Top 11 Road Safety Tips for Truckers this Winter

Trucking is hard as it is, but add winter conditions and it can turn downright dangerous very quickly. As every experienced trucker knows, navigating roads in the cold season requires special skills and expertise. You owe it to yourself to take every precaution in order to reach your destination safely and comfortably. Brush up on the basics before you head out this winter, and more importantly, remember to stay safe out there.

Truck on the road

Gear-Up for Every Scenario

Preparedness is the most important aspect of hitting the road during any season, but even more so during wintertime. Make sure you include a variety of items so that you have a solution at the ready. Blankets, food, and water will be essential if you are to remain stranded, but add a high-visibility jacket for outside. Speaking of visibility, pack a flashlight — and keep it charged! De-icer and ice scraper might already be on your list, but don’t forget a shovel and a bag of sand.

1. Inspect Your Truck

truck inspection

Now, you’re probably used to doing this on a regular basis anyway, but snowy weather calls for a different checklist. Check your tires, and evidently, use ones specifically designed for winter roads. Check the state of your battery and carry jump cables just in case it dies on you. Ensure that all the light systems are fully functional and that all the fluids in your car are topped-up.

2. Check the Weather

Check the weather forecast both before setting out and during the span of your journey. Technology is efficient at keeping you in the loop regarding conditions and possible road closures and alternatives. It might also be a good idea to keep in touch with other drivers on the road. Giving each other a heads-up is common practice in the trucking community and should be valued as such.

3. Be Careful When Leaving and Entering Your Vehicle

No matter when or why you need to leave your vehicle, caution should be exercised every time. Even if you are stationed in a designated parking spot, factor in the possibly reduced visibility. Wear your reflective gear, but working boots with extra gripping soles also reduce the risk of slipping and injury.

4. Watch Out for Tire Spray

A lesser-known sign of gauging the weather conditions is by keeping an eye on the tire spray. Watch the state of the water coming off the tires from the vehicle in front of you. If the spray is extra watery, the road is obviously wet, but if the debris is drier it means ice. The latter implies extra caution so as to avoid unpleasant surprises.

5. Drive Cautiously

truck on the road

Road conditions should impose the driving speed and failing to adapt is the cause of most accidents. Going slow serves two purposes — having more time to react if needed, and making up for poor traction. In addition to slowing down, give yourself more room than you would normally do in traffic.

The stopping distance of your vehicle is dramatically increased on icy roads, even up to 10 times. This means you should be putting a good, hefty distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Incidentally, this is smart when dealing with bad (or inexperienced) drivers as well.

Lastly, try your best to keep your driving nice and smooth, meaning no sudden movements and hard breaks. If you do this you won’t be putting yourself or others in harm’s way.

6. Use Lights and Turn Signals

Letting your intentions known to other traffic participants is basic etiquette, however, it is more urgent in tough conditions. Your lights will keep you visible and give other drivers the chance to react to your presence and your movements. Keep the blinkers on for 4-5 clicks just to ensure they were registered by those around you. If for some reason you need to go slower than the general pace, don’t hesitate to use your hazard lights.

7. Pay Extra Attention to Road Hazards

There are some things you need to keep a look-out for while on the road. Specifically, cold weather produces some of the most dangerous driving conditions such as heavy fog that drastically reduces visibility. Black ice is another tricky one since it’s essentially invisible, so you need to look for clues like ice build-up.

8. Keep Your Fuel Tank Full

truck fuelling

Each trip comes with its own challenges, but it is considered good practice to keep your tank half-full whenever possible. Due to slow traffic, the trip might take longer than usual even if you’re accustomed to the route. You might also need to take longer, alternative routes depending on unforeseen road closures, so a full tank is practical.

9. Recognize Fatigue

Driving can be tiring as it is, but bad weather tends to take an even higher toll on drivers. Stopping when you feel the need to, is important, but knowing where to do it safely is even more so. Learn to recognize what your body is telling you and try to carefully drive to a suitable location. It is advisable not to pull your vehicle over on the shoulder if that is at all avoidable. The shoulder should be used only in case of an actual emergency as it poses the highest risk of impact.

10. Don’t be Reckless

In severe conditions, everybody is expected to be on their best behavior. The danger is palpable and you should not for any reason engage in reckless actions. There’s no need to worry about arriving at a specific time, nor should you choose to push on impracticable roads. Learn to admit the truck’s limitations, and yours. If you or another driver are experiencing issues do what you can, but learn to rely on professionals when needed.

Conclusion

Above all else, trust your training and instinct and use common sense. Don’t put yourself in dangerous situations and prioritize safety above all else on the road. This may mean slowing down or stopping and that’s okay, but trying to get there quicker might mean not making it. Adverse weather conditions and bad winter traffic are no joking matter and it is an actual matter of life-and-death. There is no job or cargo that is worth that risk and observing these tips will eventually get you home safely.

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