Truckers often face inclement weather as a part of their driving duties. But for truck drivers, heading into a snowstorm at the helm of their semi-truck for the first time can be an unnerving experience. Even veteran drivers may have second thoughts about driving when severe winter weather strikes.
No matter where you are in your driving experience, having winter weather driving skills is an absolute must. Here are a few tips that can help keep you rolling this winter.
1. Be Prepared
Anything can happen when you’re out on the open road — more so when you face near-whiteout blizzard conditions. In addition to having your first-aid kit on hand, you’ll also want the following tools and supplies in your truck just in case:
- A good-quality windshield scraper for removing slush and ice buildup
- Jumper cables or a reliable battery charger for reviving weak or dead batteries
- Traction mats, tire chains, and sand for added traction on icy or slippery roads
- Extra blankets in case you need to spend the night hunkered down in the berth
- Extra food and water for extended layovers
- Extra gloves, extra hats, and a warm coat
Also, make sure you depart for your destination with your fuel tanks filled up. If a severe snowstorm stops your progress, you’ll at least have enough fuel to keep your cab warm and your truck at operating temperature.
2. Drive Slow and Steady
Excessive speed is an all-too-common cause of serious vehicle accidents, including those involving semi-trucks. Traveling at high speeds on snow- and ice-covered roads increases the probability of hydroplaning on slush and ice, robbing your truck’s tires of the traction they provide. Speeding can make your vehicle more prone to losing control and jackknifing in snowy weather. Instead, keep your speed at a safe yet reasonable rate.
In addition to slowing down when confronted with severe winter weather conditions, you should avoid making sharp, sudden movements when turning the steering wheel or while you accelerate or brake. These sharp movements can cause you to lose control of your truck on snow and ice. Always practice firm yet fluid movements whenever you steer, accelerate, or brake.
3. Look Out for Black Ice
The most dangerous hazards are often the ones you don’t see. What at first glance seems like a wet road may actually be a thin, transparent layer of ice known as black ice. Black ice is a dangerous hazard that often forms at near-freezing temperatures, adding an extra element of danger to an already dangerous journey for many truckers.
Spotting black ice can be exceptionally difficult, but you can do a couple of things to protect yourself and others on the open road:
- Exercise caution when approaching bridges and highway overpasses. Black ice often forms on elevated structures long before forming elsewhere. Bridges and overpasses that haven’t been treated with road salt or sand are especially vulnerable.
- Check for ice buildup on your truck’s antennae or mirror arms. Ice formation at these extremities can be a sign of black ice buildup elsewhere.
- Check the water spray from tires on other vehicles in front of you. This spray will quickly stop when another vehicle rolls over a patch of black ice.
- Know when black ice is likely to form. Sunrise and sunset are prime times for black ice formation.
4. Avoid the Convoy
Wanting a little company when you’re out on the open road is natural, even if it’s in the form of a group of trucks running in a tight pack. But running in a pack during severe winter weather conditions can be less safe than traveling alone. Your stopping distances are only as good as the truck in front of you, and being boxed in by other trucks can limit your visibility as well as your evasive options. Instead, break away from the pack and maintain a safe distance between your truck and other vehicles on the road.
5. Avoid Using Your Jake Brake
Many truck drivers prefer leaving their exhaust or “jake” brake on to minimize brake usage, usually on steep slopes. Unfortunately, using your jake brake on an icy or slippery road could cause your semi-truck to lose control. Instead of relying on jake braking, simply downshift and slow down to maintain safe speeds.
6. Don’t Take Unnecessary Risks
Even when you’re running on a tight schedule, some risks simply aren’t worth taking. If weather conditions take a turn for the worse and you no longer feel safe enough to keep driving, pull over at the next safe stop and wait the snowstorm out. Don’t pull over on the shoulder unless doing so is absolutely necessary. Instead, slowly make your way to the nearest truck stop, restaurant, or designated rest area for truck drivers.
Safety must always come first when you’re at the wheel of your semi-truck. The experts at Arrow Truck Sales can help you find the right pre-owned semi-truck that can haul any load in any weather, rain or shine. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to begin your search.