Last week, we posted about shifting into winter and making sure you have your chains ready. Chain requirements go into effect tomorrow! If you are new to trucking, this might be your first winter on the road. There are many resources available with great tips to ensure that you and your truck stay safe for winter driving. Check out our top 10 below.

1. Prepare for the Worst with Your Winter Kit

The winter weather is quite unpredictable, what may seem like a straightforward route can become a danger if the weather quickly changes. Therefore, we suggest being prepared for the worst-case scenario by having an emergency winter kit with the following essentials:

  • Windshield scraper
  • Extra wiper blades
  • Washer fluid
  • Jumper cables
  • Sand/Salt
  • Cell phone charge bank
  • Radio (you may not have a signal)
  • Batteries
  • Gloves and an extra jacket
  • First aid kit
  • Plenty of food and fluids

2. Stay Calm and in Control

When out on the road, remember to relax. Panicking may make you overreact and lose your focus. Avoid distractions that will make you lose your focus on concentrate on navigating you and your truck through the conditions.

3. Drive at a Comfortable Pace

Maintain a driving speed that you feel comfortable with. If you feel a bit shaky driving on snow and ice, remember to take it slow. Keeping a consistent pace will also help enter curves appropriately. Additionally, if you trailer is loaded, it has a higher center of gravity and a sudden speed adjustment can cause the load to shift, leads to skidding or a rollover.

4. Slow Down

Many accidents and fatalities caused in the winter months involving trucks and other motorists are due to excessive speeds. Legal speed limits may not always be safe during icy or snowy road conditions. Speed is a known killer even in safe driving conditions, so plan your route by giving yourself extra time to drive safely.

5. Give Yourself Extra Braking Distance

During the harsher conditions increase the distance between your truck and other vehicles. The average stopping distance should increase by 8-10 seconds on icy, snowy and slippery road surfaces. Be aware of the road, to avoid breaking and skidding off the road. The extra distance will give you more time to react safely.

6. Use Your lights & signals

In treacherous weather conditions, using your headlights can make all the difference. This way, other drivers will be able to see you better, and your taillights will also become brighter as a result.

7. Keep the Fuel Tank Full 

During winter months, keeping your gas tank full will help prevent water condensation from building up in the fuel line. Aim for a full tank of gas to start, no don’t begin your journey with less than half a tank.

8. Stay Aware of Your Surroundings

Even on your regular routes, you need to remember the common winter trouble spots along your journey. Your regular safe route can quickly change due to snow, rain and freezing temperatures. During the winter weather, be aware of:

  • Windy areas; you will need to control your steering when you encounter strong winds.
  • Bridges; typically bridges freeze before roads do, it is crucial to always proceed with extra caution when crossing.
  • Black Ice; sometimes tricky to spot as they look like a wet road, remain extra alert and drive cautiously when temperatures are below or near freezing
  • Intersections: brake earlier than usual at red lights or stop signs to avoid the truck slipping off the road.

9. Ensure your Truck is Well Maintained

Are you aware that cold temperatures can cause diesel to thicken, become waterlogged which can potentially damage your truck’s engine and fuel system? Before heading out, we recommend that you check the following are in good or excellent working order:

  • Brakes
  • Tail Lights
  • Wipers
  • Tires
  • Mirrors
  • Fuel lines – make sure to treat your fuel
  • Engine

10. Stay Informed

There are some sites that you should become very familiar with in order to stay informed and be able to plan your winter driving route:

  • DOT Mountain Passes – probably the most important resource to check. Each state’s DOT site will give you information on any restrictions, conditions and weather.
  • National Weather Service – has a great forecast maps, winter weather safety info, and lots more.
  • Google maps – while they don’t offer truck specific routes, if you do know your route already, google maps has some handy overlays that can help, specifically live traffic.
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