Owner-Operator Winter Weather Driving Tips

Winter is here – and with the winter weather storm approaching across the United States, it is good to be aware of the different winter safety tips. There has been a rise in recent trucking events, including the 100-car pileup in Wisconsin and the 110-year sentence of a new driver who lost control on a steep grade. No matter how experienced you are, it is important to brush up on winter weather safety.

Winter Driving Tips

Owner-operators should be extra aware when driving during extreme winter conditions. It can be dangerous to drive in weather conditions such as black ice, snow, and limited visibility. However, if you must continue on the roadways during these conditions, you can follow some tips to be safe.

Slow Down

Many at-fault accidents are due to excessive speed. While you may be driving at the legal speed limit, going too fast on snow-covered roads or icy roads can lead to accidents. You should take as much time as necessary and do not hurry. In the end – your life and the lives of others matter more than reaching your destination 10 minutes sooner. Safe speed should always be your number one rule while driving on winter weather roads.

Keep a Safe Distance

Keeping plenty of room between other vehicles in front and beside your truck can reduce the chances of an accident. Often, traffic moves in “packs.” While driving, always look for a safe way to get out and travel alone. This may mean that you may have to slow down and trail in behind the rest of the traffic.

Park Your Truck

If you are uneasy about driving in certain weather conditions – park your truck. As an owner-operator, you decide to stay home and be safe. You can reschedule your delivery – your life and others are more important. A nervous truck driver can be just as dangerous as a careless driver.

Carry Kitty Litter

Your warm tires can turn that melted snow into ice when you park on snow. If you have kitty litter in your truck, you can pour the litter under your tires which is a good way to give you more traction so you do not slide.

Check Tail Lights

Every time you make a stop, check your tail lights to ensure you don’t have any lights out. Being visible to other vehicles on the road is important for not only your safety but others as well.

Don’t Use the Shoulder of the Road

This is a very important rule, especially when visibility is low. When you are driving through winter storms, other vehicles may mistake your truck as being on the road, and they may run into you.

No Jake Brake

Try to avoid using your foot brake unless it is an absolute need. Also, do not brake if your entire truck is not lined up, and doing so can cause your trailer to slide and spin out of control. Remember, your truck slows down – your trailer does not (especially when the trailer is empty).

Keep Fuel Tanks Full

Topping off your fuel each time you stop gives your truck extra weight over the tires and gives you extra traction. Also, ensuring you always have fuel in your truck can help you if you become stranded on the side of the road. You can continue to let your truck run and keep warm until you can get on the road again.

Essential Winter Truck Driver Supplies

While on the road, especially during winter weather, it is best to have essentials. It is better to have it and not need it – than to need it and not have it. Below are some winter weather essentials that can come in handy while out on the road.

  • Warm clothing such as a winter coat, hats, gloves, and scarves
  • Insulated socks and pants
  • Waterproof boots
  • Extra blankets or sleeping bags
  • Non-perishable foods
  • Propane heater and lighter
  • Fuel conditioner
  • Extra fuel filters and wrench
  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Tire chains
  • Cell phone charger

During winter storms, owner-operators should remember it is their legal responsibility to follow all highway closures and travel advisories and not enter roadways when dangerous winter weather occurs. These winter weather tips may not always prevent accidents. Still, they can help you safely navigate the roadways until you reach a safe stopping point.

Stay safe out there, drivers!