Winter driving is treacherous at its best and can be deadly at its worst. Snowstorms can reduce the driver’s visibility, black ice can cause a truck to lose control and mechanical issues can strand a trucker on the side of the road. Truckers spend a lot of time on the road, increasing their chances of being involved in an accident. In order to keep yourself and your cargo safe, it’s important to drive cautiously on winter roads and to be prepared for an emergency.
Before you hit the road, ensure your truck is in working condition. Especially with sub-freezing temperatures, the last thing you want to be is stranded on the side of the road. Check tires, mechanical functions and oil so you know your truck is ready. You should also prepare a winter emergency survival kit so that if your truck is stranded on the side of the road, you have what you need to stay safe. The survival kit should include items to keep you warm and you should always carry food and water with a longer shelf life.
The roads can be very hazardous during the winter months. Even if you are not in the middle of a snowstorm, the roads can contain hidden patches of black ice. Since you cannot always see the condition of the road, drive cautiously so you can avoid getting into an accident. Drive slower than usual and increase your following distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. Any time you have to slow down or speed up, avoid sudden maneuvers such as slamming on your brakes. This allows for you to have more reaction time in case you see any cars hit a patch of unexpected black ice.
Check for Ice
Always keep an eye out for ice. Although you might not be able to spot black ice every time, you can look for different signs of icy roads. Black ice oftentimes looks like a wet road, making it difficult to spot. One indicator to help you differentiate between black ice and a wet road is to look for the spray coming off the tires of other vehicles. The spray indicates it is a wet road, although there might still be ice underneath the slush. Observe vehicles around you. If you see a car suddenly lose control ahead of you, ease up on your throttle without making any sudden maneuvers.
Map Your Route
The severity of a winter storm can surprise many drivers, but usually there is some type of warning before the storm arrives. Many local news channels keep drivers up-to-date on weather conditions and any winter advisories. If you are driving through an area is likely to have winter weather, check local weather stations or the Federal Highway Administration for road conditions. Map out your route to avoid these areas if possible. If you still need to drive through an area that is getting winter weather, try to avoid the worst areas.
Get Off the Road
Although driving safely can help reduce your risk of getting in an accident, sometimes the safest thing to do is get off the road. If the weather conditions are especially dangerous or if there is a severe advisory for the area, it’s important for you to pull over at a rest stop or the nearest safe location. If you do need to get off the road, be sure to call the trucking driving company you work for and advise them of the change in schedule. If necessary, the trucking company can contact any clients about the delayed delivery.
Written by Paul Welch, Safety/HR manager at Shark Trucking.