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How to Drive a Semi-Truck Safely During Winter

How to Drive a Semi-Truck Safely During Winter

107,000 large trucks were in an accident that resulted in injury in 2020. Often, these accidents can be fatal or result in life-changing disabilities. 

It only becomes more dangerous to drive a semi-truck in the winter, with unexpected weather conditions affecting your control over your vehicle. Learning how to drive a semi-truck safely during the winter is essential to keep you and other drivers safe on the road this year. 

Do you want to learn more about winter trucking and driving a semi-truck in snow? Keep reading this guide for the top tips to follow for driving safely in the winter. 

Keep Your Vehicle Maintained

One of the most important things you can do to stay safe on the road this winter is to always keep your vehicle maintained!

Many car accidents are due to poorly maintained vehicles. For example, things like low tire pressure can limit your traction, especially on icy roads. Keeping your tires maintained will ensure that you can drive as safely as possible. 

Even if you are following your proper maintenance schedule, you should inspect your vehicle before every drive. This includes checking the tire pressure, oil and antifreeze levels, and more. Make sure your wipers and lights work as well!

You can even pay for a professional inspection to make sure your semi-truck is winter ready. 

Lower Your Speed

A safe driving tip that everyone should follow during the winter is to lower your speed. Many people are over-confident in their abilities to drive in poor conditions and they end up losing control over their vehicles. 

Instead, you should always adjust your speed as the road conditions change. This can help you compensate for the poor traction that comes with bad road conditions. 

Plus, driving slower will give you extra time to react in case something goes wrong or if another driver on the road loses control. This is especially important as a semi-truck driver, as it takes much longer for your vehicle to slow down. 

Avoid Traveling in Packs

When you are driving on the highway, it can be easy to get caught in packs. This is especially common with large trucks, as they move a bit slower than other vehicles on the road. 

However, you should avoid traveling in packs. This is because it can give you a false sense of security. It also makes it much more difficult for you to see road hazards ahead and will lower your reaction time if something happens to one of the vehicles around you. 

Instead, you should create a buffer zone around your truck. 

Keep a Distance

Not only should you avoid driving too close to other semi-truck drivers, but you should give yourself extra space between yourself and any other driver on the road. 

On average, a fully-loaded tractor-trailer that weighs 80,000 pounds takes 525 feet to stop when driving at 65 miles per hour. This is nearly the length of two football fields. Plus, stopping on a wet road can double this stopping distance. 

Keeping a distance from other drivers will give you plenty of time to move out of the way in case something unpredictable happens to one of the drivers in front of you. 

Remove Snow From Headlights

When it snows, it can significantly impact your visibility. This visibility can be made even worse if your headlight and tail lights are covered in snow or ice. 

Before you start driving in the winter, you should always scrape any snow off of your lights to improve your visibility. You should also ensure that you never forget to turn on your headlights when driving in the winter, especially as it starts to snow. 

Even if it is not dark, headlights can help you improve your visibility in the rain or snow. 

Always Double-Check in Poor Visibility

If the visibility is poor while you are driving your semi-truck, you should always double-check your surroundings before making any movements. This is because blizzards make it difficult to see people around you, no matter how close they are. 

It can also make it much harder to see road signs and lights. 

Looking twice before making any movements will keep you safer and can help you prevent unnecessary accidents. 

Understand Your Vehicle’s Limits

After driving your vehicle for long enough, it becomes easy to tell what your semi-truck can handle. Understanding your vehicle’s limits is necessary, especially when you are driving in the snow! This way, you know what your equipment can handle and you will not push your vehicle past these limits. 

Never drive your vehicle in conditions that it was not meant to handle!

Watch Tire Spray

Sometimes it can be difficult to understand just how bad the road conditions are when you are driving a large truck. Something that can help you assess current road conditions is to watch the tire spray of other vehicles on the road around you. 

If they have a lot of water or slush spraying off their tires, it shows that the roads are very wet. Still, less spray could mean that the wet roads have started to freeze over. 

Paying attention to this can help you adjust your driving as necessary. 

You should also be cautious about your tire spray. If you drive too fast, the spray from your tires can worsen the visibility of other drivers near your vehicle. 

Keep Your Fuel Topped Off

If you are worried about driving through the snow, you may want to keep your fuel tanks topped off! This is because extra fuel in your tank provides extra weight and extra traction over your drive tires. 

The extra weight increases the friction between your tires and the road. Even in icy conditions, this will provide your tires with extra grip and can prevent you from spinning out while driving in the winter. 

The more weight you have in your vehicle, the less likely you are to lose control of your truck in snowy or icy conditions. 

Avoid Sudden Movements

As a truck driver, it can be easy to lose control of your vehicle. Because of this, you should try to avoid making sudden movements when driving in the winter. If you suddenly accelerate, break, or turn on a corner, the slick roads may make it easier for you to roll your vehicle or lose control. 

Instead of breaking suddenly on icy or wet roads, you should try to pump your brakes rather than using your emergency break. 

You can also try to take evasive action rather than hard braking on a snowy road. If you slam on your brakes, you could lose control and hit the vehicle in front of you. Instead, you can slightly lower your speed and try to move around the cars ahead of you. 

Keeping your movements smooth and controlled will help you avoid unnecessary semi-truck accidents and stress when you are driving in the winter. 

Pull Over if Necessary

Finally, you should pull over your vehicle if necessary. Weather conditions can easily worsen over the course of a night. While you may have extra pressures to deliver your load during the holidays, you cannot compromise your safety. 

Even if you are desperate to keep to your schedule, it is much safer to pull over and wait for the weather to get better instead of driving in dangerous conditions. 

If you are going to pull over to wait out the weather, it is best that you find a rest stop or take the nearest exit. Pulling off to the shoulder of the road is dangerous when it is snowing or if there is low visibility and it may increase the risk of someone crashing into your vehicle. 

Make sure you are prepared for these types of events! Keeping extra blankets and warm clothes in your semi-truck during the winter can help you stay comfortable no matter what. 

You should also pack a bag of sand or kitty litter in your truck. This will allow you to improve your traction if you get stuck on icy surfaces. 

Driving on the Highway This Winter? Learn More About Semi-Truck Safety

As a semi on the highway, it can be difficult to drive safely even without harsh winter conditions. Learning more about these semi-truck safety tips can help you prepare for driving in the snow and can keep you and others on the road safe. 

If you are involved in a semi-truck accident this winter, O’Hara Law Firm can help! We specialize in semi-truck accidents in Houston, Texas, and can help you maximize your compensation. 

Contact us today to learn more about driving safety tips or for a free consultation!