While experienced professional truck drivers are aware of the hazardous road conditions that often occur at this time of the year due to snow, ice, freezing rain and heavy winds, they cannot always avoid driving in poor conditions.
When driving in winter-weather conditions, drivers should take extra precautions and may benefit from the following safety tips:
- Start gently and slowly. When first starting, get the feel of the road. Drive slowly and smoothly on slippery roads and do not hurry. If roads are too slippery, you should not drive at all.
- Check for ice. Check for ice on the roadway and especially on bridges, overpasses and intersections. A lack of spray from other vehicles may indicate that ice has formed on the road. Be sure to check your mirrors and wiper blades for ice. If they do have ice, the road may be icy as well.
- Adjust turning and braking to conditions. Make turns as gently as possible. Be especially cautious on entrance and exit ramps. Do not brake any harder than necessary, and do not use the engine brake or speed retarder, as they can cause the driving wheels to skid on slippery surfaces.
- Reduce your speed. Do not pass slower vehicles unless necessary. Go slowly and watch far enough ahead to keep a steady speed. Avoid having to slow down and speed up. Be aware that as the temperature rises to the point where ice begins to melt, the road becomes even more slippery.
- Increase your distance. Do not drive alongside other vehicles. Vehicles tend to move in packs or groups, so, when possible, avoid driving in packs by adjusting your speed and creating a longer following distance. If you see a traffic jam ahead, slow down or stop to wait for it to clear. Try to anticipate stops early and slow down gradually.
- Don’t follow tail lights ahead of your vehicle. When visibility is low, some drivers try to continue driving by following the tail lights of the vehicle ahead of them. This may require the driver to follow too closely and not allow enough stopping distance. If visibility is so low that other drivers need to follow tail lights, then you should probably not be driving until visibility improves.
- Avoid stopping on the shoulder of the road. If visibility is low and other drivers are following tail lights they may believe your vehicle is traveling on the roadway and as a result may drive into the back of your trailer. This hazard increases when other drivers are fatigued. Avoid stopping on road shoulders whenever possible.
- Be prepared. If you must stop driving due to hazardous conditions or a traffic accident, then you should make sure you are prepared to sit for an extended period of time until the weather improves or traffic begins to move again. Vehicle essentials should include proper fuel level, winter clothing, food, water, a charged cell phone, flashlight, ice scraper, shovel, tire chains, windshield washer fluid, and sand or rock salt.
Truck drivers are truly “captains of the ship,” so it is imperative that they make safe decisions on when and where to shut down if they believe weather conditions have become too hazardous for safe driving.
Always remember… safety first!