Even if you are an extremely experienced and highly skilled truck driver, winter driving conditions can present a challenge and a danger. This is a documented fact backed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety as some 42% of all auto accidents that occur in the winter months were considered weather-related. This is understandable when you consider winter weather causes a reduction in traction and poor visibility. Therefore, it stands to reason, when the roads get icy, things can get dicey on the roadways. Thankfully, there are ways you can reduce your risk of crashing and damaging your truck, someone else’s vehicle or both. Following the helpful winter driving tips listed below courtesy of Knight Transportation:
What Causes Winter Weather Truck Crashes?
Before delving into safety tips on staying safe on winter roadways, it’s important to realize what causes winter weather truck crashes. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, winter weather can cause:
- Disruption in normal traffic flow.
- Difficulty maneuvering as well as difficulty stopping.
- Lack of traction, stability, and vehicle performance.
- Unexpected lane obstructions.
- A great reduction in visibility as mentioned above.
Above and beyond what is experienced by regular-sized vehicles, commercial trucks are extremely susceptible to dangerous winter conditions. Wet or icy roads make it difficult for trucks to handle a load, as well as making it difficult for you as a driver of a big rig to slow your rig down enough to stop at red lights. Read on to learn how to overcome these hazardous road conditions by adhering to the following driving tips:
Safe Driving Tips For Driving In Winter Weather
- Slow Down: This tip is the most important of all as speed simply causes accidents in so many cases. Having to meet a tight deadline is an understandable challenge. However, it’s especially important to remember when the roadways are wet, icy or snow-covered, you must slow down. Even in the best of conditions, speed is a big factor in most eighteen-wheeler accidents. Therefore, it’s even that much more important when roadways are less than ideal to keep your speed low. In fact, even the posted speed limit is too fast when the roads are covered in snow or ice.
- Maintain a Good Distance From Other Vehicles: Slick, wet, icy roads present the perfect conditions for a rear-end collision. Therefore, as a big rig driver, make sure you maintain a safe distance between your truck and other vehicles to ensure you have enough room to stop if the vehicle in front of you stops or slows down suddenly.
- Try to Leave The Pack: You know the tendency for groups of traffic to travel together in a pack? Although this is fine in regular driving conditions, during inclement weather, it’s a good idea to leave the pack and travel alone, thus ensuring enough space between your rig and any other vehicle, as just mentioned in the previous point. Also, staying out of “pack style” traveling can reduce your risk of becoming part of a multi-vehicle accident or pile up on the interstate.
- Avoid Stopping on the Side of The Roadway: It can be tempting, especially when visibility is greatly reduced and conditions are getting worse by the minute, to pull your rig over to the shoulder. Unfortunately, this isn’t the safest or best idea. In fact, having your rig sitting precariously beside the interstate almost makes it a target for other out of control vehicles. Therefore, try to get to a rest stop, or pull off an exit to give the storm a chance to pass, but don’t just pull over on the shoulder, unless this is your only option.
- Avoid Using The Jake Brake: Many big rig drivers like to implement their jake brakes when weather conditions decline. Others avoid using them. Ideally, you do not want to engage your jake brake when driving on icy roadways. This can result in your trailer sliding and spinning out of control. This is especially true when you are transporting an empty trailer.
- Check All Systems Well Before Leaving: You should always take great care in completing your circle check. However, when conditions are predicted to be dicey, it’s especially important you pay special attention to your circle check. Make sure your mirrors and windows are clean and clear, brakes are set properly, moisture drained from air tanks and washer fluid is topped off before you depart on your trip.
- Top Off Fuel Tanks: You want your rig to be as heavy as possible to give you better traction on icy roadways. Therefore, make sure your fuel tank is full, the tire pressure is correct and take along some good lug tires to make your rig as steady as possible.
- Clean Lights on Both Tractor and Trailer: Be sure to regularly clear the snow and ice from both your tractor and trailer lights. All lights, but especially the LED variety, accumulate crud and snow quickly. Therefore, to ensure drivers around you see you clearly, even in low visibility, make sure your lights are cleared of all ice and snow.
- Avoid Sudden Actions: One of the worst things you can do when driving on snow and ice is to break, or do anything at all, suddenly. Winter weather conditions demand you slow down and maintain a consistent speed, without any sudden acceleration, cornering or braking. If you need to stop because of someone else’s actions, it’s actually better to maneuver around them rather than trying to stop.
- Pay Attention to Other Vehicles’ Tire Spray: A good tip on how to gauge the ice on the roadway is paying attention to other vehicle’s tire spray. If there is a lot of sprays, you can assume the roadways are wet but not too icy. When you note significantly less spray, you can be sure there is more ice on the roadway, so be extra cautious.
In general, when traveling in the winter, it’s good to have basic supplies, like extra food, water, clothing and heat source (if possible) in case you get stranded. In addition, keep the above driving tips in mind to stay safe even in the worst of driving conditions.