With temperatures dipping well below zero, the weather outside really can be frightful. But beyond the discomfort of the frigid cold, winter weather poses a number of hazards on the road. Commercial drivers may be in larger vehicles, but they are no less impacted by winter hazards than pedestrian drivers.
In fact, because of the large size of their vehicles and the threats they can pose, truckers have a responsibility to take greater safety measures than the common driver. Whether you’re a seasoned commercial driver or are in the midst of completing your drivers’ training, here are some driving tips to help keep you and the roads safer this winter season:
- Beware of black ice. When temperatures are close to freezing, a thin layer of transparent ice can form on the roadways. Invisible to the eye, black ice can be deadly. How can you identify conditions that often lead to the creation of black ice? Watch your windshields for ice build up. Drive cautiously and slowly, especially over bridges and shaded areas which tend to freeze more quickly when it’s very cold out.
- Slow down. In icy or snowy weather, reduce your speed. Even an experienced commercial driver can’t anticipate how their truck will respond on snow or ice. When you err on the side of caution and reduce your speed, you give yourself more time to brake and you’re less likely to slide or swerve.
- Leave space. Jamming on your brakes in icy conditions can result in swerving or spinning into another lane or off the road entirely. To minimize the risk of collisions, keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead and leave plenty of extra space to slow down.
- Pack your tire chains. Don’t forget to carry chains throughout the winter season. To avoid having a cold and frustrating road-side experience, practice installing your chains in advance and ensure that they fit properly. If you do need to install them, pull over to a rest stop so that you’re out of harm’s way and have space to move your rig as necessary.
- Stay in touch. When you’re on the road in freezing weather, you have to be prepared for the possibility that you could get stuck or run into trouble before reaching your destination. Keep your cell phone charged. Because your phone battery could freeze in frigid weather, don’t keep it on unnecessarily. It’s also important to keep your radio on and speak to other drivers on the road about difficult road conditions.
- Understand “Diesel” chemistry. Because diesel gels in very cold weather, it’s important to treat your diesel to ensure that your vehicle will run. When you’re preparing for a trip, apply an anti-gel addition to your tank before fueling up.
- Stock up with a “safety kit.” You can never be too prepared in the winter. If you do get stuck on the road, you want to be able to keep warm until assistance arrives. Beyond having your cell phone charged, keep a warm blanket, warm clothing, a shovel, water, food, and a torch in your truck. Fuel up and make sure that your battery is fully charged when you set out on a long trip.
- Keep your eyes on the road. More than usual, be aware of your surroundings and make sure that your eyes are constantly scanning the road. If you see other vehicles stuck or spun out on the shoulder or median of the road, it’s clear that the roads are especially dangerous. Try to get off the road or drive with extreme caution if you see large trucks spun out.
- Wear the right footwear. You want to make sure that you’re steady on your feet during cold snowy or icy weather. Make sure that your boots or shoes have excellent traction. Be especially carefully when you enter and exit your cab, as the steps and ground below may be icy.
- Know your worth. While sticking to your schedule and delivering your cargo in a timely manner is important, they aren’t as vital as arriving safely. If the weather is very bad, consider delaying your departure slightly. Already on the road? Pull over to a rest stop or anywhere that you’re safely out of the way, and wait it out.
If you’re searching for a commercial driving school that really prepares you to navigate the roads, consider CHET driver’s training. Offering competitively priced professional drivers’ training, CHET produces grads who are sought after by top carriers in the industry. As a subsidiary of Musket Transport Ltd., many graduates of the program find employment with a top carrier.
Whether you’re behind the wheel of your personal vehicle or a commercial vehicle carrying up to 36,000 kilograms, drive safely this winter!