As we get further into the year, hot days are starting to get few and far between and mornings are getting more and more brisk. With the change in season comes the turning of the leaves and frosty mornings, but it also brings a change in road conditions. Driving in the winter isn’t the same as driving in the warmer months, so it’s important to be prepared and educated on the differences in driving in cold weather.
Winter driving requires drivers to be at peak awareness – snow, wind, ice, and extreme cold can test even the most experienced driver’s skill. Winter weather conditions are higher in risk because of poor visibility, poor traction, an increased stop time, and increase of unpredictability among other drivers on the road. Many drivers also don’t think to chance their driving tactics during the winter, making it all the more important to pay attention to your surroundings – being the best driver yourself can’t always prevent error on someone else’s part.
Don’t get so caught up worrying about driving that you forget about your personal comfort. Be sure to stock up on proper clothing, a coat, blankets, flashlights, food and water, salt for ice, extra windshield wiper fluid, windshield scraper, jumper cables, and tire chains. Never let your gas tank dip below half and plan long trips carefully – what types of weather will you encounter as you move across the country
All drivers are required to complete pre-trip inspections, but it’s a good idea to conduct these inspections more often with the drop in temperature. Make sure your tires, wiper blades, fluids, and lights are all in good condition.
Hurrying is the biggest mistake you can make while driving during cold months; truckers driving too fast for road conditions cause the majority of winter accidents. Hydroplaning is common when driving too quickly in slush, causing loss of control. Slower speeds also give you more time to react to anything unexpected you might encounter.
Winter road conditions lead to a decrease in visibility, so keep plenty of room between your rig and anyone else on the road. You should always have enough time to stop quickly or move out of someone else’s way.
Doing anything too forcefully during the winter is a bad idea – braking or accelerating too hard on slick roads can cause your tires to lose traction. Anti-lock break systems (ABS) can be extremely beneficial when used correctly, though. If your vehicle has ABS, push down as hard as possible and hold in the event of an emergency. The ABS keeps your wheel and tires from locking, enabling you to easily avoid obstacles.
Black ice is a thin layer of transparent ice that forms when the temperature is close to freezing and can make the road look slightly wet. It’s extremely deceiving and many drivers don’t even see it, so be aware of conditions that produce black ice so you can successfully avoid it. Two telltale-warning signs are ice build up around truck mirror arms or antennas and the spray from tires ahead of you will stop.
Bridges become icy before any other roads because of the open air beneath them. Many vehicles are fine along highways, but spin out of control as soon as they get on a bridge. Be aware of changing road conditions so you can implement necessary defensive driving techniques.
Getting those extra miles in isn’t worth risking your life or the lives of others. If you’re unsure of your driving during tough conditions, find a safe place to pull off and wait it out. Avoid pulling immediately to the shoulder, though; decreased visibility could cause collisions with other cars that don’t see that you’re stopped.
If you get caught in a bad snowstorm or slide off the road, stay put! It’s easy to get lost and turned around in decreased visibility and you put yourself at risk of freezing to death if you can’t find your way back to your truck. Bundle up and try to stay moving as much as possible to keep your body heat up. Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by keeping the exhaust pipe clear of the snow, and only run your engine for 10-15 minutes each hour.
Winter driving can be nerve wracking, but staying up to date on safe driving techniques will help you feel more prepared. A smart trucker is always prepared for bad weather conditions and uses their best judgment and common sense – remember, you are in charge of the truck.
Knowledge on winter driving is not only important for your safety, but it can also set you apart from other drivers. Staying educated on proper preventative driving skills can give you a leg up among competition that might not have the same skill set, while keeping yourself and other safe on the road.