It goes without saying that Professional Truck Drivers have one of the most dangerous professions in the world. Each day they must face a whole host of challenges, ranging from (and certainly not limited to) aggressive drivers (both civilian and other irresponsible Non-Professional Truck Drivers), twisty shifting roads and mountain regions, congested traffic, construction, poorly lit roadways, road rage, pushy dispatchers, shippers, and brokers, DOT harassment, and bad weather conditions, etc. All of these factors contribute to high-stress levels making their occupation dangerous, and that is why it is critical Professional Truck Drivers receive proper certified training for safe, knowledgeable, competent operation of their equipment etc. However, when a skilled Professional Truck Driver is confronted with rough winter conditions, the task becomes almost unbearable. Nevertheless, with a few safety precautions and sound decision-making, Professional Truck Drivers will be equipped for dealing with such a challenge.
How to Avoid Dangerous Roads and Weather Conditions
1. Examine the Conditions
Know up-to-date weather information before you begin your trip, and be informed of closed routes and changing conditions via GPS systems, radio, or by calling your dispatcher, fellow drivers, and the local D.O.T. for the areas you’ll travel. This is where telematics may be of enormous assistance in determining where drivers are, the routes they are traveling, and the chances to identify alternate, safer routes. Remain in constant contact.
2. Be Aware of Black Ice
Winter driving can be dangerous in and of itself and there are two specific dangers to be aware of:
In near-freezing weather, keep an eye out for signs of black ice on the roadways. Black ice is a dangerous road condition that appears as a thin layer of clear ice that frequently makes the surface appear slightly damp. The following are warning signs indicating you are driving on black ice:
- Ice accumulation on your truck’s mirror arms, antennae, or top corners of the windshield.
- Tire spray on vehicles ahead of you – if this spray ceases, be cautious of the danger of black ice.
3. Be Prepared to Take Action
It is critical to ensure that you have the proper equipment before embarking on your adventure, especially during the winter season. Make sure you are ready to deal with any emergencies that may arise and that you have the following items on hand:
- Jumper cables, in case your truck (or someone else’s) fails to start.
- A flashlight
- A high-visibility vest
- De-icer and ice scraper to make sure your windows and mirrors are free of snow and ice.
- A shovel.
- A blanket and additional clothing as it’s always a good idea to have spare clothes on hand in case you get stranded etc.
- Food and drinks in case you get stuck in severe weather for a long period of time.
- Safety flares are necessary when it’s dark to give other motorists notice of their approaching situation.
- Keep ample fuel in your tanks and spare fuel bottles.
- Have a first aid kit for any minor injuries you or someone else might sustain.
4. Proper Pre-Trip Inspection
When it comes to pre-trip inspections during the winter months you’ll need to modify your inspections significantly.
You should also double-check your:
- Tires condition/pressures etc.
- Batteries (a source of electricity and a charging system)
- Good winter wiper blades.
- Topped-off fluid levels.
- Properly functioning lights.
- Properly functioning defrost system.
5. Drive With Caution
The majority of accidents occur as a result of drivers traveling too fast, distracted driving, etc. When stepping behind the wheel of an unknown truck, take your time to get familiar with the vehicle and its functions, and remember that it is much more difficult to control or stop on a snow-covered road! Increase your stopping and following distance in severe weather or poor road conditions to give yourself more time to respond to the vehicle(s) in front of you.
Sharp movements can cause you to lose control, and forceful acceleration and braking can also reduce traction. Maintain a continuous, steady speed and use caution when stopping – by maintaining a good following distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, you will always have a comfortable braking distance in icy conditions. Snow chains can prove to be effective as they provide maximum traction in icy weather.
6. Exercise Caution When Entering and Exiting Your Truck
This may sound apparent, yet Professional Truck Drivers frequently fall and harm themselves by underestimating how slick their vehicle’s steps are. To limit the possibility of slips, falls, and injury, take your time and wear proper footwear for winter conditions. Also, remember to wear your high-visibility vest when visibility is low!
7. Recognize When to Call It Quits
There is a good time and bad time to pull over. When circumstances get so hazardous that driving becomes impossible, find a safe location to rest. If at all possible, avoid stopping/parking on the shoulder, as this greatly increases your chances of being hit. Instead, try to find a safer location to shutdown.
All in All
The most critical step to safe winter driving is preparation and strategy. Understanding the severe threats on the road when winter weather is in full swing and learning how to stay safe in the face of those hazards can mean the difference between life and death.