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16 essential winter driving tips for truck drivers

A grey Schneider semi-truck parked in a snowy lot in front of other orange trailers.
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Winter weather can pose a serious challenge for truck drivers, as all it takes is one moment of not paying attention to make a costly mistake.

Since driving in snowy, icy and wet conditions requires extra awareness and skill, it's important to brush up on how to drive in winter weather. This year, consider these essential winter driving tips for truck drivers to stay safe on the road.

Top winter weather driving tips for truckers:

See and be seen

When there’s low visibility on the roadway, you must be extra wary of your surroundings. Stay alert to potential danger around you by:

1. Cleaning all the snow off your mirrors, windows, lights and reflective tape before hitting the road.

2. Watching for brake lights on the vehicles ahead of you.

3. Checking that your own lights are on and working properly.

4. Watching for cars hidden in the cloud of snow created by your vehicle.

5. Using your air conditioner to help keep windows defrosted. Remember, conditioned air is dry air.

6. Watching for drivers whose visibility may be limited — especially if they have only cleared their vehicle’s windshield and no other windows.

    Be cautious on slick surfaces

    Some surfaces become slippery faster than others, so it’s essential to know when and where to use extra caution. Stay safe on these surfaces by:

    7. Being careful on entrance and exit ramps. Sharp turns on a slippery road are dangerous and can easily result in jackknifing. 

    8. Being cautious while crossing bridges. Their surfaces freeze first and often become more slippery than normal roadways.

    9. Braking early for stop signs and red lights, as intersections can be icier than the roads leading to them

    10. Turning off the engine brake to avoid losing traction on wet, icy or snow-covered roads and when approaching any of the mentioned surfaces before.

    11. Keeping your speed down on snow-, ice- and rain-covered roads to maintain traction, and staying off cruise control. Remember, if your wipers are on, your cruise should be off. You should also increase your following distance to be able to react to other vehicles ahead of you.

    12. Being prepared for heavy gusts of wind when in large, open areas or when coming out from behind a hill, tunnel or overpass. Be especially cautious when you have an empty trailer.

    Make use of defensive driving

    Defensive driving is one of the best ways to avoid accidents on slick roads. Remember, though, defensive driving sometimes means letting the driver who is in the wrong have the right-of-way. Make use of defensive driving this winter by:

    13. Slowing down. Speed decreases traction, so slowing will increase your traction and help you stay in control.

    14. Making sure not to drive in the ruts of other vehicles, as their wheels may have packed snow into ice.

    15. Keeping a safe following distance to help predict other drivers’ actions. Consider doubling your following distance from seven to 14 seconds (or more), as extra space is crucial when dealing with slippery roads.

    16. Accelerating and decelerating carefully and gradually. The tractor must pull the trailer, so if the pavement is slick, the conditions are ripe for a jackknife.

      We hope these trucking winter tips will help you prepare for and stay safe while driving this winter. Remember to scan your surroundings, make enough space for others and anticipate danger to stay safe on the road.

      Safety comes first in every season

      Prepare yourself for the challenges of driving in every season by checking our extensive collection of weather-related safety blogs.

      About the author
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      Schneider Guy loves the "Big Orange." He's passionate about the trucking industry and connecting people to rewarding careers within it. He's been the eyes and ears of our company since our founding in 1935, and he's excited to interact with prospective and current Schneider associates through "A Slice of Orange."

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