Winter can be a dangerous time to be on the roadways, even for the most experienced drivers out there. However, if you take action before winter weather hits, you're more likely to sail through the season with no problem. To help you prepare to stay safe this winter, we have consulted experienced truck drivers and fleet managers for their top winter driving tips for heavy duty trucks and commercial vehicles:
Compensate for poor traction by increasing following distance, driving slower, and making all changes gently. A slower speed gives you more time to react if something occurs in the roadway ahead. Extra patience and awareness of other drivers can go a long way this time of year.
Avoid sudden stops and starts in icy or rainy weather. If you need to slow down quickly in slippery conditions, try lightly pumping your brakes using just the ball of your foot, keeping your heel on the floor. This reduces your chance of locking your tires and losing control of your vehicle.
To give yourself enough room to move out of harm's way in a sudden emergency, increase the distance between you and other vehicles and avoid driving in packs. The stopping distance required on ice at 0°F is twice the amount required at 32°F. Normal following distances should be increased to 8-10 seconds when driving on icy, slippery surfaces.
You may need to take evasive action to avoid a collision. At speeds above 25 mph, gentle deceleration and steering around obstacles is better than braking alone because less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop. In slick conditions, sudden braking can lead to loss of control. The additional distance you have been keeping between other vehicles should give you more time to see and maneuver around obstacles and road hazards.
Sudden, sharp movements can quickly cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Grip your stearing wheel steadily and with a strong arm through ruts in the road, heavy wind, and on ice. Snowy or icy surfaces make steering difficult and require smooth, careful, precise movements of the steering wheel. Sudden movements of the steering wheel and excessive acceleration over ruts can cause your vehicle to go into a skid. Watch out for your trailer pushing you on curves and turns.
Black ice is a thin layer of transparent ice that forms when the temperature is close to freezing. Black ice often makes the road surface look slightly wet like a water puddle, making it dangerously deceptive. Shaded spots, bridges, overpasses and intersections are areas where ice is likely to form first or be the most slippery. Hazardous icy road conditions can sneak up on you, so when the temperature gets close to freezing (below 40°F) watch out for these clues:
Mountain weather in winter can be severe and can change rapidly. Be ready for wind gusts in exposed positions and be aware of emergency vehicles and snowplows. Watch for melting or hard-packed snow and strong side winds as these can also cause a loss of control. If at all possible, do not stop in avalanche zones and always obey posted rules. Tire chains or snow tires may be required for certain routes. Local signage should indicate this and most states have a transportation radio station you can monitor with traffic and road condition updates in your trip area.
Remember: Don't ask your truck to do more than it can.
If you don't feel comfortable driving for any reason, DON'T DRIVE!
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