Being a semi-truck driver is always a little bit dangerous since the size of the vehicle makes it harder to control. But winter driving conditions can make things even more dangerous, as the weather covers roads in black ice and makes your truck work harder. To stay safe, you should know the five things every truck driver should do to prepare for winter.
Winter Dangers for Truckers
What makes winter such a dangerous time to be out on the road? There are three main considerations. First of all, the cold temperatures can make it more uncomfortable to be a trucker. You might find it harder to get a good night’s sleep, meaning you’re even more tired for your next shift. There’s also the increased danger of slipping and dropping things when you’re cold or wearing gloves.
The plunging temperatures are also not good for your truck. When it gets below freezing, your truck has to work even harder, and some fluids may be at risk of freezing.
Lastly, winter temperatures and weather conditions make roads much more treacherous. Snowfall makes it harder to see, while black ice sits on bridges and other stretches of road and causes your tires to lose their grip. And even when you’re a safe driver, you can’t control what risks other motorists take.
What can you do to prepare for winter? Check out these five things we think every truck driver should do.
1. Upgrade Your Winter Wardrobe
The first step in keeping yourself safe this winter is to ensure you have appropriate winter clothing to take with you on the road. Ideally, you’ll want to pack layers that you can put on or remove as you need them. Here’s a quick checklist of things you might need:
- Long johns/thermal underwear
- Thick socks
- Lined boots
- A hat with ear flaps
- A lined coat with a hood
Gloves are essential trucker gear, but you may need to get a separate pair ready for cold temperatures. Most work gloves don’t have a lining that keeps your hands warm, so you’ll want a pair that does. It’s also not a bad idea to invest in work gloves with extra grip and impact resistance, as it’s more likely for you to lose your grip during cold and icy conditions.
2. Reevaluate Your Supplies
Due to the fact that roads can be unpredictable during colder months, it’s a good idea (and sometimes a legal requirement) to keep winter supplies in your truck. Most states require truckers to carry tire chains during cold weather, so make sure to have those at the very least. Some of the other items you’ll want are a bag or two of salt, jumper cables, and a snow scraper.
Salt is important for melting ice and giving tires traction if you get stuck somewhere. Jumper cables can help you get your truck started if the battery freezes (it happens all too often). Just make sure you know how to properly apply the cables—red is positive, and black is negative.
We recommend getting an ice scraper with a long reach and a tool on each end. Semi-trucks are large, and you never know what hard-to-reach spot is going to end up covered in ice at the wrong time. Having a brush on one end and a scraping part on the other ensures you’ll be able to remove both snow and ice quickly. As a result, you won’t have to stand in the cold as long.
3. Practice Winter Driving
If you’re new to driving in winter conditions, it might be a good idea to start mentally preparing yourself for the coming changes. When driving during cold temperatures, it’s best to leave more space than usual between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, and you’ll want to break more slowly than usual. This helps give you some wiggle room in case black ice makes it harder to slow down.
While you should always assume that there could be black ice, you can watch for certain signs to know if it’s definitely out there. If ice is forming on your antenna or mirrors, the temperatures are cold enough for black ice to be present. Sometimes, you’ll see cars in front of you skid if they hit a patch.
4. Keep Up With Maintenance
The answer to almost any question about trucking usually includes keeping up with maintenance, but when it comes to winter preparedness, we really mean it. If your fluids are low, they could freeze on you when you’re nowhere near a rest stop. Not changing your truck’s battery could mean needing to jumpstart your truck and being late with a delivery.
To prepare your truck for winter, make sure the following parts are in excellent working order:
- The tires (including tire pressure)
- The block heater
- The lights
- The battery
- The wipers
Additionally, we recommend you keep your tank half full at all times to avoid condensation building up on the tank and freezing there. You should also run your truck’s engine at least every 24 hours to avoid a cold soak, even if you’re on a break. Trucks that sit out in the cold are prone to winter weather-related problems.
5. Prepare Your Cabin for Warmth
Your cabin is your haven against the cold while you’re driving. Make sure to get it as warm and cozy as possible. Have blankets nearby that you can put on your lap while you drive. Keep several packs of hand warmers in the glovebox—these are great for slipping in a pocket when you need to step outside or for warming your feet while you sleep.
If your driver’s seat doesn’t come with temperature controls, you should consider upgrading to one that does. GRA-MAG offers commercial truck seats with heating that make driving in the cold much more comfortable. When you’re warm, you’re also more alert, which helps keep you and other motorists safe.
GRA-MAG has a wide variety of aftermarket semi-truck seats designed to fit in cabs from almost every truck manufacturer. We make our seats out of high-quality materials, and they work effectively to protect you from dangerous road vibrations that can damage your spine and nervous system. Call or email us today to find the perfect seat for winter driving.