Truck Drivers – Prepping For Winter

Navigating winter weather safely and efficiently

In a recent transportation/freight webinar on “Preparing Your Feet & Drivers For Winter,” Dean Croke, FreightWaves Chief Insight Officer, and Tom Boehler,  Erb Group Director of Safety and Compliance discussed what both drivers and fleets can do to be better prepared to handle the challenges that winter can impose on transportation logistics. 

Truck Maintenance and Equipment

Boehler said, “Making sure equipment is up to par is an important part of ensuring a fleet can withstand the low temperatures, ice, and snow that come with the winter months”.

He listed 12 essential items to check, including: snow on roads

  • Radiators
  • Tires
  • Wiper blades
  • Heater and defroster
  • Lights
  • Brakes
  • Muffler and exhaust
  • Battery
  • Fifth-wheel lubrication
  • Windows and mirrors
  • Froken brakes–Drain air tanks
  • 12. Bunk heater –Operation/cleanliness/exhaust pipe

Boehler added, “We’ve found that, with a lot of bunk heaters, drivers wait until the last minute, and they’re clogged up with debris and dirt,” Boehler said. “So, getting those bunk heaters cleaned and making sure they’re working before you get into the winter is very important.”

One of the keys for navigating winter weather while ensuring that loads are still delivered safely and on time is for both dispatch and drivers to work together and plan ahead.  For dispatch, this means being aware of weather conditions, estimating extra time and considering snow build-up on trailers. By listening to drivers and considering all potential obstacles the driver may face reinforces the dispatchers’ support for the drivers. This enables the logistics team to be better prepared and able to respond to drivers when delays occur.

For drivers, it means allowing extra time based on the weather forecast, strategically planning rest stops and packing extra food, water, and blankets in case they become stranded.

Carriers and drivers should ensure they have proper chain or traction devices on their tires and be aware of tire chaining regulations of each U.S. state or Canadian province they will be traveling through. Another important step in preparing fleets for the colder months is ensuring drivers are aware of the hazards that accompany winter weather, including poor traction, reduced stopping ability, steering and stopping, slippery surfaces, reduced ability to see and be seen and jackknifing.

Skillful driving techniques can also help drivers navigate winter hazards, including:

  • Smooth starts
  • Speed controls
  • Caution on hills
  • Curves and steering
  • Pavement markings
  • Lane changes
  • Stopping with ABS
  • Stopping without ABS
  • Tractor-trailer steering and fifth-wheel lubrication
  • Underpasses
  • Following distance

Snow build-up on equipment

Boehler noted that snow build-up on equipment has become a growing safety issue. Some states are cracking down on the snow build-up and the potential safety risks it causes for other drivers on the road – drivers and carriers may be held responsible in the event of an accident caused by snow not being cleaned off. He also encouraged carriers to have a game plan for dealing with snow build-up on dropped trailers at shippers’ locations.

Highways and roads are dangerous enough when bad weather is not a factor, so it is best to be aware of potential weather along your route. Proper truck maintenance and testing your trucks braking and maneuvering in different weather conditions will greatly reduce the likelihood of an accident when rain, sleet or snow is added to the mix.

Plan ahead, be prepared, allow extra time and drive safe.