Top 10 Winter Driving Tips for Truckers


Top 10 Winter Driving Tips for Truckers

As winter weather sets in for most of the country, you should take precautions to keep not only you and your truck safe, but also others on the road. We’ve put together ten useful tips to help you get your loads delivered safely this winter.

1. Monitor the weather

This one might seem really obvious, but knowing ahead of time that a storm is brewing is key to staying safe.  If a blizzard or wintery mix is predicted in your area, you can set into motion your plan of action for pickups and drop offs. Since weather predictions ahead of time can be faulty, don’t forget to stay tuned to the radio, radar maps, or the Weather Channel for information on real-time road conditions.

2. Plan your trip

Before getting on the road, take the time to plan and map out your route according to the weather. Take into consideration that some roads may be closed or too rough to navigate. If possible, plan the times you will be going over overpasses to be after the snow has melted, or at least, plowed. Calculate your driving speed for heavy snow weather to be about 25 mph and plan safe parking places and pick-up and delivery times accordingly. This way, you won’t be facing possible issues with your Hours of Service (HOS) before making it to a safe resting stop. Make sure to have a few alternate safe stops planned, just in case conditions get too bad in other places.

3. Check equipment pre-trip and mid-trip

It’s always vital to check your equipment before you hit the road, but especially so when winter weather strikes. Check that all lights are working properly, air is drained from the truck’s and trailer’s tanks to avoid frozen brake lines, and tire pressures to prevent a disastrous flat.

After hitting rough patches of snow or ice, make sure to make a safe stop to knock off tire flaps and undercarriages. This could prevent damage to your rig, but also other vehicles when the packed ice eventually comes off.

4. Have extra equipment on board

Be prepared for the iciest conditions by having some of the best snow gear on board. You should make sure to have:

  • chains (the right size)
  • bungees
  • waterproof gloves
  • reflective vest
  • flashlight
  • kneeling pad
  • boots with good traction
  • warm clothing
  • extra washer fluid
  • anti-gel

5. Maintain as much space as possible

One of the most common factors in winter accidents is following too closely behind other vehicles. You may not be able to control the cars behind you, but you can do your best to make sure there is enough cushion space between you and the car ahead of you. This leaves you with options if your brakes aren’t working as quickly as they should.

6. Slow down

Put the posted speed limits into context. If roads are covered in snow or ice, it might not be safe or feasible to maintain that 50 mph speed limit. Going faster leaves more room for error with stopping the truck and trailer, as well as reduces your reaction time. Slow down and only go as fast as you are reasonably able to. Keep to the right and let other vehicles pass you if they want – don’t feel pressured to speed up if they are following too close behind. You are driving with everyone’s safety in mind when you go easy on the pedal. 

7. Know what to do if you lose traction

There’s no fool-proof method for not losing traction in bad weather. It’s important that you know what to do if it happens, since this lessens the severity of any possible accidents. The number one thing to remember: never use the clutch or engine brake when traction is lost, as this could make the situation worse. Just gently let your foot off the pedal and steer in the direction that the back end of the vehicle is going, which should allow you to then gain back control.

8. Be careful getting in and out of the truck

Again, this might seem obvious, but just remember that steps will most likely be slippery. It’s not unheard of for a driver to fall and seriously injure themselves by underestimating the condition of truck steps. Make sure to wear boots with good grip and take your time going up and down. Also, always keep in mind your surroundings. Take extra caution getting in and out of the tractor on roads with low visibility. Always wear an orange safety vest.

9. Hold your steeling wheel firmly and with confidence

Winter weather is not the time to be reaching for a snack or answering a text. Always keep your hands firmly on the wheel in case you hit a rough patch of snow, or need to react quickly to unforeseen conditions on the road. At the same time, be confident in your driving skills. Try to remain calm and avoid sporadic driving.

10. Know your and your vehicle’s limitations

There may come a point in which the weather simply makes the roads too unsafe to travel. Don’t push your luck if conditions are bad – yours and others’ lives are at the top of the priority list.  Take this time to make a safe stop and wait the storm out. Catch up on some rest to get back on the road as soon as possible.