Posted January 7, 2021

Trucking Prep and Safety for Winter Hauls

By Grace Tino

Driving a truck requires a special set of skills, knowledge, and experience. Truckers are no strangers to the hard work required for a CDL license and the daily challenges of being on the road. However, when winter rolls around, drivers are challenged even further amidst much more difficult conditions. In 2015, the Federal Highway Administration found that around 23% of all vehicle accidents each year are caused by weather such as rain, snow, and ice. Between black ice, flurries, and fog, a trucker's job gets much more challenging with the onset of a brutal winter. Remaining safe on a haul should always be the primary concern for a trucker and his/her team, and a few simple strategies can make all the difference in reaching a destination. Whether a trucker's route is regionally based in a cold area or takes him or her cross country through snowy pockets, being prepared for harsh winter weather is crucial for a safe trip.

If your route is in winter weather areas, pack properly to be ready for any surprises. The basic winter necessities are staples for a trucker as well! Pack warm clothes such as sweaters, gloves, winter coats, and thick socks. Packing spare pairs of socks and other clothing is important; if you get wet in snow or cold rain, you'll want a dry set of clothes to change into and keep warm. Bring some extra food and water to stock up your cab since stores tend to sell out of these essentials quickly during winter storms. Truckers must also pack more technical supplies to be prepared for any challenges. Some supplies to keep your truck running through the weather include windshield wiper fluid (and a spare pair of blades), diesel additives and any other fuels and fluids needed for your vehicle, and snow scrapers and shovels. Make sure your truck is prepared for the season with proper winter tires; other pre-trip areas to inspect include fluid levels, headlights, and brakes. Additionally, pack some tire chains and consider bringing clay cat litter as well, as these tools can help you get your truck unstuck in tough situations.

One of the best safety practices as a trucker in the winter is to always listen to weather reports and warnings. Before hitting the road, always check weather forecasts along your route in case a storm or other hazardous conditions are ahead. Consider a route check part of your pre-trip inspection, on top of assessing your vehicle. Staying updated on conditions in your area is also simple; tune into weather stations on the radio, or even check in with dispatch. Some great free apps to add to your phone to keep on top of the weather include The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, and Storm Shield.

While driving during winter conditions, exercise as much caution as possible. Remembering a few simple winter driving tips can make all the difference in the safety of your trip. Keep your speed slow and steady since traction is greatly reduced both by snow/ice and increased speed. Focus on the lights of the cars ahead and around you in case they suddenly brake. To have plenty of time to brake safely, or maneuver in time to avoid an accident, keep a good distance away from the cars in front of you. A quick way to check for ice is by observing the water kicked up by the vehicles around you; if there is a lot of water being sprayed, the road is wet, and if there is minimal water, it usually means the roads have started to freeze. If you find the driving conditions to be too hazardous, even when using these safety precautions, PULL OVER! Your safety is valued by your company, and dispatchers will understand the need to take a break if you feel at risk of an accident.

Safety during winter weather includes keeping a network of fellow professionals. Keep in touch with your on-the-road support system during hazardous conditions. Chances are, you will not be the only truck driving when snowy or icy conditions arise. Check in with your CB radio on your fellow truckers in the area. Keep each other updated on different hazards in the area, such as icy spots, accidents, and pulled over vehicles. Not to mention, in case of an emergency, they may be your lifeline!

Though the winter season presents some of the greatest safety challenges to all vehicles on the road, truckers face some of the hardest treks as they navigate harsh conditions in large and complex equipment. Ensuring you have a safe and successful haul is a matter of preparation and strategic caution. By packing proper equipment, routinely inspecting your vehicle, and driving slowly and cautiously, you can help ensure you will reach your destination smoothly. Though winter weather is uncontrollable, companies will consistently be looking to hire skilled drivers to keep their shipments on schedule through the season; JobsInTrucks has thousands of opportunities for the driver not afraid of the winter challenge!