Winter weather can be a major challenge for truck drivers, who often deal with cold temperatures, snow, ice, and other hazardous conditions while on the road. These challenges can put truck drivers at risk of accidents, injuries, and other hazards, which can have serious consequences for themselves and other road users. We’ll cover some tips for driving your semi-truck in winter weather.
One of the biggest dangers of winter weather for truck drivers is the risk of losing control of their vehicle on slippery roads. Semi-trucks are large and heavy vehicles that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds This makes them more difficult to control than passenger cars. When roads are covered in snow and ice, it is easy for your truck to skid or slide out of control, which can result in a crash or other accident.
In addition to the risk of losing control, winter weather can also make it difficult for truck drivers to see the road ahead of them. Snow, sleet, and ice can obscure the driver’s view, making it hard to see other vehicles, road signs, and other hazards. This can increase the risk of collisions, particularly when driving at high speeds or in heavy traffic
Have Emergency Supplies
Another danger of winter weather for truck drivers is the risk of getting stranded on the road. Snow and ice can make roads impassable, and you may find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere without the ability to move their vehicle. This can be especially dangerous if you are not prepared with vital necessities.
- Fuel: If you have the ability, keep extra fuel on hand. If not, make sure you keep your tanks topped off if you plan to drive in inclement weather. This can be used to keep the engine running to provide heat, or to move the truck to a safer location if necessary.
- Warm clothing: Winter weather can be treacherous, so it’s important to have warm clothing on hand if you are stranded. This can include items such as a heavy coat, gloves, hats, and warm socks.
- Food: Non-perishable food items such as granola bars, trail mix, and dried fruits can provide nutrition and energy if the truck becomes stranded for an extended period. If you have an inverter, keep things like soup on hand as well for a heartier meal.
- Water: It’s also important to have plenty of water on hand to stay hydrated. This can be especially important in cold weather, as dehydration can occur more easily in colder temperatures according to a University of New Hampshire study.
- Blankets: Blankets can help keep you warm if your truck becomes stranded in cold weather. If you get stuck on the road and are waiting for a winch-out, it might take some time for a tow truck to reach you. Having an extra blanket to wrap up in while you wait could make the situation more favorable as it’ll keep you comfortable.
Practice Safe Driving
In order to stay safe during the winter months, truck drivers must be prepared for the challenges of winter weather. This means taking steps to ensure that their vehicles are equipped with the necessary safety features, such as snow tires and chains, and that they have the necessary supplies on hand to deal with any potential emergencies.
One of the most important things that truck drivers can do to prepare for winter weather is to check the forecast before setting out on a trip. This will help them to avoid areas where bad weather is expected, and to plan their route accordingly. If the weather is expected to be particularly bad, truck drivers may want to consider delaying their trip until conditions improve.
Once on the road, truck drivers should take extra care when driving in winter weather. This means driving at a safe speed, leaving plenty of space between vehicles, and being extra cautious when braking and turning. Truck drivers should also be aware of the potential for black ice, which is a thin layer of ice that can be difficult to see on the road and can cause vehicles to lose traction.
Check Your Equipment
When winter weather hits, it is imperative that you perform a thorough pre-trip inspection to check for issues that arise when the temperature drops to the point of affecting the mechanical operation of your tractor. Some issues that may come up are frozen brakes, frozen fuel lines, flat tires, dead batteries, and other engine problems.
- Frozen brakes: Brake shoes can freeze to the brake drum due to water or moisture on the shoes or the drum. If you’re a hands-on type of person and want to try to free up your brakes, you can hit the drum on a trailer a couple times which should free it up. Make sure not to hit the brake shoe as that could cause it to chip and crack which is a DOT violation.
Meiborg Bros. Trucking has a great video on this topic on YouTube:
- Frozen fuel lines: Fuel lines can also freeze in cold weather, preventing the engine from getting the fuel it needs to run. This can cause the engine to shut down, leaving the truck stranded on the road. Make sure you drain your air tanks daily to rid them of any moisture and water built up in the air system.
- Flat tires: Cold weather can cause the air in a truck’s tires to contract, leading to a loss of pressure and an increased risk of flat tires. This can make it difficult for the truck to maintain traction on slippery roads.
- Dead batteries: Cold weather can also cause a truck’s battery to lose its charge more quickly, making it more likely to die and leaving the truck stranded on the road.
- Engine problems: Cold weather can cause a truck’s engine to work harder, which can lead to mechanical problems and breakdowns. This can leave the truck stranded on the road and create a safety hazard for other vehicles.
Overall, driving a semi-truck in the winter can be dangerous due to the increased risk of mechanical problems and breakdowns. Truck drivers should take extra precautions and be prepared for the challenges of winter driving to help prevent these problems from occurring. Do you have any additional tips for driving a tractor trailer in winter weather?