Winter Driving Advice

During the winter months, road conditions can be quite different from those conditions during the summer. We are here to offer some safe winter practices that CDL holders nationwide should keep in mind. As a driver, it is good to take into consideration that trips over icy roads will take longer than driving the same distance under good road and weather conditions. Therefore, you should always plan your trip accordingly. Plan to leave earlier for your trip to give yourself extra time for delays that you might encounter.

Start gently at the beginning of the trip, taking your time and making sure to get a good feel for the road. That way, you’re never in a rush. Try to avoid using your engine brakes whenever possible; it is best not to use them at all in winter weather. Be sure to check your mirrors often and watch the trailer when you brake. This will let you know that the trailer is not coming out of line or swinging to one side or another.

While driving, adjust your speed to the conditions so that you are always driving at a safe speed. Watch far enough ahead so that you can react to the traffic conditions accordingly, and try not to pass other vehicles unless you have to. Maintain a longer following distance; your only way out may be directly in front of you.

As a rule of thumb, remember that it can take three times the distance to stop compared to dry roads. Make sure that you are pulling your trailer and that the trailer is not pushing you. Keep in mind that changing lanes while pulling the trailer may cause a jackknife. Therefore, it is important to take curves and turns at a slower speed and always try to brake while the tractor and trailer are straight in line with each other.

Something to keep in the back of your mind is to brake before the curves or turns, not during, and remember if you begin to see your lights in the mirror at night, it may mean that your trailer is jackknifing.

If traffic ahead looks congested, slow down and wait for traffic to thin out. That way, you’re not stuck in a pack or in a possible difficult situation. It is always a good idea to avoid driving beside other vehicles so that you have room to maneuver in case an emergency action needs to be taken.

Remember that as the weather starts warming up, ice will melt and become slippery. Be alert of this and slow down if necessary. Be sure to slow down gradually, not rapidly.

Be sure to always follow the five rules of safe winter driving: the number one cause of accidents during winter months is driving at a speed that is too fast for the conditions. First, slow down on ice and snow, keeping in mind that traction can be lost with either sudden deceleration or excessive acceleration.

As a driver, remember to drive slow enough that you are always able to pull the trailer because if you’re not pulling the trailer, it is pushing you. The second rule of safe winter driving is to increase your following distance. The less following distance you allow, the less reaction time you have. Make sure to maintain a minimum of 14 to 15 seconds following distance on wet roads.

Third, stay alert to the possible variables that can be experienced during winter weather driving conditions and always try to anticipate the unexpected. The fourth rule is to practice smooth and easy driving techniques by not making rough or sudden changes in direction or momentum. The smoother a driver shifts, brakes, turns, accelerates, and decelerates, the less chance the truck has to lose traction.

Finally, conduct daily inspections and report any defect for maintenance or repair. Always complete your driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) every day for every problem or defective item found. Safety, road conditions, delivery schedules, and traffic will always be on the top of your mind, but we must not forget the normal day-to-day things like walking, maneuvering around fuel islands, rest areas, or even getting in or out of your truck will also hold potential dangers. Snow or ice will increase the opportunity for slipping, tripping, or falling. Proper gear or footwear designed for these conditions will help prevent slips and falls.

Walking or climbing methods could help you as well. Always use three points of contact when entering or exiting a vehicle. When walking in dark parking lots, make sure you have a flashlight to help you identify obstacles. Keep in mind that when we walk, our leg’s ability to support our weight is split mid-stride. To walk on ice, keeping your center of gravity over your front leg is a must.

It is recommended you make some room in the cab for some items that will help you out during the winter season, such as an extra set of warm clothes and blankets, winter shoes that have good traction, a pair of waterproof gloves, and a heavy reflective coat are a must during the winter season. Non-perishables, water, and a can opener should always be brought along, as well as a first aid kit, a snow broom for windows, mirrors, or steps, a small shovel, jumper cables, and a headlamp that can keep your hands free are good to have on your checklist.

Working the trailer crank is an everyday thing when on slick surfaces; it helps to have a small bag of kitty litter to put on the ground to help you create a surface that will give you traction. Make sure you communicate with your manager the possible change in your time to arrive at the customer. With that, we understand that there may be situations that could require chains, so we would like to remind you of the steps to chaining up so that you’re prepared for when you need them.

The first step is to remove the chains from the chain box or hanger. Remember to use your legs, not your back, when lifting. Second, spread the chain out on the ground in front of or behind the wheel you are chaining. Make sure that the cams are on the street side of the wheel when laying out the chains. Third, straighten the chains. A good tip for you is that when placing the chain onto the tire, it is much easier to pull the chains up onto the tire than it is trying to flip them over the tire. You’ll have less chance of tangling the chains.

The fourth step is to carefully move your truck forward just enough to roll onto the chains but not so much that the other end of the chains falls off the tires. Next, hook the rail ends and use the cam tool to tighten each cam. You should finish the job with at least two bungee cords. Use these to secure the loose ends of the rails; just be sure to check that the bungee hooks face away from the tire. A good idea is to stop within the first 2 to 5 miles to check on the chains and make any adjustments if needed.

We hope that all this information helps you during the winter season. Thank you for watching. Stay sharp and drive safe.