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Winter Driving Tips for Truck Drivers to Stay Safe This Winter

Protecting yourself and others on the road is always important, but doing so requires even more care and sometimes skill in winter weather conditions. It is critical to spend the needed time and attention preparing for dangerous weather conditions you could encounter on your route, such as snow and ice, as part of your pre-trip planning. 

Truck drivers play an essential role in reducing the frequency and severity of crashes, injuries and deaths over the holidays. Nearly 117,000 people are injured and over 1,300 people are killed annually on snowy, slushy or icy pavement, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Implementing proven winter driving tips for truck drivers can ensure you and others get home safety.

Planning Ahead for Winter Weather Hazards

Trip planning is key to completing your route in the wintertime when you’re traveling through areas prone to seasonal conditions—which includes over 70% of the nation’s roads

Account for the extra time that may be needed to navigate areas with snowy or icy conditions by checking weather forecasts before and while on your journey. This includes checking weather radar to evaluate conditions throughout your entire route, not just your starting points or final destinations. 

Consider alternate routes or breaks to avoid traffic jams during bad weather. This will prove especially valuable when planning to drive through urban areas, where larger populations and congestion can lead to more backups. 

Try to plan your trip through rural areas during times when there is not significant snow accumulation to avoid holdups. Rural areas may not have roads plowed and salted in a timely manner for your safety. 

How to Spot Dangerous Winter Conditions

Staying alert on the road is especially important when driving in hazardous weather conditions. Your vigilance could save you and other drivers from accidents or other unsafe situations. 

Oftentimes, winter weather can change quickly—so you should always be watching how progressing conditions affect the road in front of you and your ability to navigate. Snow and ice accumulating on roads can rapidly increase with little notice. 

Look for these warning signs of winter road conditions: 

  • Icy bridges: When temperatures drop, these structures lose heat from two sides, causing them to freeze quicker than roads. 
  • Ice chunks: Large pieces of ice dislodged from overhangs, other vehicles or structures can pose an obstacle for other vehicles, causing swerving or accidents. 
  • Icy roads: Ice on roads can cause slick conditions for drivers. If you see large sections of ice on the road, slow your speed and increase your following distance.
  • Heavy snow: Big snow banks on the side of the road can cause problems for drivers who swerve or turn at certain angles, leaving them stalled and unable to move. Similarly, lots of snow on highways or other roads not plowed quickly can cause backups. 
  • Crashes: Winter weather can bring more accidents than usual on highways and other roads. When driving, be careful not to drive too closely to stalled vehicles. If possible, change lanes and steer clear of people and cars involved in crashes. 

Advice for Truck Driving on Ice This Winter

Ice poses one of the biggest challenges for truck drivers in wintertime. Its formation on roads and bridges can be hard to spot, making it difficult to take quick action to navigate around it. 

Even if you can’t see ice from your truck, it can still be on the roads and cause you to lose control. Temperatures approaching or under freezing — which is below 36°F — should signal that icy conditions are likely. Rain, snow or sleet at these temperatures make ice more likely. 

Adjusting your speeds and routes can help you avoid icy roads. Aside from your driving habits, you should make sure your truck condition is ready for wintertime routes. Osborn provides its trucks with regular maintenance to safeguard employees and prepare your truck for the conditions you may encounter on the road. This includes installing heavy-duty tires designed to withstand truck driving on ice.

Best Practices for Truck Driving in Snow

Visibility can be a major barrier when truck driving in snow. Blizzard-like conditions can make it difficult to see the road ahead of you, making it more difficult for you to predict future conditions and avoid hazards. 

As a truck driver, you must be able to discern whether or not visibility is sufficient for you to continue navigating your route safely. Any doubt should prompt you to connect with your dispatch team to discuss the safest options, which may include taking a break until conditions improve. 

When driving through heavy snowfall, make sure to utilize headlights and hazard lights. Increase your following distance from other vehicles to prevent accidents as it may be harder to stop if the road is slick. It is key to firmly grasp the steering wheel and remain fully alert when driving in these conditions. 

Follow this guidance when truck driving in snow: 

  • Stay calm: Do not let yourself panic if conditions become severe. Instead, find the nearest safe location, pull over and contact your dispatch team. 
  • Use your team: Never push through dangerous weather without notifying your dispatch team about concerns. No delivery is worth risking your safety. 
  • Prevent accidents: Keep safety tips top of mind when navigating the roads to prevent yourself from getting stuck, sliding or colliding with other vehicles. 

Stop Driving in Severe Winter Weather

There will be times when driving conditions become too dangerous to safety proceed. If you do not feel confident behind the wheel, you should pull over until weather improves. 

This can include situations like the following: 

  • Little to no visibility 
  • Extreme snow accumulation 
  • Heavy ice buildup 
  • Black ice
  • Considerable slush 
  • Rain in freezing temperatures 

Remember These Truck Driver Winter Safety Tips

Implementing these truck driver winter safety tips can give you peace of mind this holiday season—knowing what to look for and how to respond. When you’re navigating the roads in icy or snowy conditions, you should take precautions to protect yourself and fellow drivers. 

Truck driver winter safety tips include: 

  • Always communicate: Make sure you are always communicating with your dispatch team about conditions, including whether you have safety concerns or your delivery will be delayed. 
  • Conduct a safety check: Check with your team to ensure your truck’s tires and other equipment is in good condition to withstand icy and snowy roads. 
  • Be ready to pull over: If conditions are unsafe or questionable, take a break. 
  • Stock helpful supplies: Keep emergency items in your vehicle in case of an emergency—including a flashlight, blankets, food, water and shovel. 
  • Slow down and stay alert: Adjust your speed and concentrate on the road. 

Gear Up With Osborn This Winter

We support our employees by sharing winter driving tips for truck drivers to keep them safe. See how a career at Osborn could brighten up your holiday season.