. Also, be on the lookout for slush and hard-packed snow, both of which can make it difficult to maintain in control of your truck. Always obey posted rules and if possible, avoid stopping in avalanche zones.
Avoid Black Ice
When temperatures are close to freezing, black ice, or a thin transparent layer of ice, can easily form on the roadways. Because this ice can make the roads simply look like they’re covered with a shallow puddle, many drivers don’t recognize this hazardous road condition. Black ice is more likely to form in shaded spots or at intersections, overpasses, bridges, and other places that ice forms first. Also, remember bridges may ice up before the road ways, so be extra careful when driving on bridges.
As temperatures dip below 40 degrees, keep an eye out for clues like:
- Ice building up on your truck, especially at the top corners of your windshield, on the backs or arms of your outside mirrors and on your truck’s antenna
- Decreased tire spray from other vehicles, which can indicate that they are driving over a patch of ice
- Nearby signs, trees, and phone lines have a layer of ice, even though the roads only look wet
When in Doubt, Pull Over
While the old adage that time is money may hold especially true for truck drivers, the main goal is that you arrive to your destination safely. If you don’t feel comfortable driving for any reason, then the best thing that you can do for your own safety and that of everyone else on the road is to pull off. When weather conditions become too severe to safely drive through, put your schedule out of your mind for a few minutes and find a safe way to get off of the roadway. Once the weather improves, you’ll be able to safely continue on to your destination. Remember, Mesilla Valley Transportation is a no chain company. We carry them but we do not put them on.
Enjoying a Career with Mesilla Valley Transportation
Truck driving provides travel opportunities that those who spend their working years behind a desk can only dream of. From seeing sprawling cities, quiet suburbs and rolling countryside, those who drive have the unique chance to experience the country in a way that few other career paths offer. To find out more about the experience that MVT drivers enjoy or to discuss career options, contact us today.