Winter is the most dangerous time of year for truck drivers. Not everyone will be tackling driving conditions like the “Ice Road Truckers”, but even in areas where snow is a rare sight, preparation against unknown weather and driving conditions is key to survival.

Experienced truck drivers always make the effort to prepare for winter weather driving by being ready to take action when the snow and ice hit hard. The following driving safety tips increase your chances of staying safe when severe weather creates bad road conditions.

Winter Truck Driving Preparation

Heading out on the road with proper equipment and supplies makes dealing with emergencies much easier. Packing these items upfront will make it easier to take action on the road if there’s a crisis.

  • Warm clothes: Keep an extra jacket, hat and gloves in your truck. Have a few extra layers of clothing on hand so easy adjustments can be made on the fly for warmth and comfort. Rain gear is also important in keeping those layers dry and warm.
  • Emergency kit check:  Emergency kit items to keep handy include: a knife, extra water, high energy bars, dried fruit, first aid kit, flash light and jumper cables. Double check windshield wiper fluid and windshield scrapers before you drive to ensure working order.
  • Traction materials: Salt or sand can work wonders to get a truck unstuck from an icy road. Traction mats are also helpful, and the extra weight of sand or salt will make the truck easier to handle.
  • Top off the tank: Keep the gas tank over half-full during the winter months. A full tank adds weight to the truck for easier driving. And if you’re stranded, there’s additional time to run heaters and lights while waiting for help.
  • Extra batteries: Many important pieces of survival tech use batteries. Having extra batteries for flashlights, radios, smartphones and other devices will keep you in touch longer with people that can help.

Winter Truck Driving Action

On the road, winter weather can quickly take a turn for the worse. Experienced drivers operate smarter during these colder months. Taking a moment to adjust driving tactics now can save you time and money in the long run.

  • Be smart: Smartphones have weather alerts available through their messaging service or apps like “WeatherBug”. The apps give audible alerts for hazardous weather warnings. Paying attention to severe weather warnings can give you time to plan for safer options such as changing routes or finding a safe place to pull over if needed.
  • Don’t get stuck in a rut: Snow on the road can quickly turn to ice under the wheels of many trucks. Avoid driving in the ruts for maximum safety.
  • Drive slowly and deliberately: Slower speed allows for better reaction to road events. Increasing the distance between vehicles allows for more room to stop or avoid accidents. Larger vehicles control the tempo of traffic. In bad weather, if trucks are going slow, most other drivers will follow suit.
  • Be aware of danger zones:  Bridges and overpasses are often the first to freeze during winter storms. Exit ramps can quickly turn to ice and slush. Black ice can form most anywhere, even when the sun comes out after the storm.
  • Control the tractor and the trailer: Slick road conditions make a jack knife more likely to happen if a driver isn’t paying attention. Avoid using the Jake brake when slowing down.

Severe weather conditions make driving a truck more challenging. Drivers who prepare in advance with warm clothes, extra supplies, plenty of fuel, and take advantage of technology are a step ahead of the game. Safety is always a top priority by driving cautiously, paying attention to conditions and planning routes with safety in mind. Preparation and safe driving combine to make winter driving problems drift away.