1. Inspect Your Vehicle
Perform a visual inspection of the truck before each trip. Ensure you are hands-on and keep a checklist of all the items you inspect. Such items include wipers blades, lights, tire pressure, oil and fluid levels. Be extra vigilant when checking fluid levels, especially when the temperatures are low. Go under the hood and don’t rely solely on the onboard gauges.
It’s also a great idea to have a can of anti-freeze handy during the inspection. As such, you can top it up if it is running low. This precaution might save you a lot of hustle down the road.
The radiator cap ensures that your cooling system stays pressurized. It also keeps the anti-freeze where it should be. Look closely for any signs of leakage around the radiator cap and if there are leakages, replace the radiator cap immediately.
Besides, you should get a professional truck mechanic to perform a thorough inspection. Such an inspection will determine whether your truck is ready to withstand the harsh wear and tear of winter conditions. Get them to perform some service while they are at it as well.
2. Slow Down
Many road accidents that happen during winter are as a result of drivers going too fast. Reduced visibility makes it hard for drivers to see road signs and other road users. Driving at a slower speed will give you more time to react to any incidents as you drive.
Driving at a slower pace will enhance not only your safety but also that of other road users. Hydroplaning occurs more frequently when you drive at high speeds. This effectively lowers your traction and control over your vehicle. You are also more likely to splash other cars when you speed.
Driving during winter calls for extra patience and consideration for other drivers. So please slow down even if you have pressing delivery deadlines. You can also update your schedule to account for delays occasioned by harsh weather conditions.
3. Give Yourself Some Extra Space
Did you know that the stopping distance for wet roads is twice the usual stopping distance? And it’s almost 10 times as hard stop on icy roads. Therefore, you need to keep plenty of distance between your truck and the vehicle ahead of you.
Keeping such a distance ensures your brakes can effectively slow and stop the truck in time. It allows you to have adequate space to move out of harm’s way in case you encounter any unpredictable situations. You also get more time to react if a driver in front of you suddenly comes to a stop.
4. Stay Smooth
Winter driving calls for you to be a smooth operator. This means refraining from any sudden moves on the pedals and behind the wheel. You should avoid sudden braking and acceleration or making sudden maneuvers like cornering.
If you need to bring the truck to a stop or slow down suddenly on a smooth icy road, pump the brakes lightly. You should also drive slower so you can have plenty of time and space to negotiate sharp corners. If your truck suddenly skids don’t slam the brakes, instead steer it into the skid with your feet off the pedals.
There’s nothing worse than a big rig driver that fails to signal his intentions. You should be keen on indicator lights when making turns even if it’s just changing lanes. The key to being a smooth operator is maintaining a consistent speed and avoiding any actions that can reduce traction on icy roads.
5. Pay Attention to the Tire Spray
This tip is one of the most vital yet often forgotten preventative safety skills for driving in winter. The easiest way to assess the condition of the road is by observing the splash coming from other vehicles on the road. If the cars around you splash a lot of water, then you can conclude the road is still wet.
However, if the tire spray is relatively little, it means that the road has started freezing. In such a case, you probably need to go slower. You should also exercise extra caution while on such roads. If there’s no splash, then you may have encountered black ice and it’s advisable to maintain a firm grip on the wheel.
6. Keep a Firm Grip on the Wheel
Keep both hands on the steering wheel when possible. Keeping your full attention on the road will enhance your safety when driving in winter. Ensure your grip is firm but not too tight. If your grip is too tight, you’ll reach for the gearstick and other controls at a slower speed.
Many professional drivers discourage freewheeling on icy roads. For one, reduced traction affects your ability to steer. You also have less time to react to sudden situations if your hands are not firmly on the wheel. Therefore, remember to keep your hands at ten and your eyes on the road.
7. Watch Out for Bridges
Keep your eyes peeled when approaching elevated structures and road signs warning of their presence. Such structures include highway overpasses and bridges. These structures freeze faster than other road surfaces. This is because many highway authorities neglect to treat bridges with snow/ice melting material such as sand or snow like the rest of the road.
You may have also noticed that your truck sails smoothly on the road but suddenly skids on a bridge. The formation of black ice is more frequent on bridges when compared to the rest of the road. Therefore, maintaining a consistent speed and looking out for bridges is a wise idea.
8. Don’t Stop on the Shoulder of the Road
Don’t stop on the shoulder of a road if you can avoid it. You should only stop at the shoulder in case of medical emergencies or if the truck is not drivable. If you have to stop, please stay in your vehicle considering that many highway accidents affect pedestrians.
You should also keep your hazard indicators on so that oncoming drivers can see you. Flags and road flares can also enhance your visibility. Putting the parking brake on will prevent the truck from rolling if hit.
If you have to exit the truck, stand on the opposite side of the road. This may sound counter-intuitive but might save your life if a car came careening off the road. Call for help immediately if you lack the skills or equipment needed to get the vehicle back on the road.
9. Brake Slowly
When you encounter some trouble on the road, avoid slamming the brakes. It’s always hard to tell if the driver behind you is paying attention. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator smoothly and gently.
If your truck has an anti-locking braking system (ABS), engage it responsibly. Press the brakes and hold them down as far as you can in an emergency. ABS prevents your wheels from locking, allowing you to maneuver obstacles safely.
In case the truck is not equipped with ABS, you may need to slow down quickly on an icy road. In such a situation, take your foot off the accelerator slowly and try to pump the brakes lightly. This reduces the chances of your wheels locking and the truck from spinning out of control.
10. When in Doubt, Pull Over
The world of professional tracking has its fair share of tight deadlines and restrictive schedules. However, if the weather conditions are too severe, consider pulling over. Find a safe way to get off the road and wait it out.
If there’s a place you could park like a truck stop, you can pop-in. You can even get a bite to eat, stretch a bit and talk to other drivers. Don’t forget to ask about the road condition especially if they are heading in the opposite direction. Once the weather improves, you can get back to the road, rested and more alert.
In the dead of winter, temperatures can plunge to 5 degrees and below. This effectively reduces traction, which makes keeping a big rig on the smooth road harder. Even experienced truck drivers have a rough time in such conditions. Visibility is reduced so it’s hard for truck drivers to see where they are going.
However, it's not all gloom. You can drive through the winter season without major incidents. All you need to do is use your preventative safety skills when driving in icy weather and roads.
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