Many drivers seem to forget that they must change their way of driving to deal with the dangerous conditions that winter surprises us with. As a professional driver, you need to change the way you drive this season in order to keep your equipment under control and also protect yourself from those irresponsible drivers who don´t. The following recommendations will help you stay safer in this winter season:
- Make sure you are well prepared in case you get stranded due to weather conditions
You should have everything you need to stay comfortable and safe if you are stuck for several hours or days. The most important supplies are:
1. Winter jacket, hat, gloves and boots
2. Blankets, flashlight and batteries, matches and lighter. Make sure you have a charged cell phone battery and first aid supplies
4. Food and water
5. Reflective vest and/or hat
- Prepare your truck for winter conditions
This is the time of year to thoroughly inspect your vehicle and make sure it is prepared for winter conditions according to the manufacturer´s recommendations. Check that your tires have the appropriate tread, which is essential during this season, as well as the windshield wipers. Check that the fuel heaters and block heaters are working. You must carry an extension cable to connect the block heaters.
Make sure air dryers are working or have additives to remove moisture. Keep extra windshield washer fluid in the cabin. Saving money on maintenance or replacement during the winter can leave you stranded in dangerous conditions that could even cost you your life.
Learn the laws for using chains in each state, they vary greatly. Make sure you have enough chains for your tractor and any type of trailer combination you pull. Check that the chains are in good condition before leaving on a trip. When installing chains, park in a safe location and wear bright or reflective clothing to be more visible. Always stop a few meters after installing chains to retighten them. Follow the manufacturer´s recommendations and find out how fast you can safely travel with chains installed.
- Remove snow from your truck
During heavy snowfall, accidents and vehicle damage can occur when large chunks of ice or snow fall from the tops of vehicles. In several states, drivers can be ticketed by police if they notice ice or snow falling from their vehicle. These incidents are difficult to prevent because most drivers do not have a safe way to remove snow and/or ice from the top of their truck or trailer.
- Plan ahead
Winter is a season that involves driving delays. Increasing your speed to make up for the time lost during delays is a completely unacceptable plan. Proper planning includes:
1. Leave with extra time preventing delays.
2. Plan the route along the main roads that can be better maintained in relation to clearing ice or snow from the road.
3. Monitor weather conditions along your route.
4. Notify your dispatchers and shippers in advance of possible weather-related delays.
5. Keep fuel tanks full.
6. Have a "Plan B" in case the road closes or you run out of hours to drive.
- Precautions when driving in snow and frost
When driving on snow or there is a danger of ice, the driver must:
1. Limit distracting activities to ensure that your full attention is focused on driving.
2. Turn on the lights to see better and be seen.
3. Reduce speed and increase following distance. Remember, visibility is greatly reduced during inclement weather and braking distance is longer on snow or snowfalls. Reducing speed and increasing your following distance will help compensate for these conditions. Do not use the brakes in slippery conditions.
4. Watch for ice, shadow patches, bridges, overpasses, and intersections as these are areas where ice is likely to form.
5. You should be alert for other drivers who are going too fast for the weather conditions and be alert to respond to their loss of control or who are unable to stop at stop signs or intersections.
6. You should give ice and snow plows plenty of room and do not pass until it is safe. Don´t try to pass them on two-lane roads.
7. Notify the dispatcher and shippers as appropriate and let them know that you that there may be a delay due to weather conditions.
8. Stop and park your truck in a safe place if conditions worsen to a point where driving becomes dangerous.
- Dangerous bridges
Bridges often freeze before other road surfaces when temperatures are near freezing. This occurs because the road is cooled in two directions: from below and from above the bridge. When temperatures are near freezing, drivers should be very careful when changing from a wet road to a bridge because there may be ice. Reduce speed and increase following distance before reaching the bridge.
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