Every motorist owes a duty of care to others on the roads and highways, and professional truck drivers are held to an even higher standard of safety than other drivers. During the winter, visibility and traction are reduced while the distance and time required to stop a semi-truck are increased. Maintaining a high standard of safety requires truckers to be prepared for winter driving and to adjust their driving styles to accommodate potentially dangerous road conditions.
Truck Driver Preparation for Winter Weather
In addition to the standard roadside emergency kit that truckers are required to carry at all times, extra items should be carried in winter to prepare the trucker for all contingencies, including the following:
- Methyl hydrate to treat frozen fuel or air lines
- Extra windshield washer fluid
- Ice scraper and window de-icer
- Tire chains
- Spare fuel filters
- A shovel and a bag of salt, sand, or cat litter
- Winter “lug” tires with good tread
- A propane heater and a lighter
- A cell phone and charger
- A flashlight and batteries
- Jumper cables
- Emergency food and water
- A sleeping bag or extra blankets
- Winter clothing, including coat, hat, gloves, and insulated socks
- A high-visibility vest
- A tool kit including wrenches, a hammer, and a putty knife to clear ice and snow from air tanks
It’s also a good idea for a truck driver to keep the gas tank as full as possible in case it’s necessary to take long detours or run the motor for heat when stuck in the snow.
Winter Driving Techniques for Truck Drivers
Driving a commercial truck in winter weather conditions requires significant adjustments and a safety-first attitude. Following the winter driving tips below can help a trucker and other motorists on the road to arrive alive:
- Clear snow, ice, and frost from all windows, mirrors, reflectors, and reflective tape before starting a journey.
- Make sure the heater, defroster, lights, wipers, and all other systems are operating properly.
- Check brakes for frozen valves or shoes frozen to brake drums.
- Always use the seat belt and keep both hands firmly on the wheel.
- Don’t be distracted by the phone, GPS unit, radio, eating, or drinking.
- Slow down and remember that a truck’s stopping distance triples on snowy surfaces.
- Don’t drive as part of a cluster of vehicles. Leave as much space as possible in front and on both sides. Remember that the snow blowing around the truck could mask a smaller vehicle nearby.
- Don’t tailgate or follow another vehicle. A driver who can see the tail lights of the vehicle ahead in heavy snow is following too closely.
- Avoid a jackknife crash by braking gradually and only when the entire tractor-trailer rig is straight on the road.
- Be especially cautious with an empty trailer in high winds.
- Don’t use the “jake brake” or cruise control on slippery surfaces.
- Drain any moisture from air tanks.
- Before ascending a hill, increase speed gradually to build momentum so as not to lose traction on the slope.
- Pass snowplows and salt trucks on the left and leave sufficient clearance.
- Remember that overpasses and bridges might be icy even though other parts of the road are not.
- Be sure headlights are on well before dusk for safe visibility.
- Stay vigilant for “black ice.”
- Be especially cautious on entrance and exit ramps.
- Yield the right-of-way when doing so is necessary for safety.
Know When to Get Off the Road
The most important winter driving safety tip for truckers is to know when it’s too dangerous to drive. Regardless of deadline pressure or encouragement from a dispatcher to deliver on time, a trucker must know when to get off the road if conditions are simply too treacherous for safe operation. If the trucker exercises poor judgment, stays on the road under dangerous conditions and is involved in an accident, cargo could be lost or destroyed, and the lives of other motorists could be at risk.
Have You Been Involved in a Winter Truck Crash in Virginia?
While most professional truckers are safe and conscientious winter drivers, you still might be hurt in a wreck caused by a negligent trucker. If so, an experienced truck accident attorney can help you with your insurance claim(s) against one or more defendants for medical bills, lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering. If a fair settlement is not offered, your lawyer can take your case to trial and fight for you in court. Contact us online, start a chat, or call us at 540-341-0007 to schedule your free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.