The winter season is in full swing and with it comes winter weather. Winter creates a number of new issues for drivers, preventative maintenance, health concerns, and of course safety precautions.
Here are some very important safety tips to keep in mind while driving this winter:
Hazard Recognition: The first step to driving safely in the winter is to recognize that cold weather creates unique hazards that must be dealt with effectively each time the truck is operated. Fuel gels when the temperature drops, ice forms on roads, vehicles and systems; especially at night. Blowing snow limits visibility and cold temps can be dangerous.
Prepare for Winter: Pay attention to weather reports and prep the truck and yourself in advance. Add anti-gel when fueling, drain the air tanks nightly, use RainX on windows and mirrors, dry brake drums and shoes at every stop. Have and use warm clothing and trip plan to minimize weather impact. Having some basic tools will help combat ice and snow; a pry bar, an ice scraper, and a broom or shovel to remove accumulation.
Following Distance: Wet, icy, and snowy roads are slick and require increased awareness of driving, weather and traffic conditions. Stopping distance is greatly increased so following distance needs to be doubled to at least 16 seconds. Reduce speed, apply brakes early and softly, don’t use cruise control or jake brakes and be prepared to compensate for other’s mistakes. Having enough space to stop straight ahead is always your best “out.”
Black Ice: Black ice is actually very thin, clear ice that allows the pavement to be seen through it and giving the road the appearance of just being wet. It is extremely dangerous because it is so hard to see and most often occurs at night after a partial daytime thaw. Look for spray from other vehicle’s tires; no spray means that roads aren’t wet, they are icy. Reduce speed and avoid quick, sharp movements of the steering wheel.
Loss of Traction: Losing traction in the truck or trailer is a constant danger during winter operations. DO NOT apply the brakes! When a skid begins, immediately release the accelerator pedal and push the clutch to the floor to stop spinning tires and don’t shift gears. Immediately steer into the skid. Maintain these corrections until the skidding stops.
Gear Selection: During inclement weather always use the highest gear possible when taking off to reduce the chances of spinning the tires and losing of traction. Lower gears provide more torque than higher gears and therefore are more likely to spin the tires instead of moving the truck. Release the clutch slowly when taking off or shifting gears to reduce slippage and always have a gear selected that will pull.
Speed Control: Slow down! Stopping distance increases with speed. Stopping distance increases when roads are contaminated with ice or snow. Winter driving can easily triple stopping distance. Drive at a speed that is appropriate for conditions and give yourself plenty of room to stop. SLOW DOWN!
When To Stop: Trucks and loads can be replaced but good drivers cannot. If you can’t see well because the roads are snow covered or blowing snow has reduced visibility to dangerous levels or the tires are spinning instead of gripping, stop the truck. If the road conditions are bad enough to require tire chains then find a place to park and wait out the weather.