Commercial trucks are already at greater risk for an accident, but winter weather increases that risk even more. Knowing how to prepare for a winter trip, and how to handle icy conditions, will keep your truck drivers safe through the coldest months of the year.
Before Truckers Hit the Road
You most likely already have a truck inspection process in place, but make sure drivers inspect the tires, wiper blades, fluids, and lights more often during freezing temperatures. A truck's condition can change just as quickly as the weather, so taking a little extra time to do a visual check and a hands-on inspection of these items could make a big difference. Inspections should occur before the trip and during stops.
If your drivers are uncomfortable driving in icy weather, or if weather reports are warning about dangerous conditions, use your best judgment to make safe decisions. Rebooking a delivery or getting behind on schedule is better than putting your driver in an unsafe situation.
Be Prepared: What to Bring on a Winter Drive
Along with the inspection, ensure that your drivers have the right supplies on hand to stay safe. These are some recommended items:
- Warm clothes (layers, gloves, hat that covers ears, socks, boots)
- Water-resistant coat
- Bag of sand or salt
- Windshield scraper
- Tire chains
- Extra gasoline (you should always have at least half a tank of gas just in case)
- Cat litter (great to put under your tires when stopping even for just a few minutes helps with traction)
- Jumper cables
- Non-perishable food and water
Staying Safe During the Drive
If the weather is safe enough to drive, truckers should still take precautions while on the road. Drivers need to know the limits of their equipment, as well as themselves. Pushing the truck or their own abilities beyond their limits is too risky. While on the road, truckers should drive at a slower pace, keep both hands firmly on the wheel at all times, and brake and accelerate lightly to avoid spinning out of control.
They should also look out for major winter driving hazards, such as:
There are plenty of tools to make icy roads safer to drive on, but there's still the risk of trucks skidding on the ice. Here's what to do in a skid:
- Stop braking
- Depress the clutch quickly
- Focus on the left mirror only
- Steer and counter-steer until the truck straightens out
The best ways to avoid skidding are:
- Don't brake too hard
- Don't steer too sharply
- Don't accelerate too quickly
- Don't drive too fast
Black ice is a thin layer of transparent ice that forms when the temperature is close to freezing. It's extremely dangerous, but can be hard to spot since it usually just looks like a little water puddle on the road. Drivers should be especially cautious on bridges, overpasses, mountains, and in shaded spots.
Here are some signs that truckers should be watching for black ice:
- Ice builds up on the side mirrors, antennas, or top corners of the windshield
- Water spray from tires other vehicles stops
- Roadside trees and signs have ice on them
First, you should plan ahead to ensure that you aren't sending drivers out when a bad storm is expected. But sometimes, blizzards can come out of nowhere. If that happens, tell drivers to pull over and stay put. Drivers should run the engine only 10-15 minutes every hour to save gas, so they should bundle up and keep moving to stay warm.
Keep your drivers safe by educating them on the best way to handle winter hazards. If you want more information on how to keep your workforce safe and healthy, contact one of our work health experts.