Driving your car in winter is a pretty steep learning curve but, as anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Ice Road Truckers will tell you, hauling your load from A to B when the temperatures drop and the snow level rises is a whole different ballgame.
Not only do you have to dress warmer, get used to shovelling your way through drifts with numb fingers, scraping ice off your windscreen and even get into the habit of salting the road every so often, you need to give considerable thought to the hazards?
During the other three seasons, fuel efficiency and timeliness are the most important factors on your mind – that’s how the business works. It’s all about driving in a way that will boost your company’s bottom line. However, the festive season is all about being safe. It’s about getting to your destination and back in the safest way manner; something that will benefit your business as much as your own mortality.
So, without further ado, here are our top tips for trucking during – as all the songs say – the most wonderful (read: treacherous) time of the year:
- Complacency Is Not An Option
You may be thinking to yourself, “ah, come on, that is a no-brainer,” and you would be right, yet complacency is still the biggest cause of truck accidents as this website filled with useful information will attest. You are going up against mother nature and you need to respect that fact. There is no point trying to be a hero or acting with your eyes on the dollar bills at the end. Instead, you need to employ all seven senses and stay alert. The risks are too high – not just for you but for those around you too.
- Always Winterize Your Truck
In the same way you have winterized your home – caulking the windows and doors, stocking up on firewood, making sure you have enough heating oil and getting your winter clothes down from the attic – you need to winterize your rig. That’s partly to do with your truck being your money-maker and mainly to do with your own safety. We can’t stress how crucial this is. Nor can we do winterizing justice in a short paragraph, which is why we urge you to watch the embedded video below. What’s ten minutes when your truck, health and livelihood are all at stake?
- Easy On The Pedals
You’re a trucker; you know all about being easy on the pedals because that’s where your profits come from. The gentler you are the less fuel you use. Well, this same concept needs to be adopted and exaggerated when it comes to bad weather. We’re talking about driving slowly, braking with caution, accelerating slowly and making your changes as gently as possible. You also need to double – if not triple – your braking distances. And lastly, if you do find yourself caught on ice terrafirma and needing to slow down quickly, then do it by gently pumping the brakes so that you don’t lock your tires and be prepared to deploy zig-zag defensive driving.
- Keep Your Tank Full
Anywhere between full to the brim and half-full is okay, but don’t let it drop below this. Why? Because then you run the risk of condensation occurring in your lines and that could be freezing in the pipes. However, if you make sure your tank never dips between the halfway marker then you’ll find the chances of this happening drastically reduced. That said, you should still inspect your engine before, during and at the end of each trip, making sure you pay special attention to your fuel tank.
- Watch Your Speed
It is better to be ten minutes late in this world than ten minutes early for the next. Remember that when you are driving, by which we mean watch your speed.
- No Distractions This Season
Distracted driving remains the second most common reason for accidents (after drinking), so don’t allow yourself this temptation, especially during the winter months. We know this is a bit of an ambiguous statement to make, so to help you understand exactly what we mean A) pull over if you want to eat, drink or smoke, B) turn off your phone’s notifications and only pick it up when you reach a rest stop, C) know the route you are taking before you set off or use a voice-assisted satellite navigation system and D) invest in as much trucking tech that will make your life easier as you can.
- Don’t Panic When Skidding
This is the fear all truckers face when driving in wintery conditions; it’s getting caught in the dreaded skid. It’s bad enough in a car, never mind an 82,000 pound truck. So, to help you out a little, we have pulled together a few pointers, and it all starts off with: DON’T SLAM YOUR BRAKES EVER. You want to tap your brakes instead, and only when your wheels are straight. If you are really struggling to slow your vehicle, then try gently turning the wheel in smooth motions as this will help you slow-up your momentum. Another thing you can do is avoid any downhill slopes. If that means adding twenty miles to your journey, then so be it – a huge part of staying safe is reducing risks ahead of time.
- Know Every Situation You’re Getting Into
One of the best tips we can give any trucker this winter is to do with “situational awareness”, which is a fuddy-duddy way of saying know exactly what is around you at all times. That means the road conditions ahead, the weather reports in your area, how far is between each rest stop, what the traffic reports are saying and, yes, even what the road gradients ahead are saying. It isn’t just this, though. It is also anticipating what other drivers may be about to do so that you can react quicker.
Like we said at the start, these winter driving tips are as much to do with your business running successfully as it is to do with safety. Now, good luck out there.