7 Winter Driving Tips for Truck Drivers

Photograph of Partial view of large commercial truck driving in hazardous conditions of snow and rain on a freeway.

Depending on where your routes take you, the winter season can bring with it the peril of slippery roads, blinding snowstorms, and cold nights that can make life difficult for a trucker. As a truck driver, you need to drive during difficult conditions and often make tight deadlines, but you also need to do so safely. 

Proper winter driving means that you, your cargo, and the vehicles around you all safely reach their destination. So how can you manage your deliveries and navigate icy roads safely? We’ve compiled a list of safe winter driving tips for truck drivers. 

From slowing down to maintaining your truck lights and brakes, there are steps you can take to make your life a lot easier during winter and keep everyone safe on the road. 

  1. Slow Down and Keep Your Distance 

When the road is slippery, you need to slow down to avoid losing control. Trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when loaded, and that’s a lot of weight to slow down suddenly. Depending on a variety of factors, including weather and weight, it can take the length of a football field for a semi-truck to come to a complete stop. 

Roads can be slippery, icy, and your visibility is reduced in winter weather conditions. So during the winter, you should always be driving well below the speed limit. Drive at a speed that allows you to come to a complete stop safely. 

Keeping your distance from other drivers is also key to winter driving. Because it takes longer to stop during winter, leave even more space between your truck and other vehicles. A good rule of thumb is if someone has to stop suddenly, you should have enough space to stop safely without rear-ending the vehicle in front of you. 

  1. Maneuver With Care 

You know how large your vehicle is and how much space you need to make turns, change lanes, and maneuver your truck through traffic. 

In winter, it’s important to not only take the space you need but be vigilant about indicating early, so other drivers have a chance to give you the space you need. Before you slow down, tap your brake pedal a few times. A few flashes of your brake light will help alert drivers behind you that you are slowing down. 

When changing lanes or turning, you should decelerate slowly, change the lanes with caution, and try to turn on the indicator 100m before you reach the corner, so other drivers can make adjustments.

And remember, just because you’re being vigilant, it doesn’t mean other drivers are. Move with care and make sure the drivers around you are aware of any turns and lane changes before you make them. 

  1. Stay Vigilant for Black Ice 

Black ice is the thin layer of ice that forms on the road near-freezing temperatures. Despite its name, black ice is actually clear, which means that it can be easy to miss. 

Black ice can form if it has rained or snowed, and the temperature drops below zero. If these are the weather conditions, be aware that you may encounter black ice on the road. 

While it can form anywhere, black ice is most commonly found in places that don’t get a lot of sun. A typical place to find black ice is under an overpass. Reduce your speed significantly if you are driving in conditions that could create black ice. 

If you do hit black ice, remain calm. Continue steering your truck, and ease off the gas pedal. Avoid hitting the brakes suddenly, as it could cause you to skid. Focus on maintaining control of your truck and slowing down gradually. 

  1. Keep Your Truck Lights in Perfect Condition

Your lights are crucial for driving safety all year round, but especially in winter. Your lights are vital to your visibility, particularly during precipitation. 

Your brake lights help other drivers maintain a safe distance from you when you are trying to stop. Your lights are how you communicate with other vehicles on the road, so never be complacent when it comes to maintenance and repairs of your truck’s lights. 

If you notice a light on your truck is malfunctioning, address the issue immediately. Especially if the weather conditions and visibility are poor, it’s hazardous to drive without functioning lights. 

For headlight and brake light repair and maintenance, contact Kelly’s Truck and make sure you stay safe on the road. 

  1. Check Your Diesel 

Diesel fuel can freeze during cold weather and create a lot of problems for you and your truck. In cold weather, diesel fuel can turn to jelly, crystalize and lose its viscosity. And water that gets into your fuel lines can freeze and clog everything up. 

Check your filters regularly for ice. This is an indication that your diesel has frozen or water has gotten into your fuel lines. 

To prevent your diesel from freezing, you can use an anti-gel fuel additive and your block heater to keep your fuel lines warm. Changing your fuel filters is also a good idea at the start of winter to avoid any clogging due to old or overused filters. 

To avoid diesel problems, you need to understand them. Speak to your mechanic today about treating your diesel and proper diesel and fuel line maintenance in the winter. 

  1. Avoid Overusing Your Brakes

When driving in winter on slippery roads, it’s common to rely too heavily on your brakes. But remember, your jake brake is not intended for slippery conditions and should only be used on dry surfaces. 

Avoid using your foot brake until you straighten your entire vehicle. If you use your foot brake when you haven’t aligned your trailer properly, your trailer could spin out of control. 

All year-round, but especially in winter, make sure your brakes are in perfect working order. You should inspect your air brake chamber for corrosion or signs of damage, lubricate your brakes correctly, and stay on top of regular brake maintenance. 

At Kelly’s Truck, we handle all repairs and maintenance, large or small. If it’s time for a maintenance check, let us do the work to keep you safe. 

  1. Always Check the Weather 

While you can’t always take a day off driving, you can plan your driving around the weather conditions. 

Always check the weather report during the winter before your journey. Be aware of icy road warnings, blizzard alerts, and more. And never drive if the roads are deemed unsafe by weather or state reports. 

Plan your route ahead of time, and have a plan if the driving conditions become unsafe. Know where you can stop and take a break and when you need to do so.

Stay Safe this Winter

Winter truck driving safety precautions need to be taken seriously. Follow our winter driving tips to keep yourself and others safe on the road. 

If you’re due for a maintenance check, contact Kelly’s Truck. With 50 years of experience serving truck drivers, we’ll get your truck in perfect working order as quickly as possible, so you know your lights, brakes, and everything else are ready for winter. 

Kelly’s Truck offers roadside assistance if you experience a breakdown due to harsh weather or unexpected mechanical issues. Contact us at 1-800-793-9282, request a quote online, or stop into our San Leandro location. 

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