With the changing of the seasons comes changing road conditions. Winter is settling in across the country, and while many commuter drivers might find clever ways to avoid driving in bad conditions, the nation’s long-haul truck drivers are still out on the roads clocking the miles. Driving in winter in any sized vehicle is challenging, and these challenges are only elevated when you get behind the wheel of a big-rig.
As a lead freight factoring company, Financial Carrier Services has worked with truckers around the country and through all seasons. As such, we’ve gleaned our fair share of simple strategies that experienced drivers use to stay safe while driving in winter. Check it out!
Build a Winter-Ready Equipment List
As the weather cools off and the snow starts to accumulate on the ground, it’s important to start preparing more than just your truck. One of the first things you should do is to assemble a bag of equipment that can keep you warm and safe should your truck break down, or you find yourself stuck in snowy conditions.
If you’re new to truck driving, or just from an area that doesn’t often get snow, you might not be aware of what this kit needs. Here are a few things you should have in your truck to stay ready for adverse weather conditions:
- Layers – bring a sweater, jacket, and raincoat at a minimum. These three alone should get you through most inclement weather.
- Accessories – winter caps like beanies are a great choice and so are insulated gloves.
- Flashlight or headlamp – make sure that this stays close to you in the cabin and that you have a stash of fresh batteries if need be.
- Emergency supplies – You should always have something like a safety blanket nearby when driving. Additionally, you should have extra food and water in the truck with you.
- Truck essentials – Your winter weather kit should include essentials like a windshield scraper, snow brush, a bag of sand, and your tire chains.
- Keep your fluid levels up – Make sure you have a half-tank of gas available during the winter. Similarly, make sure your window wiper fluids are topped off.
Now that you’ve got your winter kit assembled, it’s time to hit the road… carefully. As a semi-truck driver, you’re already trained to drive cautiously and carefully, but you’ll want to be extra cautious during the winter. The drivers around you will be more distracted than they already are, especially if they’re driving through snow or if they haven’t scrapped the ice off their windshields.
We suggest driving slower through adverse conditions. This allows you extra time to react to the cars around you. You’ll want to keep a buffer zone of space around your truck. While it’s tempting to travel in a pack of other semis, doing so can put your rig at risk. By leaving a safe amount of distance between you and the other cars around you, it offers you more room to maneuver around road hazards. If you’re moving very slowly, make sure to use your four-way hazard lights, move to the far right lane, and let others pass.
As important as it is to drive slowly, it’s equally important to keep moving. Even in whiteout conditions, you should never stop driving on the highway. You’re putting yourself at risk of being struck by other vehicles. Move slowly and carefully until you reach an area where it is safe for you to pull off. Similarly, don’t stop on the side of the road. In snowy conditions, some drivers might assume that you’re still on the road, and line up behind you, only to hit the back of your truck.
Stay With Your Semi
Should the worst happen and you get stuck in a bad situation, it’s vital that you stay with your truck. The last thing you want to do is get separated from your vehicle and the communication devices and supplies within it. Even if it’s snowing sideways and you’ve got just inches of visibility, you’re still safer inside the cab of your truck.
In order to stay safe, comfortable, and warm, you should keep the exhaust free from snow and ice, run your engine every hour for 10-15 minutes, and keep a window slightly cracked. When a chill starts to settle in, you can do some simple exercises to stay toasty.
Think About the Weeks Weather
Many commuters simply think about the current day’s temperature, largely because they’ll only be on the road for a few hours at most. If you’re making a long-haul trip, you might be driving for most of the day. The weather conditions of the entire week are more likely to affect you and your driving than those around you.
For instance, while it might be dry and cold today, it could have rained yesterday, meaning that there’s a potential for iced-over bridges and roadways today. Take a look at the next day’s weather and build your travel plans around the weather conditions currently and as they’re forecasted. It’s an easy way to stay safe and can help you build buffer time into your driving schedules.
With this in mind, it’s also important to remember that just colder temperatures don’t always make driving worse. For instance, roads are generally very slippery between 22 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit. In this range of temperatures, your tires might have less traction than they do at temperatures below this. It’s also important to remember that the temperature of the road is likely very different from the temperature of the air.
It’s natural for truck drivers to turn on all of their running lights at night, but it’s equally important to do so as the days become shorter and grayer. Headlights will alert oncoming drivers to your presence when it’s snowing or sleeting outside. Keeping your trailer lights on helps others determine where you are and helps them give you plenty of space.
Along the same lines, think about your turn signals as well. It’s common knowledge to let your blinkers flash three times before you change lanes in good weather, but it’s a great idea to let them flash six times in bad weather. It gives drivers near you more time to react.
Warm Up Your Engines and Work With Us
Looking to get paid more for the work you’re already doing? Then it’s time to find out more about the freight factoring offered by Financial Carrier Services! Rather than waiting 30, 60, or even 90 days for payment, we can help you get paid right away.
Connect with us today to get started!