No matter how much experience a driver has, harsh winter conditions can present a range of challenges on the road. From slick road surfaces to limited visibility, commercial truck drivers have to be ready for anything. Winters in the Northeast and Midwest are especially brutal, and almost always result in blizzards and multiple feet of snow on the ground. Even though February is half-way over, the cold temperatures and icy roads will still be here for a while. Thankfully, there are many things drivers can do to stay safe even in the worst winter months. Here are some things every trucker can do to keep themselves and other drivers safe this winter.
Pack for the Winter
Any trip in winter weather starts with preparation. Before ever starting your truck’s engine, make sure you have everything to stay warm and safe no matter what happens. Make sure you have the tools and supplies to keep your truck in shape including a flashlight, extra windshield washer fluid, chains, a bag of salt or sand, bungee cords, and a windshield scraper. For yourself, pack a reflective vest, blankets, a hat, a few pairs of waterproof gloves, a scarf, and thermal socks. You will also want boots with good traction and enough food and bottled water to last a full day.
Do a Circle Check
Before you hit the road, be sure to do a circle check and make sure everything is functioning properly. Ensure the wipers, lights, brakes, tail lights, washer fluid, and wiper motors are all in working order and ready for the trip. It is also important to make sure your mirrors and lights are clean and free from snow or ice while traveling. Keeping them clear will help you see what is around you and also allow you to be seen by other cars.
Keep Your Gas Tank Half Full
During severe winter conditions, getting stuck on the road is a real possibility. If you run out of gas and have to wait inside the cabin, you are putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. Be sure to keep your tank half-full at all times to avoid getting stranded in the snow.
Keep Your Distance from Other Vehicles
Highway traffic can often seem to travel in groups down the road. During harsh weather conditions, make sure you keep plenty of distance between you and the other vehicles. This can help everyone avoid an accident if a vehicle suddenly swerves or hits black ice. While it may be impossible to avoid other cars altogether, be especially careful to leave space between you and the truck in front of you. This will give you adequate time to break in necessary.
Use Good Judgement
Especially during the holidays, truck drivers are under huge pressure to get their shipments to their destinations. Even in the worst weather, truckers can be tempted to take the risk to make their deliveries on time. However, it is important to remember that no load is worth your life. Use good judgement and make the right call. If the snow is too dense or the highway is covered in black ice, do not take the risk. Park your truck and wait for the weather to blow over, even if it means your shipment will be late.
Practice Good Communication
Staying aware of weather forecasts and communicating with other drivers about upcoming storms or weather advisories is essential to staying safe on the road. PetroChoice’s Vice President of Human Resources Marilena Acevedo said, “Communication is key, and we keep an open line of communication with all of our drivers. When we are expecting a big storm, our leadership gets involved, and we may start a conversation a few days before to make sure we have a plan in place,” she said. “We do not want to be caught in the middle of an event without a plan. Planning is important to make it through a bad storm without too much trouble.”
Winter weather can be intimidating and certainly should not be taken lightly. However, with the right tools and preparation, you can stay safe and warm all winter long.