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Trucking This Winter? How to Prepare for the Long Haul

Long-haul trucking can be quite difficult, even in nice conditions. Driving a rig during the winter is even harder and even hazardous. Upwards of 1,200,000 crashes happened due to bad weather throughout 2004-2013. These incidents killed roughly 6,000 people. Trucks are particularly susceptible to risk in these circumstances because of their heavier size and load. There are, however, ways to prepare your truck for the trip that will increase safety and decrease the difficulty of the drive. Here are just a few ways that you should consider before driving out into the snow. 

Prepare Yourself

The industry is heavily regulated—but planning for dangerous weather and knowing the traffic patterns falls on the individual. Begin with the worst case scenario in mind, and load up with some essential emergency supplies. If you become stranded at some point, whether it be somewhere populated where help can be found quickly, or out on an empty stretch of highway, getting stranded on the road in freezing conditions is dangerous. Keep warm and safe by packing extra blankets and clothes, food and water, and flashlights.

Prepare the Rig

Rigs must be maintained and each driver has to go through pre-trip reviews. Go the extra mile if you can when bad weather is abreast. Hand-check the tires, wiper blades and truck body parts to ensure that your truck isn’t compromised in any way. When you’re driving with any type of load, check that the load is distributed evenly. This point is particularly vital on slick or icy roads. Ensure that you have tire chains, jumper cables and traction mats with you. See if there's any technology you can get your hands on that would help you travel through inclement weather. Loads of semi-trucks use GPS systems, but check to ensure that yours will receive weather communications. Apps for a tablet or smartphone are an added option that would help you stay updated. Keep your radio phone handy, because if you ever lose internet connection, that will be the lifeline to getting help to you.

Get Ready for the Road

The final preparatory step is to understand the route. If you’re going to be driving through mountains, be aware of any already difficult roads so that you won’t be caught by surprise when you come through them. If possible, avoid roads that are marked as dangerous to drive during hard weather conditions. Be aware of how to drive in snowy conditions, such as slow braking far in advance to your stop, never jerking the wheel, and taking turns slowly. Your truck is very heavy, so changes in inertia (stops, starts, and turns) need to be taken slowly to avoid overshooting. Be aware of pit stops on the route as well and ensure that you’ll be able to get all the sleep you need to drive safely and alertly. 

Remember Emergency Protocols

While some things may seem like common sense now, it’s important to review emergency protocols often so that they’re easier to remember in stressful situations. The shock of an accident or breaking down can dangerously affect your judgment, so it may help to have written emergency steps, as well. When you're stranded, remain in the vehicle. Winter blasts are usually followed by low visibility, so it’s easy to lose sight of the road or get lost. Other vehicles may also find it more difficult to see you than to see your truck, so remaining inside will keep you safer both from the weather and from potential traffic. As previously mentioned, it’s also important that you never jerk the wheel, especially on slick roads. Doing so can lead to overcorrection, sending you veering off the road, or else force your tires to be facing the wrong way as inertia carries you forward, removing your control of the vehicle. Being aware of how snow can affect your driving and how your truck reacts to it will be important for yours and others’ safety

As it always has been, winter storms and heavy snows bring unique dangers. However, most accidents that occur in these conditions can be avoided, and at the very least minimized in their impact, with some careful preparation and education. Make sure your vehicle is in good condition, stocked up, and keep aware of safety measures, and you’ll be well prepared for the winter weather.

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Tags: diesel, driver, driving, emergency, preparedness, safety, trucking, trucks, winter

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