On December 21st at precisely 7:42 A.M. EST, the sun's rays will strike one of the two tropical latitude lines, and thus winter will officially begin for the Northern Hemisphere. This will also be the official beginning of "winter driving" for the millions of truck drivers across our country. This is a time when your driving skills can be put to the ultimate test, especially for the over the road trucker.
For the lucky drivers dedicated to running the southern states, etc., winter will not create too many problems. Those long haulers running all 48 states and finding themselves in the northern region, New England states and beyond . . . they know they are in for a ride!
For years I ran all 48 states plus parts of Canada and found myself fighting freezing rain, ice and snow on many occasions. In the Midwest, you will do battle with the snow and ice and the howling winds that can toss your rig around like a rag doll. I have seen too many rigs laid over on their sides or simply stuck in the wintery conditions, unable to move. Not only is this a very frustrating time, but it can also be a deadly one when we fail to make the right choices.
Truck drivers must prepare accordingly for the winter driving period. Here are some winter driving tips that not only will make this time of year more comfortable, but could end up saving your life:
- Have your rig "winterized" by a professional technician.
- Carry a few gallons of a fuel treatment product to prevent the diesel from gelling.
- Carry extra blankets........enough to keep you warm in case you get stranded.
- Carry a supply of "energy food" such as energy bars, etc., and water.
- Keep the fuel tanks as full as possible, especially before crossing a mountain pass or similar object.
- Allow extra distance between you and the vehicles ahead of you.
- SLOW DOWN. Adjust your speed appropriatley for the road conditions.
- Check the weather forecast ahead of you BEFORE you head out.
- Avoid using cruise control.
- PLAN AHEAD. Know where truck stops are ahead of you on your planned trip, so you can make the appropriate stop should the weather turn really bad.
- If the times comes where tire chains are needed........STOP!
Having the right equipment and supplies can make the difference between life and death. Should you find yourself stranded on the side of the road in -30 degree temperatures, you will discover that even if the rig keeps running, very little heat, if any, will blow out! It is very important to carry extra blankets and energy food and water. Keep the rig in tip-top shape and by taking extra precautions, you can survive a difficult situation.
The best way to prevent being caught in a life and death situation during winter time, is having the right state of mind in making the GO-NO-GO decision. Even if other drivers are heading out in what to you, seems like a bad idea . . . then stick with your intuition. Make the NO-GO decision to stay put until the weather clears. Make the right decision. The freight can wait.
Aubrey Allen Smith is the author of the Truth About Trucking and How to Guarantee a "Perfect" Move. With 29 years in the transportation industry, and 21 years as an OTR driver, he utilizes his time by helping new drivers to the industry. By exposing the scams of the trucking industry, he has helped thousands and is considered an expert in motor carrier transportation.
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