An arctic cold front recently moved across the South and Southeastern United States, bringing ice, snow, whiteouts and treacherous driving to regions that don’t typically get much snow. Roads in many places are still covered in snow and ice across the Southern Plains and the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee valleys. With this recent severe winter weather in mind, we spoke with two truckers, Pinkie Dabney and Larry Cothran, to get their tips on winter driving and safety. Check out these five winter weather safety tips for truckers from Pinkie and Larry. 

1. Reduce Your Speed

When we spoke with company driver Pinkie, she had just driven out of New York state, where roads were covered in snow and ice from a storm that hit the area the previous week. Pinkie told us that she once jack-knifed in winter weather

“When my truck jack-knifed, I actually hit black ice,” Pinkie shared. “I believe that I was going too fast for the conditions. I was going the speed limit, but I should have been going way under the speed limit. The main thing in dealing with winter weather is to be vigilant, not being distracted and to have common sense. If it’s really that bad, no load is worth your life.”

“When my truck jack-knifed, I actually hit black ice,” Pinkie shared. “I believe that I was going too fast for the conditions. I was going the speed limit, but I should have been going way under the speed limit. The main thing in dealing with winter weather is to be vigilant, not being distracted and to have common sense. If it’s really that bad, no load is worth your life.”

2. No Salt? Use Laundry Detergent To Melt Snow

“Last week I was stuck in New Jersey because the roads were shut down because of a storm,” said Landstar driver Larry Cothran. “I don’t like to do winter driving, but if the money is there, sign me up because I’m going. I always tell new truckers to learn everything they can about winter driving. One thing I’ve learned is that if you have Tide or some kind of laundry detergent you can pour it around your tires and it’ll melt the snow.”

Like salt, laundry detergent can lower the melting/freezing temperature for ice. In addition to salt and laundry detergent, calcium chloride, sodium chloride and bleach also can be used to melt ice in a pinch.

3. Carry Plywood for Traction

“Sometimes I carry plywood with me in the winter,” advised Pinkie. “Sometimes when you get stuck, you’re stuck because your rear two tires on the back of the truck are spinning. If you’ve got plywood, sometimes you can shove the plywood under the tire and the tire catches the plywood to get you out. As a trucker, you need to know little tricks like this to get unstuck.”

A piece of plywood can keep your tires from spinning and can help you get out of ice, snow and even mud. Make sure to press your foot on the gas slowly to give the tire the opportunity to grip the plywood. Don’t have plywood? You also can try using a piece of cardboard, a piece of carpet or even your floor mats.

4. If the Weather Is Really Bad, Stay Put

Sometimes the best thing to do is not to get on the road at all. Both Larry and Pinkie told us that it’s important for truckers to prioritize safety.

“One thing I don’t do is chains,” Larry told us. “If it’s so bad that I have to chain-up, I don’t need to be driving.” 

Like Larry, Pinkie says that sometimes staying off the road is the best choice.

“You’ve got some truckers who will say, ‘I’ve got chains, so I’m going to chain up and I’ll be alright,’” said Pinkie. “If you have to chain up, man, shut it down. Go find a rest area, a truck stop or a safe haven and if it’s really that bad, just don’t be out there. A lot of people think they have to be running. They have that ‘if my wheels aren’t turning, I’m not making money’ mentality. But if you’re not living, that money isn’t going to mean anything to you or your family. That’s my major advice.”

5. Get Stocked Up, Be Prepared

“Always be prepared,” advised Larry. “Make sure you have adequate clothing in case your heat goes out. Make sure you have enough blankets and a shovel in case you have to shovel your way out of a parking lot.”

“Always be prepared,” advised Larry. “Make sure you have adequate clothing in case your heat goes out. Make sure you have enough blankets and a shovel in case you have to shovel your way out of a parking lot.”

In addition to carrying winter clothing and blankets, Pinkie recommends keeping a healthy supply of windshield washer fluid and de-icer on hand to keep your windshield clear. Pinkie told us that she carries three gallon-sized containers of salt with her on the truck in case she gets stuck, as well. She also currently is considering investing in a solar generator so that she can still have heat in her truck if she breaks down. 

“The solar generator that I found is powerful enough to run a refrigerator, television and a heater,” shared Pinkie. “Really, you could power a whole house with it. It costs $1,000, but I think it would be worth it. Then I’m not at the mercy of the truck.”  

For more winter driving tips, read Winter Driving Tips for Truckers. To download Trucker Tools’ free app, visit https://www.truckertools.com/web/carriers/