Tis the Season for Winter Driving
January 31, 2019
It’s only January, and this winter is already off to a wild start. Winter storms have ravaged many parts of the United States and Canada, and it appears there is no end in sight.
The southern region of the U.S., normally known as a safe-haven from snow, has seen it fall on their palm trees. Best believe the kids are making the most of the rare occasion, but drivers? Not so much. The way this winter has kicked off, whether you’re driving through Minneapolis or Atlanta, you better be prepared to face tough driving conditions.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to keep your truck in top-condition to face the elements. Like NFL quarterback Russell Wilson would say, “Separation is in the Preparation.” In this case, if you see the forecast calling for snow along your route, prepare your truck for it before you leave the loading dock or truck stop. Doing so can help keep your truck safe and on the road, while others who aren’t prepared may run into some issues.
Before you hit the open road:
- Do a quick inspection of your truck. Make sure your defroster and heater are working properly.
- Take a look at your lights, are they all working? It’s always important to have running lights, but in whiteout conditions, all lights are vital.
- Check on the windshield wipers, wiper motor, washer fluid and mirrors. If you know you will be passing through historically snowy areas or states, switch your wiper blades over to winter blades. They are better suited to handle tough winter weather. There’s no reason to venture out into a storm with dirty windows and mirrors. Whatever you can do to enhance your visibility is a must.
- Are your tires properly inflated and have good tread? Ensure you have good tread. It may be legal to run your drives down to 2/32nds, but you’ll need more to handle snow and slush. And check the tire pressure before you depart. Keeping your tire pressure at the correct amount is key for the best traction and safest driving. While we’re on the subject of traction, try and keep your fuel tanks as full as possible. The extra weight over the tires helps traction.
- Is your 5th wheel properly greased? In cold weather, it’s important that your 5th wheel is able to move freely, especially when roads may be slick. When a 5th wheel is in need of grease, it takes more pressure to make your kingpin turn. Something as simple as a well-greased 5th wheel can be the difference in safely making a turn or not when conditions are sub-par.
- Extreme cold temperatures are harsh on batteries. It reduces the cranking power of the battery and it takes much longer to recharge it once it’s cold. It’s a good idea to test your batteries to make sure they are fully charged, and load tested, that way you can reduce the chances of not being able to start your engine. While you’re at it, take a look and make sure the connections are clean and fully tightened.
- Consider using a fuel supplement like Diesel 9-1-1 to prevent diesel from gelling in sub-30-degree temperatures when you pull over for the day.
Before departing, it’s a good idea to check the local weather report to see what kind of conditions you should be expecting. Going over a mountain pass? Many mountain passes have social media accounts set up to give live updates on pass conditions, road closures and travel times. These are great resources, so take advantage of them.
So, what about what to do on the road? The old cliché, “slow and steady wins the race,” applies when driving on snowy and icy roads. As you know, there are a lot of young, inexperienced drivers out there piloting their mom and dad’s cars.
If you can, try to distance yourself from other vehicles. For whatever reason, ‘packs’ tend to form on highways. The more you can distance yourself from groups of vehicles, the more you reduce the risk of running into an accident.
Unlike popular belief, if you can see a vehicle’s taillights in front of you in blowing snow or whiteout conditions, you are following too close. Lean off the throttle a little bit so that you have plenty of room in-between you and the other vehicle in case you need to make a maneuver.
When you need to hit the brakes, it’s important to be very sensitive. Some drivers like to use the jake brake in less-than-ideal conditions. If the roads are icy, don’t do it. When you’re using the foot brake, try to make sure your tractor-trailer is ‘straight.’ Jackknifing is about the worst thing that could happen on the road, and improperly using your brakes can lead to that.
If you experience issues with your truck, try to make it to an exit before pulling over. The shoulder of the road is an extremely dangerous place to be in hazardous conditions. It just takes a little bit of ice for a vehicle to spin out and hit your truck.
The weather can take a turn for the worse quick, so it’s a good idea to be prepared for road closures. Make sure you’re well stocked on food, water, warm clothes and safety equipment. You never know when a road could close and for how long.
When in doubt of the safety of the road conditions, just pull over. It seems like every winter there are videos that go viral of trucks or cars that spin out of control and cause a major accident. If you know the road is unsafe, don’t risk it. A late delivery is better than no delivery at all. We all have friends and families to make it home to – which is why Drivewyze promotes safe practices in winter season, and throughout the year.