Truck driving is one of the most accident-prone professions in the U.S. Furthermore, in winter, the risks and dangers intensify, as snow, ice, and freezing temperatures reduce tire traction and visibility on the road. Even the most experienced truck drivers can struggle with icy roads. Unfortunately, winter is unavoidable. This is why it is vital to implement preventative safety measures to stay safe in snowy conditions. Below are nine ways you can prepare for winter as a truck driver and winterize your equipment to minimize weather risks.
1. Plan Your Trip
Before every trip, drivers should always monitor and check the weather. A quick google search or even listening to weather updates on a radio station is a great start. Research weather information across the different towns and suburbs you’ll be traveling through and note it on a map. Make sure you check to see if there are any storms, closures, blizzards, or accidents coming up that will affect your trip. You should also plan alternative routes in the event things go awry.
2. Increase Safety by Driving Slowly
Driving accidents often occur when drivers fail to adjust their driving speed to the weather and road conditions. On black ice or snow-covered roads, truck drivers need to take into account poor traction by reducing speed.
According to Chris Hayes, Second Vice President of Transportation Risk Control, “Reduced friction between road and tries can lead to loss of traction, difficulty steering, and spinning wheels.”
Driving slower will give you more time to react and respond to unexpected events. Additionally, drivers should also always buckle up. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), safety belts can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45%.
3. Communicate While on the Road
Truck drivers should always communicate with supervisors in poor weather conditions. If you’re a BigRoad user, you can use the fleet management software’s Message Center to communicate with your supervisor, even when there’s no reception. The Message Center will store and send the message once there’s a sliver of reception. The information also comes with GPS fleet tracking, so your supervisor is aware of your location and can send help if necessary. You can also indicate Adverse Driving Conditions for your hours of service in the BigRoad ELD app.
4. Bring Extra Water and Food
If you’re driving on an extended trip, it’s always best to bring extra water and non-perishable foods. Unfortunately, breakdowns occur (and often not anywhere near the on-route stops), and in these events, it’s always best to be prepared. A lack of food and water can cause dehydration and malnourishment, which can lead to weakness, dizziness, and fainting.
5. Protect Yourself from Sun Glare
Winter may be the coldest and darkest season, but a big danger for truck drivers is the glaring sun. Glare problems are the worst during winter. Not only is the sun lower in the sky in the morning, but it can also reflect off the water, ice, and snow from the ground. We recommend using sun sleeves, sunglasses, window covers, and lowering your visor when needed.
6. Prepare Personal Emergency Supplies
You’ll also want to carry some personal emergency supplies and a first aid kit. It can be warm and sunny when you start driving, but snowing and cold while driving or at the destination. Prepare supplies for changes in the weather, potential breakdowns, and for emergencies. For personal supplies, we recommend boots with good traction, extra warm bedding, and additional clothing to stay warm (e.g., hats, gloves, scarves).
7. Check Overall Tire Health
Your tires will need adequate tread depth to grip the snow and rain-covered roads. Worn tires and slippery surfaces decrease traction and increase stopping distances. According to Consumer Reports Testing, with used tires, snow traction when accelerating falls by 14.5%, and wet stopping distances increase by 7% compared to new tires.
Make sure you check tread depth regularly to see if tires need to be replaced. You should also use snow or winter tires in the winter as they are designed to provide maximum grip in icy and snowy conditions, or simply when the temperature drops. Look for any uneven patterns on the tires, and use your winter chains where allowed in harsh conditions.
8. Check Your Truck Fluids
Before heading out, make sure you check, change, or top-up all fluids. These include engine coolant and oil, gas, antifreeze, and windshield washer fluid. You should also explore fuel additives, as diesel fuel (which contains paraffin) can crystalize at freezing temperatures. We recommend you add anti-gel fuel additives to prevent fuel gelling whenever filling up.
9. Make Sure Your Battery is in Good Condition
Check the age and condition of your battery just before winter hits. It’s best to replace the battery every 48-72 months. If your battery doesn’t need a replacement, make sure that it’s mounted well, tightened, cleaned, and there are no loose or exposed wires.
While truck driving can be dangerous in the winter, there are many ways you can winterize your truck to stay safe in icy, snowy, and sub-freezing conditions. Drivers can take preventative measures like planning their trip beforehand, driving slowly, communicating with their supervisors, dressing warmly, and stocking up on personal emergency supplies. Drivers should also check their equipment beforehand— overall tire health, truck fluids, and ensure the battery is still in good condition.
If you’re interested in staying safe this winter, learn more by meeting with one of our BigRoad Specialists.
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