Step outside with too few layers of clothing and the cold can penetrate to the bone. Winter is here, and with the cold comes a new, challenging reality for drivers on the road — especially when extreme weather conditions hit!
The stakes are high. In the US alone, 7000 deaths, 80,000 injuries and 1.5 million crashes are associated with “extreme weather”. Beyond the devastating impact on human life, the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health estimates an economic toll of a staggering $42 billion.
Commercial truck drivers don’t just commute to and from work; they work behind the wheel, sometimes for long stretches at a time. This means many more hours spent facing winter storms that worsen driving conditions. At CHET Driving School, we understand the critical importance of driving safety and integrate it into our curriculum. In winter weather, utilizing proper procedures and adopting safer procedures can spell the difference between disaster and safely reaching your destination.
Learn the Lingo
Before you can contemplate what action steps to take to keep yourself and those you share the road with safe, it’s important to familiarize yourself with winter weather terminology, from snow blizzards to snow squalls, wind chill warnings and wind chill advisories.
For example, what’s the difference between a winter storm watch and a winter storm warning? A winter storm watch is an alert about the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy sleet, or heavy freezing rain, typically issued between 12 hours to two days before the onset of a winter storm. A winter storm warning, on the other hand, is issued when forecasters are confident that hazardous winter weather – be it heavy snow, heavy freezing rain or heavy skeet – is imminent or already unfolding. These warnings typically come between 12 hours to one day prior to a storm’s onset.
Knowing such difference and the precise definition of winter terminology allows you to quickly determine how to take action when you listen to local weather warnings and forecasts.
Truck Maintenance Tips for the Winter Season
Part of a driver’s due diligence is ensuring that their vehicle is serviced and maintained before the start of the winter season. Waiting until weather worsens and problems arise on the road means putting yourself and others unnecessarily at risk. Here are a just few actions steps you can take to make sure your vehicle is winter road ready:
*Regularly check your tires. When temperatures drop below freezing, driving conditions can become dangerously slippery. Prevent breakdowns and avoidable accidents by making sure your tires are properly (but not overly) inflated and in good condition.
*Conduct daily pre-trip checks. Inspect your truck daily for any frozen components such as power cords or trailer doors. Report any starting, fuel, defroster-related or safety issues in a Driver’s Vehicle Condition Report (DVCR).
*Plug in the engine block heater of your diesel truck every night. Do so even when the temperature feels warm. Remember – the longer a truck sits, the more critical it is to plug it in. And make sure your vehicle is at a normal operating temperature when you plug it in.
*Avoid cold soaks. These can occur when your truck sits for over a day and can impact starting and charging systems.
*Do a parts and systems check. A multitude of parts and systems need to be checked on a regularly basis to ensure they are operating optimally, including your brakes; battery; ignition system; tires; ignition system; radiator coolant, hoses and belts; fluid levels, anti-freeze and thermostat; windshield wiper blades and de-icing washer fluid; fuel and air filters; headlights, tail lights, brake lights, blinkers, and emergency flashers; oil levels and power steering fluids; and door locks.
*Be fuel savvy. Ensure you are using a quality winter blend fuel in your tank, keep your tank half full to avoid fuel line freeze-up and no-start issues, and add a diesel fuel anti-gel additive to your tank when temperatures plummet below 20oF.
*Use advanced tread mud and snow tires. They will dramatically improve your truck’s ability to grip the road in extreme weather conditions. Be sure to examine your tread depth, look for signs of uneven wear or damage, test air pressure and be comfortable putting on tire chains.
Of course, these are just a few of the actions you should be taking to ensure the safety of yourself and your vehicle. At CHET, we go into greater depth about the different aspects of truck maintenance.
We cover things like watching your dashboard for warning lights or engine codes. A driver may be forced to do a Parked Regen in the winter when temperatures drop. Our students learn the vital lesson that the worse the driving conditions become, the slower you go.
CHET instructors share helpful strategies that can keep you from becoming stuck. For example, when parking at night, get into the habit of backing up and going forward a few times to create a path for your truck to leave in the morning. Otherwise, warm tires will sink into frozen snow and then later freeze, putting you in a rut.
On behalf of the entire CHET family, we wish you and your loved ones a safe and enjoyable holiday season.