5 Tips for Driving a Truck Safely in Harsh Winter Weather

Over 70 percent of all roads in the United States are located in regions that receive over 5 inches of snow every year during the winter, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Not only can winter precipitation combined with cold temperatures create slick road conditions, but it can also reduce visibility while driving. For this reason, every truck driver should learn how to stay safe when driving on snow- and ice-covered roads, whether they live in a snowy region of the country or not.

Read on to learn five tips for driving safely in harsh winter weather.

1. Increase Following Distance When Driving on Wet and Icy Roads

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), motor vehicle collisions that involve large trucks most often occur when the truck collides with the vehicle in front of them.

For this reason, one of the most effective ways to avoid collisions with other motor vehicles when driving on snow- and ice-covered roads during the winter is to increase your following distance. All truck drivers should maintain about one second of following distance between their vehicle and the one in front of them for every 10 feet of vehicle length when driving at slower speeds during non-adverse weather conditions.

However, you should double this following distance during adverse weather conditions to compensate for the increase in braking distance that accompanies driving on slick road surfaces. When braking on icy or snowy roads, it can take up to 10 times longer for your truck to stop than it does when braking on clear roadways.

2. Know When and Where Black Ice Typically Forms

Black ice is a hazard when driving on winter roads, because unlike traditional ice that is often white in appearance, black ice is clear and invisible to the naked eye. For this reason, many truckers do not realize that there is a patch of black ice on the road they are driving on until they actually begin driving on the slick ice.

However, when you learn when and where black ice typically forms, you can prepare yourself for this potential adverse road condition when necessary to help prevent unnecessary surprises while driving.

Black ice most commonly develops when weather is hovering just above or around 32 degrees F and is less common when temperatures are extremely frigid. This ice type typically forms during the night or early morning hours on shaded areas of roadways that receive little traffic. Common black ice locations include under highway overpasses and on overpasses and bridges.

When encountering a patch of black ice, remain calm, drive slowly over the ice, and avoid hitting your breaks until you pass over the icy patch. Most black ice patches are no longer than 20 feet in length.

3. Remove Snow from All Lights and Reflectors Regularly

Even high-quality exterior lights and reflectors that are in great condition can become covered with snow and ice that reduces their light output and visibility during the winter. For this reason, you should remove snow and ice from all exterior truck lights and reflectors every time you stop when driving in snowy conditions.

Unfortunately, some truckers make the mistake of clearing the snow off the lights on the front of their trucks alone while forgetting to clear the snow from their back truck lights, such as their tail and brake lights. This mistake can make a truck less visible drivers behind you on the road during adverse weather conditions, increasing the chance that one will rear-end the truck.

4. Never Be Afraid to Take a Bad-Weather Break

One mistake many truck drivers make during the winter is feeling like they always have to keep their trucks moving towards their destinations, even when harsh winter weather decreases road visibility greatly. However, you should never be afraid to remove your truck from the roadway and take a break when your driving visibility has declined to a point where you no longer feel safe on the road.

All bad weather conditions, such as heavy snowfall, eventually pass. For this reason, taking a break during adverse weather can often help keep you and other drivers on the road safe without increasing your route time dramatically.

5. Know How to Clear Ice and Snow From Stuck Tires

After pulling over to take a break from driving in snowy weather, you may occasionally find that your truck tires are stuck in snow and will not budge when you attempt to drive away. For this reason, you should learn how to free your tires when they become stuck in snow and ice now instead of panicking later when it happens.

Many truckers free tires stuck in snow by engaging their clutches, fueling the engine slightly, and gently rocking the truck and tires until they can drive away. However, some truck drivers instead keep bags of clay-based cat litter in their truck cabins and sprinkle the litter around their tires when they are stuck in snow to provide much-needed traction that the tires can use to free themselves.

Follow these tips for driving a truck safely in harsh winter weather to help keep yourself and others safe on the road when you are driving in adverse winter weather conditions. Contact the truck experts at Arrow Truck Sales for all of your pre-owned and used truck needs today.