Arguably one of the toughest challenges that truck drivers face is driving in adverse weather conditions, and especially driving in snow. However, as with most tricky tasks, the key to winter driving safety is proper preparation. With that in mind, here are some tips for how to drive in snow safely and efficiently, followed by some answers to questions you may have about specific circumstances.
1. Double up on inspections
As a truck driver, you already have pre-trip inspections that you are required to carry out as part of DOT regulations. On some days it may be tempting to go through the motions as quickly as possible, however, especially if it is snowing, it is important to give them proper time and attention. A thorough check of your tires, wipers, and lights could make all the difference if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
2. Don’t be afraid to take it slow
When it is snowing, visibility is worse than normal and wheels can struggle to find traction. Significantly reducing your speed in the snow can give you more time to react should something unexpected arise. It also lessens the chance of fishtailing or sliding in the snow.
3. Give yourself space
One of the main benefits of taking it slow is that it gives you more space in front to brake and slow down when something happens on the road ahead, but giving yourself space in every other direction is equally important. Traffic tends to move in packs, and it can be safer if you remove yourself from the group. This gives you some space to react if something goes wrong, or even just if weather or traffic suddenly worsens.
4. Take extra caution on ramps
Most accidents happen on entrance and exit ramps. This is especially true when driving in snow. That’s because there are sharp turns, a need to accelerate, and poor visibility — each of which can potentially lead to a sticky situation. Of course, you can only control your own vehicle, so watch your speed and surroundings carefully, and give others plenty of space to enter and exit.
5. Use your CB radio
If you don’t already have a CB radio, consider investing in one. This is one of the best ways to keep up to date on potential problems and hazards ahead of you, as well as warn others and signal for help if necessary.
6. Keep your lights clean
When visibility is already poor, you need any help you can get. That’s why it’s important to keep your lights clean. Check them before you leave, and even if they are only looking a little bit dirty, consider giving them a wash before setting out.
7. Avoid quick acceleration and sudden braking
Because of the aforementioned issue with traction, quick acceleration and sudden braking should be avoided. As a truck driver, you are probably already cautious in this area, but some extra caution may help
8. Keep fuel tanks full
Keeping your fuel tanks full will give you extra weight, which will help with traction while driving in snow. This ideally means more than three-quarters full. This will also give you peace of mind in case you end up stranded somewhere where you cannot fill up.
9. Get a set schedule
Sometimes drivers can be tempted to rush through their routes when the weather is bad, but if you have a set schedule, you won’t feel the pressure to look for shortcuts.
What do you do if you start sliding on ice?
All of the above tips are aimed at preventing these kinds of situations, but if you find yourself in a slide, the most important things to remember are as follows:
- Don’t slam on your breaks too hard
- Turn into the slide
- Don’t overcorrect
It is difficult in the moment, but keeping a cool head is the most important thing. If you prepare now, that should help.
When should you not drive in the snow?
Knowing when not to drive in the snow can save you from a potentially dangerous situation. Keep an eye on weather reports, traffic reports, and forecasts. If visibility is to the point where you cannot see more than a few feet in front, or if more than a few inches of snow is falling in a low-trafficked area, these are all instances where you may consider waiting it out.
How do you drive downhill in snow?
Driving downhill in snow is one of the most difficult tasks. The main concepts mentioned in the above tips still apply: keep your speed low, remain in a low gear, give yourself plenty of space, and brake gently.
At Matheson we pay all of our drivers by the hour, and they have set schedules. This means that you do not have to rush through your route when the weather is bad, and you’ll get to know the roads like the back of your hand. There are many other benefits of being a Matheson driver — check our careers page to read more, see if you meet our requirements, and view openings today.
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