Tips for the Winter Driving Season
It’s everyone’s least favorite driving season…winter. No one enjoys getting out of the warm confines of their cab to chain up during snowy conditions. Or, the delays winter driving conditions can cause. But, it’s part of the business most drivers have to deal with.
Last year, we offered up some tips on what drivers can do to stay safe out on the road during the winter season. With the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calling for a La Niña weather pattern this winter, northern states are expected to see colder and wetter than normal conditions (meaning more snow and ice). With that in mind, we thought we’d share more tips on how to stay safe on the road this season.
Even if you’re a driver that typically doesn’t travel through states known for winter storms, it’s still a good idea to be prepared. You never know when an ice storm might roll through the South or in other areas that typically don’t see ‘traditional’ winter weather.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to brush up on chain laws in states you travel through. You want to make sure you’re compliant with the state that has the strictest chain laws you plan on traveling through. Plus, there are states that have chain laws that you might not expect would. For a quick read on states with chain laws you should know about, click on this link. If you are driving through Canada, you may want to find out about Canadian Chain Laws here.
Check the Weather
Take advantage of hourly weather forecasts. If you know that the forecast is predicting snow along your route, take a look at the hourly details. And, use your GPS, radio, or other forms of communication to keep tabs on road conditions or closures. When possible, take breaks when snowfall is predicted to be at its heaviest, and drive when snowfall lightens up. It might just give snowplows a chance to make up ground clearing the roads or tow trucks time to clear possible collisions.
Adverse Driving Conditions
When the weather is so severe and road conditions become too dangerous, or visibility is hindered, just pull over. It’s not worth the risks. As we all know, sometimes weather forecasts are flat out wrong. If you find yourself in the middle of a winter storm that was not originally in the forecast, you can take advantage of the newly updated rule changes to the Adverse Driving Conditions Exception. The new HOS update allows drivers to extend their on-duty time by 2 hours when unforeseen driving conditions affect a driver’s route. The previous exception rule only allowed drivers to extend their drive time by 2 hours, but since they were unable to extend on-duty time, the exception was rarely used. Drivers can now drive up to 13 hours within a 16-hour window when using the exception. So, take advantage of it when the weather takes a turn for the worst!
Even on clear days or nights, be on the lookout for black ice when temperatures drop below freezing. It doesn’t take much moisture in the air to freeze, creating a thin, yet very dangerous layer of ice. Black ice makes the pavement look slightly wet, and at night, you can sometimes see a glossy reflection when light is on it. When passing over elevated structures light bridges or overpasses, be especially careful. They tend to be the first to freeze and that is the last place you would want to lose control. It can be easy to underestimate black ice, especially if there is no snow on the ground, but don’t – stay cautious.
It’s a good idea to keep your fuel tank at least half full in freezing weather. Condensation inside your fuel tank can lead to fuel lines freezing when temps are cold enough. When your fuel tank is halfway full, it limits the amount of air, therefore condensation inside your tank. Plus, if you need to pull over and keep your engine running for heat, you don’t need to worry about burning too much diesel. To help prevent condensation, consider using a fuel supplement, like The Fuel Ox. The additive contains agents that removes water from your fuel.
Take it Slow
Above all else, just take it slow when driving on snow or ice. Just because you see another driver passing everyone else on the highway does not mean road conditions are safer than you might think. It’s important to get a ‘feel’ for the road and drive at speeds that is appropriate for conditions so that you can come to a complete stop or correct your line if your truck begins to drift. Maintaining a safe distance between the vehicle in front of you is equally important just in case they lose control or need to stop.
Do your part in keeping other drivers, yourself and your freight safe this winter season.