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Winter Driving

Winter can cause many problems.  Whether it be rain, freezing rain, wind, or snow, Truck Drivers must be prepared to face the hazards winter driving brings. These conditions can cause accidents and injuries if you are not prepared.

The most frequent reasons for winter weather-related accidents are:

  • Limited or reduced visibility and traction.
  • Aggressive braking on a slick road.
  • Inability to judge safe speed for conditions.
  • Poor shifting skills on a slick road.
  • Poor negotiation of a curve.
  • Failure to prepare vehicle properly.
  • Failure to plan route properly.
  • Failure to adapt to changing weather patterns.

Here are some tips Drivers can use to help reduce the risk of a crash while driving in the winter:

  • Plan your trip accordingly – Check weather forecasts and possible construction areas along your route, chart fuel and meal stop locations, and allow extra time for traffic delays.
  • Compensate for poor traction by slowing down and making all movements gently – never drive faster than conditions permit.
  • Double or triple your following distance and never tailgate. Try to build as much separation between you and other vehicles. Keep at least a ten second following distance when driving on snow and ice covered roads – Avoid driving in packs.
  • Black Ice: This shiny ice surface is one of the most slippery road conditions. Black ice is likely to form first under bridges and overpasses, in shady spots and at intersections.
  • Get in the habit of easing up on bridges. Bridges & overpasses are often the most dangerous in the winter since they freeze before roadways.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding.
  • If you begin to skid:
    • Take your foot off the gas and depress clutch. For automatics, remove foot from pedals and counter steer until vehicle regains traction.
    • Then steer in the direction to keep the truck under the trailer.
    • Do not slam on the brakes.
  • Stay alert….keep your eyes moving to process your surroundings.
  • Turn on your lights and keep them clean, many times in snow, the lights are often obstructed.
  • Turn OFF the cruise control – Don’t use cruise control on wet or icy roads.
  • Check for ice build up by feeling the back of your mirror and watching the spray from tires.
  • Notice trailer pushing through curves and turns.
  • Shifting product and icy roads are not a good combination. Drivers should monitor shipper’s loading procedures to ensure weight has been evenly distributed within their trailer.
  • Don’t make your truck do more than it can. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, park your tractor.
  • ALWAYS wear your seat belt.

Many injuries in winter months happen as a result of winter hazards that are completely unrelated to driving a truck. Ice is perhaps the most significant culprit.  Snow and ice increase the likelihood for slips and falls. Suggestions to reduce this risk include:

  • Proper footwear: Wear ankle-high boots with hard rubber (oil resistant) non-slip soles.
  • Watch for ice on dock steps, on tractor steps, cat walks, ICC bars, and in parking lots.
  • Before exiting your tractor, and while still sitting in your seat, make it a habit of running your foot across the top step to check for ice.
  • ALWAYS USE “3 points of contact” when entering and exiting. Transfer your weight carefully and TAKE YOUR TIME. Haste is the root cause of most slip and fall accidents.
  • Cold weather hampers equipment performance. Avoid injuries from hard pulling 5th wheel pins, trailer tandem sliders, pulling hoods, etc.
  • Going from warm to cold temperatures fatigues a body faster. You will tire sooner if you are moving in and out several times during your work day.
  • Cold outdoor temperatures cause muscles to become “tenser” and make you more prone to strains when working around tractor and trailer. Avoid muscle strains by doing short warm up exercises and regular stretching

It’s equally critical to emphasize both winter driving safety as well as winter non-driving safety.

Our wish during this winter season is for everyone to reduce their risk of accidents and to be healthy and free of injuries to be able to spend time with family and friends.