Truck driving in the winter season is hard, especially when you’d rather be at home drinking cocoa by the fireplace. But being a fleet driver takes skill and the adventures on the road you face as one aren’t something everyone can endure, this is why every now and then taking into consideration some driving tips for the winter will only make you a better driver than you were before.
Even for fleet managers, the safety of their fleet staff is of utmost priority. No matter how much experience a driver has, the job requires to strive for growth always, especially during the winter season. Over 70% of US roads are in snow-covered regions, and more often than not, your regular routes would be icy in the winter. Not just snowy roads, but even the days are shorter due to the lack of daylight which could prove to be hazardous.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has named winter the most dangerous season for trucking. Any precaution you take would be more than necessary for a safe trip. Additional safety precautions in 2020-2021 should be taken by the fleet managers and drivers by using masks, sanitizers, and maintaining social distancing with the pandemic around.
Follow these 4 fleet driving tips for this winter:
1. Go Slower than the Speed Limit:
The icier the road, the lower friction it produces with the tires. If you attended all your science classes at school, you know that friction is an important factor while bringing vehicles to a halt, add weight to the equation, and you have yourself a truck that will be hard to control on cruise control. On snowy roads, loaded trucks take longer than usual to stop so if you are already following the ‘lower than the speed limit’ rule, it should be no problem for you to stop when needed.
2. Tires, Brake Pads and Oil Viscosity:
Winter tires are made of a softer compound as compared to summer tires. Softer compounds hold a better grip on icy roads than their hard counterparts. Moreover, tires made specifically for the winter have small biting grooves to dig into the snow for a better grip. They also come with deep treads that hold snow because the best way to hold on to snow is by using snow. Avoiding all-season tires is suggested as they are not structured for extreme snowy trucking roads.
Give your brake pads a trial run before going out on the road. If you feel any discomfort like stiffness, looseness, squeaking or component disengaging, have it replaced immediately. Also, make sure that there’s no moisture deposition on the brake lines. This moisture can freeze and break your brake lines in the extreme temperatures.
Let’s go back to science class to understand how a thicker version of the oil is not preferred for winter. High viscosity oils have lower flowing motion in lower temperatures. But low viscosity oils are thin with better flow and should be used on your icy trucking roads.
3. Take Care of Jam On the Brakes and Skids:
Jamming on the brakes will not be acceptable when you’re on a highway covered with snow on all sides. Out of the 150,000 annual car crashes on icy roads, most of them happen because of the spinning of cars due to sudden brakes. Instead, go for a slow and consistent pressure on the brakes to prevent them from locking.
Seasoned fleet drivers are more preferred to drive on dangerous roads because they have plenty of experience of handling vehicles while skidding. If you’re new to a situation like this one, your instincts will push you to make rookie mistakes – like steering the wheel in the direction opposite to the skid. However, this will only make it harder for you to gain back control of your truck and even possibly lead to deadly accidents. But if you’re a professional, you know the best way to handle a skid is to give in to it. Turn your steering wheel in the direction of the skid. This will avoid your tires from making any sudden movements and bring back balance to your vehicle.
4. Heavy-Duty Wipers and Truck Lights:
As per The Federal Highway Administration, over 16,000 injuries occur annually in low visibility road accidents. So, it’s important that you get the mechanics of your wipers checked and repaired before embarking on your cold journey. Installing heavy-duty wiper blades on your truck will help you wipe off snow from your windscreen more efficiently.
One of the most difficult things about ice road trucking is low-visibility. But you can fix that by planting wide-angle lights on your truck. Change your front, back and sidelights with better visibility lights so that you and other drivers on the road can have a safe ride.
An additional quick tip: Stocking up essentials in your truck to prepare for winter season is a must. Another important aspect to consider is to choose the right diesel fuel for the truck engine. Diesel includes a wax, called paraffin, which can form in a gel-type substance in extremely cold temperatures and become a cause of engine failure. As an informed truck driver, you should make sure to examine the cetane rating of the diesel at the pumping station. For you to rig through the winter season, the higher cetane rating of fuel will always make your journey smoother.
There may be moments when driving on ice may intimidate your spirits, but even just sitting in the driver’s seat will rid you of more than half of the nerves. Just make sure your truck has undergone regular servicing and winter accessory installations have been completed with enough trial runs, and you should be good to go. Like we said before, trucking on ice takes skill, and you can enhance yours by simply following regular winter precaution manuals.
Whether you’re a fleet staff manager or a fleet driver, share and save this post as a checklist for when you’re heading out with your fleet on snowy trucking roads.
Be cautious and prepare well. Your safety is in your hands.
Stay Informed, Stay Safe.
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