After the holiday seasons it feels as though we’re headed out of winter, unfortunately that’s not really the case; most of winter’s worst is still to come. Above the equator and especially in the snow belt, the effects of winter on driving conditions are often felt through March, and even into April some years. For those living and working in these conditions it can feel like a 50/50 split between snowy roads and summer/construction. Maintaining vigilance for a few more months can help keep you from being sidelined by an accident or repair.
Prepare Your Rig For Darkness
Above the equator, the sun sets earlier and rises later in the winter. Being seen is just as important as seeing others—even when towering over 13′ and over 70′ long. Be certain to clear your mirrors, windows, lights, and reflective tape all around your rig. If possible, stop through a truck wash station with a power washer to hit the hard-to-reach illumination and reflective surfaces to be visible to other drivers.
Be Mindful of Slippery Surfaces
The posted speed limits on the on and off-ramps may be fine in the dry or even mildly wet, but when the mercury drops to near or below freezing, those speeds may be beyond what is safe. Exercise extreme caution, especially with blind corners or fresh snow on the surface—it may be covering icy conditions.
Stay Out Of Ruts
Driving in the ruts of other vehicles might be tempting, however the lighter vehicles may actually be compacting the snow into ice instead of spreading it, and following their tracks may be more hazardous than forging your own road. When in doubt, leave extra room between yourself and others on the road, and reduce your speed so you have greater reaction time. The last thing you need when hauling a full load is to begin to slide or skid when needing to maneuver.
Turn Off Engine Brake
Engine brakes are a trucker’s best friend on a descent, however in icy or snowy conditions, they can lead to a loss of traction, especially over an icy bridge or off-pitch roadway. Disable your engine brake until you know the road conditions are stable enough to support it.