Winter

How to Keep Yourself and Your Truck Safe This Winter

Dec. 1, 2022
Snow, slush and ice promise hazardous roads, but there are clear steps for truck drivers to remain safe on their route this winter.

Winter can be cold and unforgiving. Nature starts to wither away and snow confines people to their homes. Heavy snowfall makes for treacherous roads and low visibility, both major concerns for truck drivers and their supply chains.

For the supply chain, winter weather causes a sudden uptick in sales from people anxious to buy necessities before the snow. Everything from toilet paper to egg cartons begins flying off the shelves, meaning truck drivers gain more assignments and often further route distances. With these tips, truckers on the supply chain will get people the products they need on time, as well as maintain a safe and healthy lifestyle.

The Dangers of Snow, Ice and Slush

Even if they live in a warmer climate, most people know winter weather means a wealth of dangers. In fact, 24% of yearly weather-related accidents happen on ice-covered or slushy roadways. These factors find drivers of all backgrounds and vehicles in an insecure state:

  • Low visibility
  • Slush and ice
  • Tires unable to regain traction
  • Snow drifts
  • Black ice

There is no doubt that ice and snow are major issues for winter driving. Truckers have an extra worry with their heavy loads that are more difficult to maneuver than the average car. To keep everyone safe at this time of year, there are a few crucial steps to ensure safe winter driving.

Ready the Rig

The first step is to check out the status of their vehicle. A mechanic should evaluate the truck for any impediments or necessary repairs in the fall months. Even truckers with years of experience might miss a check engine light or something that needs fixing in the inner workings. A second look assures a season of safety.

A filled fuel tank could also mean better-balanced weight throughout the truck. Before every leg of the journey, ensure proper gas levels to maintain traction on all roads.

Some levels the trucker can monitor before winter weather descends are:

  • Engine oil
  • Antifreeze
  • Tire pressure

Furthermore, ensure the cargo is secured correctly. Winter weather can jostle items or loosen time-tested bonds, so consider energy-absorbing supplies like wire rope isolators that stabilize materials against potential hazards and damage.

Employ Monitoring Technology

On the supply chain operators’ side, consider investing in technology that monitors the fleet of truckers riding the roads this winter. AI applications supply team members with real-time data about road conditions, including temperature, snowfall and ice warnings. They also alert drivers to roadways potentially blocked by snow drifts or traffic. Having these advanced warnings helps supply chain managers create buffer zones in their deadlines and prepares truckers for treacherous conditions.

Ensure Extra Stop-Time

When driving in slick conditions, drivers must maintain a proper distance of at least twice the average amount on wet roads. Tires could lose traction and slide out of the trucker’s control. If there is a barrier between vehicles, the truck driver has more reaction time to regain control. Remember, more hazardous conditions—like ice or slush—require a stopping distance of 10 times the usual amount.

Avoid Sudden Braking

Slamming on the brakes is often the first reaction when drivers start sliding. However, this can place the vehicle even further out of alignment and control.

For proper braking in icy conditions, pump brakes very lightly. Driving slowly will also increase reaction time and the ability to regain control if the tires do slip. In general, refrain from sudden movements like sudden braking or acceleration.

Watch for Black Ice

Be aware of the signs of black ice — it looks like a wet road but is actually a transparent layer of ice. Because it is hard to see, drivers often lose control and slide on black ice.

To find black ice, watch the spray from other vehicles to see if it is water. If the driver does encounter black ice, drive slowly and maintain a straight alignment. Most importantly, do not slam on the brakes, which causes the tires to spin.

Slow Down on Bridges

In icy conditions, truckers should approach all roads with caution. However, bridges pose a unique danger. Since they have no way to trap heat, ice forms at an alarming rate. Bridges are also difficult for crews to salt, so they have less traction than asphalt roads. Drive slowly and alertly across bridges and high-altitude roads like overpasses that form ice quickly.

Communicate with Other Drivers

The radios linking truck drivers across the country's roads are invaluable. Not only do they provide a sense of community in a profession that requires long hours alone, but they also provide a secondary alert system to potential dangers.

Trucks should send out radio messages to fellow haulers when encountering snow and ice to warn them of hazardous conditions. They can then begin slowing down with advanced notice.

To commute with other vehicles on the road, drive with hazards in low visibility. This ensures they are aware of the truck’s large size.

Drivers should clean off all lights at every stop to make sure snow and ice buildup is not covering the light. LED headlights are especially prone to attracting a covering of ice.

Pull Over in the Right Places

Always remember that the shoulder is not meant for stopping. Though it is tempting to pull over when conditions become unbearable, it is always better to find the nearest exit or rest stop to wait out the storm.

It can be challenging for other drivers to see the entire cargo load length on the shoulder. Combined with low visibility in snow, this could result in a crash.

Never be afraid to get off the road if inclement weather is approaching or worsening. Overall, the health and safety of drivers and other people are the highest priority. Avoiding hazardous storms also means customers can receive undamaged goods. Though time is always an important factor, safety is crucial for all drivers.

Make an Emergency Kit

All truckers should equip their cab or sleeper berth with an emergency kit. In the case of a potential accident or becoming stranded somewhere, these materials provide aid and health care:

  • Blankets
  • Extra coats and clothing
  • Flashlights
  • Bags of sand or salt
  • Winter boots
  • Flares
  • Hand warmers
  • Snow scrapers
  • Brushes for cleaning lights
  • Traction mats
  • Half a tank of gas
  • Energizing food and water
  • Shovels
  • Matches
  • Extra radio

If they do become stranded, drivers should always stay in the cab and wait. They can maintain warmth and energy until assistance arrives with a proper care kit and an emergency plan in place.

The Responsibility of Safe Trucking

Driving in winter weather is hazardous for everyone, especially truck drivers carrying large loads to customers across the country. To maintain their safety in these perilous times, supply chain professionals must train drivers with these tips and implement buffer times in deadlines.

Truckers are braving the cold and snow to deliver much-needed materials every winter and supply chain professionals should do everything they can to keep them safe and sound.

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About the Author

Emily Newton

Emily Newton has eight years of creating logistics and supply chain articles under her belt. She loves helping people stay informed about industry trends. Her work in Supply Chain Connect, Global Trade Magazine and Parcel, showcases her ability to identify newsworthy stories. When Emily isn't writing, she enjoys building lego sets with her husband.