Winter is right around the corner which means it’s time to refresh yourself on how to drive in the changing weather. There are many things you can do while driving and things you can do to your truck that will make driving in the winter as safe and stress-free as possible.
Here at Team Run Smart, the Pros have come up with a variety of things that they do on the road during the winter that they have learned throughout their many years of driving. In this article, we are going to pass these winter driving tips for truck drivers off to you!
The first thing to remember when driving in the winter is that it doesn’t matter how fast you are going but how fast you can stop. The road conditions in the winter are going to increase the amount of time and distance you will need for your brakes. This is important to think about because the chances of needing to stop or maneuver out of the way goes up when the road conditions are poor.
There are many things you can do in the winter while driving to make sure you have enough time and distance to stop and stay safe on the road. If you’re driving below the speed limit and people are passing you, don’t feel pressured to go faster just because others are. If you are getting pressure on the CB radio to go faster, turn down the CB and focus on what you are doing. If you continue to drive and still feel uncomfortable, pull off in a safe place until you feel conditions are good enough to drive. Your safety, and the safety of others around you, is the most important thing in the winter. Another thing you can do if you are uncomfortable and feel yourself sliding around is drive more and more gradually on the shoulder of the road. This tip works because there is usually more gravel on the shoulder of the road which allows your tires to grip better. You should only do this if you are having a hard time slowing down and are able to see the gravel on the shoulder.
There are also things around you that you should pay attention to that will help you understand how the conditions are on the road. If you see a car coming at you that is flashing their headlights at you, be prepared for something coming up ahead. People can be flashing their lights at you for a variety of reasons so make sure you’re ready for anything that could be coming up. You should also pay attention to the number of cars driving on the other side of the road. If the number of vehicles coming towards you becomes fewer and fewer for no expected reason, it could mean that something might be wrong up ahead. Another thing to be prepared for in the winter is traffic being stopped on the other side of a hill that you are going over. Because you can’t see the other side of the hill, don’t assume that it is going to be clear. Be ready to brake, as you know you are going to need even more time to come to a stop going down a hill if traffic is backed up. The last thing you can pay attention to is the spray from other vehicles that are passing you. If you see water spraying off the tires you know the roads likely aren’t frozen, but if you see that the spraying has stopped it may mean it’s time to be extra cautious and slow down.
Even if you are paying attention to all of these things on the road, there is still a chance that you will start sliding on the ice. If you begin sliding, you want to make sure all of your tires are rolling as freely as possible. In order to do this, hit the clutch or put your gear in neutral. As you are sliding and your tires are rolling freely, find an object straight down the road, like a road sign, and steer towards that object. That is an effective way to get out of the slide and avoid jackknifing.
There are many things you can do to your truck and things that you can notice on your truck that can help you drive in the winter weather. If you are having trouble with your windshield while driving in the cold and the snow, there are a couple of things you can do. If a thin layer of ice forms when your wipers run across the windshield, then cool things off and try freezing your windshield. Park in a safe spot and turn your defrost to the coldest temperature setting. Once the windshield is frozen, scrape off the ice and continue driving with the defrosters on. The cold glass will will keep the snow and ice from sticking to the windshield while driving down the road. Continue to keep the windshield as cold as needed to keep ice from forming. If you’re driving in a wet heavy snow and snow is building up on the edges of the windshield causing the wipers to lose contact with the glass, then try putting your defrost on as hot as possible and lower the sun visors to hold the heat in at the top of the windshield. This will melt the wet snow that sticks to the top of the windshield and will allow for better visibility. There is a fine line between when to use these two tricks but with experience you will learn when to use either one.
When it comes to your fuel, there are a few things you can do to make sure it doesn’t gel. The most common thing to do is use a diesel fuel additive. If you are going to do this, be sure to add it before you fuel up so that it doesn’t sit on top of the fuel without mixing in. Another thing to pay attention to is where you are fueling up. If you are going from a place that is south of I40 to a place that is north, fill up just enough south of I40 to get you to the place you know is going to be cold. The fuel in warmer climates is not going to be blended for cold weather like the fuel in cold climates. If you fill up just enough to get you north of I40, you won’t have to use fuel that is untreated and will be able to fill up right away with fuel that is treated. Lastly, if you have a bunk heater, make sure you run it while the truck’s warm when you first put the winterized fuel in. This is because if it’s old fuel that is not treated for the cold, it may not start. You should also turn on your bunk heater every month, even in the summer months, to make sure it’s ready for when you need it in the winter. Don’t let it sit for a long time with old fuel.
There are a few things you can do to help your tires and brakes from being affected by the weather as well. The first and most obvious thing to do is use tire chains when necessary. Learn about the chain laws in the places that you normally run in this article here. Secondly, make sure your brakes are dried out after you are done for the day so that they don’t freeze. You can do this by gently applying the brake pedal and dragging your brakes through the lot where you are going to park. This will warm the brake pads and vaporize any moisture on the brakes and drums. After you have done this and parked, don’t set the trailer brakes. You also need to be careful to avoid getting your tires stuck in snowy and icy conditions. If you are parking on ice, stop for a little while to let your tires cool, then roll forward or back a short distance. This way your tires will cool off so the snow and ice don’t melt around the tires which could get you stuck. You can also idle around the lot to let the snow cool the tires before parking.
The last little thing to pay attention to on your truck that will help you get a better understanding of the weather is your antenna. If you see ice building up on your antenna, it means the road you are on might also be frozen and icy.
Here are a few more quick tips that can help you during the winter.
- If you can’t walk on it, you probably shouldn’t drive on it. If you can, every once in a while just get out and put your foot on the ground to see if it’s slick.
- Get grippies or chains for your shoes that make it easier for you to walk outside of the truck. This is especially true at truck stops or docks that don’t clear off their pavement.
- When you are driving, keep your coat on or near by just in case there is an emergency. You never know if something is going to happen that will force you to get out of your truck quickly.
- Keep a candle in your truck with a metal coffee cup as a worst-case scenario for providing heat in your truck. This won’t keep your whole body warm but should be enough to keep your hands from getting frostbite if you have no other heat options.
What Winter Driving Tips for Truck Drivers Do You Have?
These are just a few of the things you can do as a truck driver to keep you safe on the road in the winter. There are likely a lot of tips that we missed, so feel free to pass them along to us. Our goal is to make sure that you, and all of the people around you, are as safe as possible during the cold months. So please keep these tips in mind and have a great winter out there on the road.