It’s easy to forget how dangerous it can be to drive in winter. Here are some tips to ensure you or your drivers always arrive safely.
To help you stay safe on the roads this winter, we’ve created an infographic listing 10 winter truck driving tips.
1. Be prepared for any eventuality
It is important to make sure you have the necessary equipment before you start your day, especially during the harshest winter months. Make sure you are prepared for all possible situations and that the following equipment is present in your vehicle:
❄ De-icer and/or a scraper – windows and windshieldswindshields need to be cleared of snow and ice before you leave
❄ A shovel and a bag of salt or sand – small roads tend not to be cleared and it’s pretty easy to get stuck
❄ Jump leads – in case your vehicle (or someone else’s) doesn’t want to start
❄ A flashlight
❄ A yellow vest
❄ A warm blanket and extra warm clothes – in case you get stuck
❄ Water and food
❄ And finally, make sure you always have half a tank of gas in your tank – the days may be longer than expected and you may need to take an alternate route.
2. Inspect your truck
When it comes to vehicle inspections, you may need to modify your regular checks slightly during the winter months. You should check:
❄ Tires – wear, pressure and balancing❄ Battery – charging and power system
❄ Windshield wipers – operation, de-icing and snow removal❄ Fluid levels – optimal❄ Lights – optimal operation
❄ Muffler – ensure no snow is present❄ De-icing system – ensure it is working
If you are using a paper-based verification system, you should consider using an electronic form available from an application. This can help you ensure that your drivers check their trucks before departure and avoid the difficulties of proofreading on sometimes wet or damaged paper and entering the verification information by another person.
3. Keep an eye on the weather
Before you hit the road, check the weather forecast and stay alert to changing conditions and road closures via GPS, radio or regular calls to your company. This is where telematics can help, letting you know where your drivers are, the route they plan to take and opportunities for safer routes.
4. Drive safely
Maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you when braking. Knowing that there are on average 30% more accidents recorded in winter, drivers should :
❄ Slow down – Most accidents happen because of speeding that is not appropriate for the weather conditions. Carriers need to be really careful about this because it takes them a lot longer to stop their vehicle if there is an obstacle or incident on the road. When driving an unfamiliar vehicle, take the time to familiarize yourself with the vehicle’s behavior and be aware that it is much more difficult to control your vehicle or stop on a snowy road! Remember, speed limit signs are for dry roads and good weather conditions!”❄ Increase Distances – Increase the distances between your vehicle and the one in front of you, this will ensure your safety in case of emergency braking on wet, snowy or icy roads. Keep in mind that your stopping distance can be ten times greater when you encounter these conditions! And remember, under normal circumstances, a truck’s stopping distance is much greater than a car’s.
Poor weather conditions tend to be associated primarily with snow, ice and fog, but rain and glare can also play a role in driver safety.
5. Drive smoothly
Certain behaviors such as heavy acceleration, hard braking, or abrupt movements can cause you to lose control. Keep your speed constant and use the brakes gradually, but use engine braking instead. Also, make sure you have enough distance between you and other road users.
6. Use your lights
Truck drivers have a basic rule of thumb when changing lanes, they should look in their mirrors 4-5 times before making their turn. Don’t feel you have to keep up with the speed of the traffic around you. If you know your vehicle’s capabilities and see that you are traveling at a slow speed compared to other motorists, maintain your speed but use your hazard lights to allow other motorists to safely slow down or pass.
7. Be aware of the danger
Driving a heavy truck can be a real challenge, so you need to pay attention to a few things:
❄ Black iceAs associated with sub-zero temperatures, looking for clues to its presence can be wise. It is easily identified when the road appears wet in subzero temperatures. Other signs that may indicate the presence of black ice include:
- Ice build-up on the mirror arms, antennas or upper corners of your truck’s windshield
- Spray from the tires of the vehicle in front of you; if it disappears, ice may be present on that portion of the road.
If you feel your vehicle skidding on ice, first take your foot off the gas pedal and do not use the brakes. Then keep your steering wheel straight. If the rear of your vehicle skids to the right or left, disengage the clutch (if you can) but do not brake and counter-steer. The method is presented to you in this video :
❄ FogFog reduces your visibility, use your lights and slow down. Even if vehicles behind you are tailgating, never feel pressured to match your speed to theirs. Use your windshield wipers and run your defogger system to keep your visibility on the road.
❄ Heavy rainIf you have trouble seeing the road ahead due to heavy rain it is advisable to slow down. Keep a good distance between you and the vehicles in front of you and beware of aquaplaning when the tires lose traction due to water on the road. If your vehicle hydroplanes, keep your steering wheel straight, ease off the gas pedal and avoid heavy braking until you regain control.
❄ BridgesElevated structures, such as bridges, are subject to freezing and may not be salted or plowed. During the winter months engage on these with caution to avoid loss of control.
8. Be careful when getting in and out of your truck
It seems like a no-brainer, but it’s common for drivers to fall out of their vehicles and get hurt because they underestimate how slippery their step is. Make sure you always have 3 points of contact when entering or leaving the cab to avoid falling. You can also wear winter boots or shoes with a good sole to reduce the risk of slipping. When visibility is low, also keep in mind that you should wear a high-visibility vest to ensure your safety.
9. Know when to stop
There are good and bad times to stop!
When winter conditions become too difficult to drive in, find a safe place to stop. If possible, do not stop on the hard shoulder, as this will greatly increase your risk of a collision. Instead, drive carefully to the next gas station and wait until conditions are suitable for driving again.
10. Implement a winter policy
If you are a fleet manager or human resources manager, instituting a winter driving policy and procedures would be wise. Preventive measures such as regular driver training and additional winter vehicle checks should be included. It is important to remember, however, that the implementation of such controls is only useful if you have the means to ensure that they are respected and carried out in a timely manner.
Such a policy needs to be read, understood and accepted through staff training. It is useful to remind staff of these rules through various means (written and oral) before the winter season begins.
Tools such as fleet management software can be used to set up your procedures, create reports and alerts on the performance of your fleet such as driver behavior ratings, vehicle inspection frequencies and driving policy enforcement rates.The software can be configured to automatically send reminders and alerts when drivers fail to comply with the imposed policy.Even if you can’t control the weather, it is possible to organize to reduce the risk of accidents during winter.