With the autumn well underway, truck drivers can expect to see snow and other wintry weather conditions soon. Safe winter driving can challenge new and veteran drivers alike. Fleets need to train and prepare all their drivers to ensure they reach their destinations safely. Even seasoned drivers can find themselves in trouble under adverse weather conditions. Providing refresher courses helps every driver remain alert and prepared to navigate the unique challenges winter weather can create.
Drivers should take the following precautions to stay safe this winter:
- Have a plan for every situation. It’s not enough to bring along an ice scraper and a bag of salt or sand. Trucks can break down at the worst moments and force the driver to wait for help to arrive. In severe conditions, that help may not arrive until the following morning. To maximize safety, drivers should always keep the following on hand:
- Ice scraper to clear windshield and windows
- Salt or sand for traction if the truck gets stuck
- A half a tank of gas as deliveries can take longer than expected during the winter
- A flashlight
- A reflective or high-visibility jacket
- Jumper cables in case the driver’s truck or another vehicle won’t start
- Extra clothes and a warm blanket if the truck breaks down and leaves the driver stranded temporarily
- Food and water
- Perform thorough inspections. While drivers should perform pre-trip inspections regardless of the season, there are additional aspects to consider during the winter:
- Check the tire pressure and treads with greater scrutiny to ensure sufficient traction
- Check the battery charge (older batteries may need replacing as cold weather drains them faster)
- Top off fluid levels
- Make sure defrosters are functional
- Clear snow from the exhaust pipe
- Make sure all lights are functional
- Ensure wiper blades are working and are clear of ice and snow
- Slow down and increase following distance. The posted speed limit is often too fast for wintery weather conditions. Snow reduces visibility and impedes traction. Coming to a complete stop often requires more time and more space than it does during optimal weather. Slowing down also gives drivers more time to react to problems that may arise. Drivers also can’t account for how other people will handle their vehicles in bad weather. Having extra following distance can help truckers avoid an accident with an inexperienced or panicked driver.
- Avoid sudden driving behaviors. Hard cornering, braking, and accelerating all increase wear and tear on commercial vehicles. They’re also unsafe driving behaviors that compound risk during the winter months as they reduce the truck’s traction. Drivers should turn, brake, and accelerate with slow, smooth motions to avoid sliding across slippery roads.
- Know when to stop. Bad weather can creep up unexpectedly or without warning. Typically drivers have plenty of notice and should make the call to stop driving before conditions become hazardous. Drivers caught in bad weather should drive carefully to the nearest gas station or 24-hour business to wait out the storm. If drivers have no choice but to pull over, they should avoid stopping on hard shoulders. These lanes are meant for emergency stopping and carry a high risk of being hit by other drivers.
Driver training and awareness practices are critical to keeping your fleet safe during the winter months. To learn more about reducing risk within your fleet, contact the experts at Interstate Motor Carriers.