Thats not sand on the Muskegon, MI Beach


Winter is definitely here and we had better be paying attention. I just returned from a week long trip to Muskegon Michigan and felt the bite of winter’s cold freezing temperatures along with snow and ice. Many states have experienced the bitter cold weather this past week. Luckily, I was able to make it back home to North Carolina and brought the flu/cold back with me.

I just read about the 193 multi-vehicle pileup which took place on the snowy roads along interstate 94 near Battle Creek, Michigan. The accident on Friday killed at least one person and injured a number of others. Dozens of semi- trucks were involved with one carrying a full load of fireworks which exploded on the scene. It was definitely a chaotic situation to say the least.

I watched on TV as they interviewed a family of four whose minivan struck a semi-truck in heavy snow and the front of the van became jammed underneath the trailer. The family was then dragged for 16 miles by the vehicle on a Michigan highway. The windshield was completely shattered and the van was fully covered with snow. The family couldn’t see a thing and were helpless as they had no power or control over their vehicle. The husband was able to dial 911 and the police finally showed up to take control.

Wow! When I hear these stories, I’m sure glad that I was not involved in either of these incidents last week. When things like this happen, it’s a wakeup call for all of us and we as professional drivers need to pay attention to be extra cautious out on the road. Sure, we can’t control everything that happens but we can do our best to be proactive.

I grew up in Pennsylvania and for many years ran the northeast. I know all too well how quickly weather can change road conditions. I have experienced driving in the snow, ice and freezing rain.

One of the first tips I learned early on as a driver was to be award of ice developing on the side mirrors and brackets. This can give you an early warning of ice on the road if your mirrors are icing.

My stepfather always told me to be aware of road spray. If the road looks wet and there is an absence of spray from your vehicle as well as others, it’s most likely that there is ice on the road.

It’s important in all-weather to maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of you. In slippery and icy weather conditions, it’s especially important to leave a greater margin of space for safety. Remember… bridges and overpasses will ice over before roads.

If you notice cars and trucks which have gone off the road due to weather conditions, it’s mostly likely that you should get off the highway yourself.

Some things I’ve learned over the years due to experience are to dry your brakes before parking for the evening. The easy way to do this is to lightly apply your brakes while pulling into the area in which you will park. This should create enough heat to dry out your brake pads so they aren’t frozen when you go to leave in the morning. Another tip… when you arrive at your parking spot, pull back and forth in the parking spot in order to cool your tires off so that the heat from them won’t melt the snow underneath your tires and turn to ice. I’ll usually do this practice about 4-5 times. I’ll fill out my paper work for the day and then do this again several times.

Make sure you have the proper winter supplies in your truck. Hat, gloves, warm coat, boots, flashlight, rain wear, coveralls, shovel, salt, kitty litter and finally a sledge hammer. The sledge hammer is a very handy tool should your brakes be frozen and need to be released. Prior to starting the process of getting a stuck brake to release, you’ll want to be sure to chock the wheels and only release only the tractor or trailer brakes at one time. This will avoid the truck or trailer from rolling over you once you have released the offending stuck brake shoe. By tapping on the brake drum, it will often release a set of frozen brake shoes.

Seasoned drivers will always tell you that safety comes first. Remember…no load is worth your or anyone’s life. Be safe…


Comments (5)

Henry Albert

Henry Albert is the owner of Albert Transport, Inc., based in Statesville, NC. Before participating in the "Slice of Life" program, Albert drove a 2001 Freightliner Century Class S/Tâ„¢, and will use his Cascadia for general freight and a dry van trailer. Albert, who has been a trucker since 1983, was recognized by Overdrive as its 2007 Trucker of the Year.

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I am always surprised, in a bad way, how close people continue to drive in bad weather. Along I-68 near the WV/MD border in almost white out conditions, I decided to go into the new rest area on the west side coming into WV. FIVE cars followed me into the rest area, thinking they were still on the Interstate! They were just blindly following my truck.

January 19, 2015 16:08:18 PM

The lake effect snows are hard to predict where and when. People get fooled into thinking everything is good. I too am much more willing to shut it down or drive around then risk a accident. Especially now as a owner operator. What bothers me is the other driver who may fail to slow down or follow too close and cause the accident. I talked to a rookie once who said is trainer gave him crap about not wanting to drive in a snow storm. I told the driver its better to get there later then not at all. Don't think with your pocket book. Think with your head. You wreck and that pocket book will be a lot thinner and you may be out of a job.

January 15, 2015 13:49:29 PM

Very good advice Henry. I hope you get feeling better very soon.

January 12, 2015 8:35:20 AM

Great advice!

January 12, 2015 6:23:48 AM

That can be a bad stretch of highway east of Benton Harbor. The back of my mirrors are the first things that freeze. All the technology of in the world can't beat ice. I have become more and more willing to shut it down and wait out a storm than battle through one.

January 11, 2015 4:40:52 AM