Winter can cause many problems. Whether its rain, freezing rain, wind, or snow, truck drivers must be prepared to face the hazards winter driving brings. Without proper preparation, these conditions can cause senseless losses to your bottom line - losses in both equipment and in workers' compensation claims.
The most frequent reasons for winter weather related accidents are:
- Limited or reduced visibility
- Limited or reduced traction
- Aggressive braking on a slick road
- Inability to judge safe speed for conditions
- Poor shifting skills on a slick road
- Poor negotiation of a curve
- Failure to prepare vehicle properly
- Failure to plan route properly
- Failure to adapt to changing weather patterns
Proper planning, preparation, and driving can result in successful completion of a trip. Here are some tips drivers can use to help reduce the risk of a crash while driving in the winter:
- Plan your trip accordingly - Check weather forecasts and possible construction areas along your route, chart fuel and meal stop locations, and allow extra time for traffic delays
- Compensate for poor traction by slowing down and making all movements gently - never drive faster than conditions allow
- Double or triple your following distance and "never" tailgate. Try to build as much separation between you and other vehicles. Keep at least a ten second following distance when driving on snow and ice covered roads - Avoid driving in packs
- Black Ice: Black Ice is a weather phenomenon in which an extra thin layer of ice forms on the road. Its shine can fool drivers into thinking its water. This shiny ice surface is one of the most slippery road conditions. Black ice is likely to form first under bridges & overpasses, in shady spots & at intersections
- Get in the habit of easing up on bridges - bridges & overpasses are often the most dangerous in the winter since they freeze before roadways
- Brake gently to avoid skidding
- If you begin to skid:
- Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, quickly
- Then steer in the direction you want your car to go
- Before the rear wheels stop skidding, shift to drive and gently press
- Do not slam on the brakes
- Stay alert....keeping window slightly open to provide fresh air is a good idea
- Turn on your lights and keep them clean
- Turn OFF the cruise control - Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads
- Drivers need to be aware of becoming overconfident if they have antilock brakes. If the brakes happen to lock, release them to avoid sliding. This will help to regain steering
- Watch for melting or hard-packed snow and strong side winds
- Check for ice by feeling the back of your mirror and watching the spray off tires
- Watch for trailer pushing you on curves and turns
- Shifting product and icy roads are not a good combination. Drivers should monitor shipper's loading procedures to ensure weight has been evenly distributed within their trailer
- Don't ask your truck to do more than it can. If you don't feel comfortable driving, Park it.
- ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS wear your seat belt
NON-DRIVING (Workers' Comp)
Many trucking companies experience a spike in workers' compensation claims during the winter months as a direct result of winter hazards that are completely unrelated to driving a truck. Statistics show 48% of all injuries occurs in the winter. 63% of injury costs result from winter events. Ice is perhaps the most significant culprit. Snow and ice increase the likelihood for slips and falls. Icy running boards, steps, and trailer decks account for thousands of slip-and-fall accidents. While most are relatively minor, every year a few drivers are paralyzed for life from these incidents. Suggestions to reduce this risk include:
- Proper footwear: Wear ankle high boots with hard rubber (oil resistant) non-slip soles. Cowboy boots are not a good shoe on slick surfaces. Treat your boots with a quality water-sealing product and keep a good coat of sealant on them to retain their waterproofing
- Watch for thin ice on dock steps, on tractor steps, cat-walks, ICC bars, and in parking lots. Walk "around" the icy spots, use handrails and avoid being distracted when walking on icy surfaces
- Before exiting your tractor, and while still sitting in your seat, make it a habit of running your foot across the top step to check for ice
- ALWAYS USE "3 points of contact" when entering and exiting. Transfer your weight carefully and TAKE YOUR TIME. Haste is the root cause of most slip and fall accidents
- Proper attire: Frostbite is another problem. Many frostbite injuries come from not wearing proper headgear and gloves when you are outside your truck, especially while refueling or doing your pre/post-trip inspection. Whenever you are outside in freezing weather, be sure to wear gloves, a hat (most body heat escapes through the scalp), and in cold temperatures, make sure your ears are covered
- Cold equipment does not work as well. Avoid injuries from hard pulling 5th wheel pins, trailer tandem sliders, pulling hoods, etc.
- Going from warm to cold temperatures fatigues a body faster. You will tire sooner if you are moving in and out several times during your work day
- Cold outdoor temperatures cause muscles to become "tenser" and makes you more prone to strains when working around tractor and trailer. Avoid muscle strains by doing short warm up exercises and regular stretching
It's equally critical to emphasize both winter driving safety as well as winter non-driving safety. Our wish during this winter season is for everyone to reduce their risk of accidents and to be healthy and free of injuries to be able to spend time with family and friends.
Driving Ambition is a premier CDL truck driver staffing company serving Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Since 2001, we have specialized in matching safe, experienced CDL drivers for our customers and great job opportunities for our professional truck drivers.
Our commitment to safety and building solid working relationships with both customers and CDL drivers has allowed us to earn an unparalleled reputation with our Proven Drivers and Exceptional Service.