trucking tips

6 Tips for Driving a Semi-Truck in Winter

It’s no secret that icy and snow-covered roads can have severe and often unpredictable impacts on traffic conditions. When these winter months roll in, heavy-duty drivers face dangerous and demanding routes, especially when they’re not prepared. Along with winterizing your truck, refreshing your wintery driving skills is crucial for surviving the frozen season. 

When drivers are faced with a winter storm, icy roads, or other frosty conditions, it’s always better to play it safe. Things like taking your vehicle to a trusted mechanic for a thorough check-up or building an emergency kit can genuinely be a lifesaver. However, there are other ways to stay safe while driving your semi this winter. 

In this article, we’ll go over our top 6 tips and tricks for driving a semi-truck safely in the winter.

1. Drive cautiously

When driving on ice- or snow-covered roads, it’s essential to take your time and drive cautiously. If you’re out of practice when it comes to driving in the winter, move slowly and pay attention to the capabilities of your vehicle. For instance, if your semi rides low, it won’t handle snow accumulation well, so it’s best to take it slow to prevent build-up. It’s vital to execute control and deliberate actions when navigating wintery road conditions. Sharp curves, rushed acceleration, and fast braking all result in decreased traction, leading to an accident. Stay alert and maintain a consistent speed while leaving enough distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. The safe amount of space will also help you when you need to use your brake. 

2. Stock up on essentials

With inclement weather being so unpredictable, you must always have the essentials with you. This way, if you get stranded in the middle of these harsh climatic conditions, you will be prepared and safe.

Your emergency kit should include:

  • Tire chains
  • Spare fuel
  • An extra fuel filter and wrench
  • Coolant, washer fluid, and oil
  • Vinegar
  • A flare gun
  • Flares
  • A flashlight and extra batteries
  • A CB radio (if one is not already in your cab)
  • A first aid kit
  • Blankets
  • Hats, scarves, and gloves
  • Snow boots
  • Snow shovel
  • Canned food and bottled water

We also recommend a few bags of cat litter. This unique emergency item can be used as a safe and eco-friendly way to regain traction if your tires get stuck on a patch of ice. Simply throw some litter under your tires, slowly engage your accelerator, and wait for your tires to do the rest.

3. Use your signals

This may seem like a no-brainer, but using your signals can be the difference between a safe ride and a preventable accident. The general rule of thumb is three blinks before changing lanes, but when the weather outside is frightful, stay safe and use five blinks before moving over. It would help if you also used your signals before turning. To give those driving behind you plenty of notice, be sure to activate your signal before you begin slowing down for your turn.

If the weather is too extreme for your comfort level, use your four-way hazard signals and move to the passing lane to allow those around you to pass. Hopefully, doing so will encourage other drivers to exercise caution and prevent a pileup from happening.

4. Let your truck warm up

When the temperatures drop below freezing, it can be hard on your semi’s heavy-duty diesel engine. So, it’s essential to allow your truck time to warm up before taking off on your route. This will prevent your engine from refusing to turn over and promote longevity past the winter months. 

Pro Tip: While your rig warms up, turn on your defroster and let your windshield unfreeze itself. Two birds, one stone. 

5. Be cognizant

As well as driving cautiously, you as a driver should be extra cognizant of those around you while driving through frosty weather. For example, water coming off another vehicle’s tires could indicate just how treacherous the roadways are. If there is a lot of water, the roads are wet, but the streets are freezing over if there is less spray. You should also pay close attention to the streets for black ice.

6. Check your tires, fuel, and lights

Perhaps the most crucial tip happens before you hit the road: check your tires, fuel, and lights. Regardless of the season, truck drivers should be inspecting their tires regularly. However, as the weather grows colder, your tires will need to be examined even more than usual. If your tires are underinflated, damaged, or worn out, it could lead to troubles on the road, such as low traction.

Checking your fuel is another crucial step to staying safe. By keeping your fuel tank filled, you will give extra weight to your rig, which will ultimately help your tires retain traction and stay on the road.

Once you stop for the day, be sure to check and clean your headlights, taillights, and license plate since they will more than likely be covered in a mixture of dirt and snow. For semi-trucks, your lights need to be as visible as possible, meaning your lights need to be clean and functioning correctly.

Want more information like this? Check out these articles:

Tips for Preparing Your Semi-Truck for Summer

How to Stay Safe in Harsh Winter Conditions

7 Crucial Tips for Truck Tire Maintenance and Repair

Older Drivers: How to Stay Safe Behind the Wheel

It’s officially the first week of December, which means it’s Older Driver Safety Awareness Week! This national celebration was initiated in 2009 by the American Occupational Therapy Association to start a conversation around older driver safety. According to the CDC, there are currently 45 million motorists over the age of 65. In one year alone, approximately 250,000 of those older drivers were involved in vehicular accidents that resulted in severe injuries, and another 7,700 tragically died in traffic accidents. 

This week of awareness sheds light on those driving for personal reasons as well as our nation’s truck drivers. When long hours on the road are combined with harsh winter weather or age-related medical conditions, heavy-duty hauling can be dangerous to you and those around you. For these reasons, it is vital to recognize when the risks of driving outweigh the benefits and to learn different ways to stay safe in the meantime.

6 Safety Tips for Older Drivers

Older drivers are not only twice as likely to suffer from medical conditions that impair their driving skills, but they are also at a higher risk of getting injured or even dying in a car accident. However, these numbers don’t mean that those 65 and older have to fear getting behind the wheel; they just need to drive more cautiously, practice good judgment, and follow the CDC’s tips for older driver safety.

These CDC safety tips include: 

1. Obey all traffic laws. 

Follow speed limits and traffic signs, wear your seatbelt, and never drive under the influence. This is important for drivers of ALL ages.

2. Only drive under favorable conditions. 

If feasible, only operate your vehicle during the daytime and when the weather is decent. 

3. Keep an open line of communication with your doctor. 

Discuss any medical concerns or issues with your healthcare provider and determine if they could have an adverse effect on your driving. In terms of medication, determine if any potential side effects, such as dizziness or drowsiness, could interfere with your driving.

4. Have your vision and hearing checked at least once a year.

If either is impaired, be sure to obtain the proper prescription for your eyewear or hearing aids. It is imperative that you wear your glasses at all times when operating your semi truck.

5. Plan your route in detail. 

Before hitting the road, make sure you know exactly where you are going, what alternative routes there are, and where rest stops are along the way. It is always a good idea to have an up-to-date map with you as well. 

6. Adapt your truck to fit your needs. 

If allowed and/or feasible, add installable features or adaptive devices to your vehicle to help with proper vehicle maintenance.

By following these tips and regularly assessing your driving habits for any concerning shifts, you can continue driving safely and avoid at-fault accidents. However, if you notice any changes in your reflexes, vision, hearing, or physical or mental well-being, it’s essential that you stop driving and talk with your doctor. 

Click here to learn more about medical conditions that may affect your driving.

Observe Older Driver Safety Awareness Week

This week celebrates the role that transportation plays for older drivers and their communities. To celebrate Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, reach out to your favorite, experienced driver and start a dialogue about their safety and others. Drivers can observe this week by following the top six safety tips as recommended by the CDC.

Pro tip: Use the hashtag #OlderDriverSafetyAwarenessWeek when posting on social media this week!


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