It’s January and that means the season of snow, ice and freezing rain is here. For those of you who run through high elevations, Canada and the Northern United States, that often means an extra layer of stress and safety concerns when you’re on the road. Blizzard and winter weather conditions already have shut down several major highways this winter season, including I-95 in Virginia just last week. With this in mind, we’ve pulled together tips from truckers from across the country on how you can keep those wheels rolling and stay warm, safe and sound in winter weather.
Check out these top 10 winter trucking tips.
It’s always a good idea to pack extra winter essentials when you know that you’ll be running into snow, ice, cold temperatures, black ice and/or sleet. Consider creating a winter essentials kit that includes a sleeping bag rated to minus 10 degrees, extra water and food, antifreeze, salt, flares and anti-gel fuel additive. It wouldn’t hurt to throw in an extra jacket, gloves and a pair of boots, too.
If you’re routinely running through cold weather, it may be a good idea to invest in an auxiliary power unit (APU) and/or bunk heater to stay warm when the temperatures dip below freezing. Both APUs and bunk heaters are designed to keep you warm when you don’t want to idle your truck to stay warm. Bonus: an APU also can be used to keep you cool in the summer months.
Many of the drivers we’ve interviewed and surveyed have told us that you should change how you drive when you encounter winter weather. When it’s snowing, sleeting or extremely windy or you suspect black ice, you may want to reduce your speed, leave extra space between your rig and other vehicles, and avoid packs of cars.
“The main thing in dealing with winter weather is to be vigilant, not being distracted and to have common sense,” says trucker Pinkie Dabney. “If it’s really that bad, no load is worth your life.”
In a Trucker Tools survey conducted early last spring, approximately 32 percent of the truckers we surveyed reported changing lanes in the winter months to avoid cold weather states and winter weather. You can use Trucker Tools’ free driver app to search for specific types of loads in specific lanes with your favorite brokers when you want to bypass snowstorms and other winter weather.
When you’re doing running in winter months, it’s important to use multiple sources to monitor the weather forecast. Most smart phones include some kind of weather app that you can use to see whether you’ll encounter bad winter driving on your run. You also can download specific apps such a Weather Nation, AccuWeather and The Weather Channel app to stay up to date on the latest weather forecasts.
Different states have different laws and requirements for using chains. Some states such as Colorado, Nevada, Washington, California and Oregon have strict chain laws that require that you use chains during the winter months and/or if you haul heavy loads. While some states will post chain requirements on lighted message signs on the highway, your best bet is to check the state’s highway website to get information on chain laws.
If you do use chains, you’ll want to cover the locks on your chains so that they’re not exposed to ice, snow, road salt and dirt. If your chain locks freeze, you won’t be able to get your key into the lock and you may have to cut the lock off with bolt cutters. Some truckers use cut tennis balls and/or sandwich bags to protect their chain locks from the elements.
It’s also good to get into the habit of topping off your windshield wiper fluid at the beginning of each day when you know you’ll be running through winter weather. Making this part of your daily pre-trip planning can ensure that you don’t get stuck on the highway with a dirty or icy windshield and no wiper fluid. You also may want to add de-icer to your wiper solvent.
A shout out to owner operator Wayne Cragg for this tip. If you’re struggling with condensation on the inside of your windshield, consider titling your sun visors to reflect heat onto the windshield. This is a great tip for those of you with defrosters that don’t work well or when temperatures and humidity levels are constantly changing. According to Wayne, most trucks now have three sun visors that you can push toward the windshield and tip up to reduce condensation.
A big thanks to trucker Larry Cothran for this ingenious winter trucking tip. If you don’t have salt on hand when you get stuck in snow and ice, laundry detergent can do the job of salt in a pinch. Like salt, laundry detergent can lower the melting and freezing temperatures for ice. Simply pour some kind of laundry detergent around your tires to melt the snow.
Be sure to read our latest trucker interview, Meet 25-Year Trucking Industry Vet Holly O’Donnell.
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