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Safe Driving Tips for Winter Weather

Being on the road always comes with its fair share of risks, but driving a commercial truck during inclement winter weather can be especially dangerous. Snow, ice, high winds, and sleet contribute to undesirable driving conditions during colder months. Factor in other drivers in a hurry on the already crowded highways, and truck drivers have an even more difficult job during winter. In order to get themselves and their loads to the destination in one piece, truckers should keep in safe mind driving tips for winter weather.

Before you even step into your rig, make sure your commercial truck insurance is up to date. Staying fully legal is critical when the likelihood of having an accident is higher. Even the safest driver can become a victim of circumstances beyond his or her control.

Go slowly. The posted speed limit is for ideal driving conditions. When weather and traffic change those conditions from ideal to unstable, it's important to slow down. If you're worried about making your load delivery on time, remember: an injured trucker won't be making any deliveries on time.

Lay off the brakes. While it's important to go slowly during inclement weather, relying too readily on your brakes can end in disaster. Icy roads show no mercy to brake-happy drivers. Maintain a slow and steady speed instead of using brakes to slow down your truck. Be particularly wary of using the jake brake during winter weather. This is a sure fire way to jack knife your truck!

Be prepared for the worst. If you get stuck out in the sub-freezing temperatures, you'll thank yourself for being adequately prepared. It's better to need something and have it than the other way around. Smart Trucking recommends the following essentials for your winter driving emergency kit:

  • extra warm clothing

  • insulated socks and top quality boots

  • extra blankets or sleeping bag

  • food (dried foods/water supply)

  • propane heater and lighter

  • lug tires/ top quality tires

  • fuel conditioner

  • methyl hydrate (for fuel & air lines)

  • extra fuel filters and wrench

  • windshield washer fluid

  • chains (can get stuck in parking lots)

  • cell phone (keep charged up)

If you're driving during slick conditions, maintain a safe following distance. Decrease your likelihood of crunching the vehicle in front of you by staying even farther back than usual. At least one quarter mile of distance should provide enough braking room in case of an accident ahead of you.

Trust your instincts. Even the most skilled trucker on the road knows when he or she has met their match. Sometimes the safest thing you can do in winter weather is pull off the road and stay put until conditions improve. Reach out to your dispatch and reschedule your delivery time: no load is worth your life. If you decide to stop, do not park on the shoulder of the highway: this can cause other travelers to mistake your trailer for a lane of traffic.

You can leave Fluffy at home, but keep kitty litter in your cab. This is an easy, economical, and environmentally friendly way to gain some traction under your tires. When you park on snow, your warm tires can melt the snow, and the cold air will turn the liquid into ice. Staying mobile is the cat's meow!

Maintain your weight. The heavier your rig, the more traction you will have on the road. Keep your fuel tank topped off to increase your weight. Also make sure your load's weight is evenly distributed. Truckers with loads that shift inside the trailer will have a more difficult time controlling their rig during a skid.

Do your research. Your driver training should familiarize you with how to handle unsafe driving conditions, but a refresher can't hurt. The Department of Motor Vehicles presents a handy guide for Winter Driving Safety for Commercial Drivers.

Keep important phone numbers in your wallet. If your cell phone and computer lose their charge, you'll want to be able to reach your dispatch or insurance company in the event of an accident.

Staying safe during winter driving conditions means staying prepared. Keep yourself protected no matter the road conditions with high quality insurance.

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