Winter Truck Driving

We all knew it was coming. It makes an appearance every year. Sometimes it shows up early, sometimes late, but it always shows up. Extreme cold, blowing snow and icy roads can make for treacherous driving conditions. As professional truck drivers, we sometimes need to make the decision to shut it down and sit it out for safety reasons. Sometimes that decision is made for us. A shut down because of road conditions is bad enough if you are stuck at a truck stop, but what if you are stuck at a rest area or actually on the highway? Are you prepared?

There are a few things you can keep on your truck that can not only make these shutdowns more tolerable, they could save your life. There are also some things we should carry to help us deal with winter conditions.

Tools to Help Truck Drivers with Conditions

There are some things I carry on my truck every winter to help deal with winter conditions. From helping to deal with visibility to getting unstuck, these items, in my opinion, are essential.

  • A shovel. Accumulating and blowing snow can snow you in. Being able to shovel this snow away will get you rolling faster. Helping out the truck driver next to you isn’t a bad idea either. 
  • Ice Melt. There are several brands that do an excellent job. Kitty litter also does a good job of melting ice. Warm tires can melt into ice, which can then refreeze. Rolling forward or backward a few minutes after parking can help prevent this. If that doesn’t do it, Ice melt can help get you unstuck 
  • 3 lb. sledgehammer. This comes in handy if your brakes freeze. A couple of firm taps will usually break things free. 
  • Ice Scraper. For obvious reasons 
  • Chains/Tire Socks. Even if you don’t plan on “Chaining Up” these can also be used to get you unstuck. 
  • Washer Fluid. Just in case you run out with no truck stops nearby. 
  • Wiper Blades. A broken blade can easily be replaced if you have one on hand.

Tools for Survival

  • Winter Weather Clothing. A heavy, water-resistant coat, gloves, boots, a winter hat and coveralls help keep body heat trapped. If you have to spend any time outside, staying warm is essential. Don’t forget loose layers work best. 
  • Extra Blankets. In the event of a breakdown where you have no heat, having extra blankets will help keep you warm. Even in a day cab, a blanket can help. 
  • Coffee Can. A coffee can can hold snacks like peanuts or protein bars. It can also be used to shovel snow in a pinch. A metal coffee can can also be used to produce heat. Place a wide base candle inside the can and light it. Make sure to crack a window to prevent carbon monoxide build-up. The flame from the candle will heat the can and the can will radiate heat. It won’t turn your cab or bunk tropical, but it may take the bite out of the cold. 
  • Food. Peanut butter, bread, soups, baked beans, nuts, protein or granola bars...anything that is easily prepared and has a decent shelf life. 
  • Water. The most important item of all.

I am sure there are items I have not included that many of you may carry. Feel free to share them in the comments section below. If you drive south of I-10 all winter, well, I’m a little jealous and while most of this is unnecessary, some of these items might come in handy. I hope you got something out of this.

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Clark W Reed

Clark Reed of Roscoe, Illinois is an OTR company driver and trainer for Nussbaum Transportation based out of Hudson, Illinois. He has been driving since 2005 and has driven van, reefer, and tanker. He currently hauls dry van to all lower 48 states. Clark is passionate about MPGs and how driver habits influence them. The lifetime average of his 2018 Cascadia is 9.75 mpg, with eyes on 10. Clark, along with Henry Albert, was one of the seven drivers in 2017's "Run on Less" by NACFE, a road show, demonstrating what fuel efficiency can be obtained with existing technologies.

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