A while back, Roadmaster Drivers School put out an article with a lot of great winter driving tips for truck drivers.
With such a great response to that first article, we’ve decided to put out this follow-up post highlighting even more tips and helpful advice on safe truck driving in the winter months:
1. Is there a “worst” temperature?
This may sound strange, but colder doesn’t always mean worse in terms of slippery road conditions. It goes without saying that you should always exercise great caution at any temperature, but it’s worth noting that the roads may be particularly slippery between 22 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit. According to a Road & Track article, when the weather is in this temperature range your tires may actually get less grip than they do at even colder temperatures. The article also points out, though, that the road temperature may not always be the same as the air temperature, depending on traffic patterns and other factors.
2. Don’t just know the current temperature. Know yesterday’s, too.
If the temperature drops overnight, especially if it rained the day before, the roads could be slick with ice. It’s not enough to know what the weather is doing on a particular day. You should also pay attention to the previous day’s conditions, especially if you’re coming back from home time and hitting the road fresh. Find out if it rained along your route and, if so, compare the previous day’s temperatures to upcoming temperatures. Knowing what to expect can help you to adjust accordingly and stay safe.
3. Consider your speed in context.
Obviously, you shouldn’t go faster than the speed limit. But keep in mind that if weather and road conditions worsen, even trying to drive at the maximum posted speed could be unrealistic. Don’t look at those speed limits as the number to hit. Instead, you should never feel compelled to drive faster than road conditions allow. Some roads have minimum speed limits posted, but it’s important to use your discretion and go slower in bad weather. Slowing down may cost you some time, but an accident could cost you even more time or worse. If there is a minimum speed limit posted and the weather is so bad that you don’t think you could even go the minimum speed safely, then you should strongly consider waiting out the bad weather.
4. Don’t forget to treat your fuel.
According to an article on Coops Are Open, a truck safety information website, cold temperatures can cause diesel to gel which can prevent a truck from running. The website suggests stocking up on anti-gel in advance of bad weather. That way, you won’t get stuck searching for it when the bad weather moves in and other truck drivers start buying it all up.
5. Turn off your Jake brake.
Using your Jake brake in slippery road conditions can cause serious problems. This Truck News article explains:
The Jake is so strong it can lock up your drive wheels when you let your foot off the accelerator, resulting in an unexpected skid.
A Super Service article echoes that point, adding that:
Your Jake brakes only slow your tractor, not your trailer. When on ice or snow the Jake brake will cause your trailer to push forward and slide out from behind you – Resulting in a jack knifed truck. Avoid the jack knife and turn the Jake brake off when the weather turns.
Above all else, be sure to use your best judgement in bad conditions. You’re the one out there on the road, so if it doesn’t seem safe to be driving then you might be better off waiting it out.
And if you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check out that first Winter Driving Tips for Truck Drivers article right here.
Want even more guidance on how to safely drive a Class A vehicle? Earn your Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with the help of Roadmaster Drivers School.