As cold and harsh as the upcoming forecast might be around the turn of the year, the demand for commercial deliveries is only set to increase throughout the holiday season. This necessitates truck drivers getting behind the wheel even more than usual, which in turn requires a number of steps being taken in advance so that you’re prepared to handle whatever nature can throw at you.
1) Watch how you drive
While you should always be attentive to what’s going on around you, the road conditions at this time of year make caution and observation even more important than usual. Even the most seemingly innocent roads that you’re a frequent user of can turn treacherous, as snow and ice, in particular, begins to settle.
Indeed even as these signs of the season begin to melt, the water subsequently generated can reduce vehicle control to the point that your braking distance is ten times greater than usual. Keeping a respectful distance from the vehicle in front of you is therefore absolutely vital, and requires plenty of self-discipline to keep your speed in check.
2) Check your tires
Tire maintenance should be something all drivers are carrying out routinely before setting out on long-range journeys, and it’s doubly important to get right as conditions worsen. While it’s recommended that you switch your regular tires for those designed to provide more grip in the winter, whichever variety you opt for will need to be kept up to standards.
You should be able to find these standards in your driver’s manual, and not straying from the pressure levels listed is vital. Under-inflating your tires makes a truck more vulnerable to impacts such as those caused by potholes, and over-inflated tires fail to properly absorb impacts as well, increasing the stress on your suspension. Finding and sticking to the equilibrium point is therefore a must, for the long-term health of your truck.
3) Keep an eye on fuel consumption
During harsher weather conditions, estimates are that truck performance becomes about 10% worse than usual. This is due to the power requirements needed to operate not just the engine, but the other parts of the vehicle such as the heater, fog lights, etc., which are called upon far more than usual to carve a way through the treacherous environment.
Therefore, as unlikely as it might be, paying extra attention to the rate at which you’re consuming petrol is vital, as chances are it will be used up far quicker than normal. Plan accordingly, especially if you’ve got to travel a vast distance, and make sure to choose routes with plenty of rest stops and petrol stations for filling up as needed.
4) Don’t go too heavy on the brakes
Following on from our earlier point about minding the braking distance, when you do have to use your brakes, being gentle with them is the best way to go. Sharp and sudden braking increases the chances of a skid and a loss of steering control, and antilock brakes struggle to gain traction when ice and snow are present.
If you do happen to skid or slide, however, then turning towards the direction the rear of your truck is going, is the quickest way to attempt to regain control of the situation. It can be in the heat of the moment, but take care not to hit your brakes again, as to correct your movement the wheels have to be working freely.
5) Pack your bags
No matter how good a driver you might be, there is always the chance that, due to circumstances outside your control, or mechanical failure, you may end up stranded with help more than a while away.
Therefore, in order to stay safe and healthy until help can arrive, having emergency supplies on hand is absolutely vital. Food and water with a long lifespan are of course a must, and they must be edible cold if cooking facilities are not available. Plenty of blankets and a sleeping bag will be really welcome if the cold begins to set in, as will a lighter or matches if you have to light a fire in extreme cases. A first-aid kit should be kept in your truck regardless of the seasons, as should a torch for any work that might need doing in the dark.
There are many other bits you should have as part of your winter survival kit, but the above are the most vital. There’s no question that it’s better to over-prepare than to not prepare enough, so take the time to stock up and potentially save yourself from a world of trouble should you find yourself in a sticky situation.
What truck driving tips do you have for safe driving in the winter months?
Guest Blogger – Justin Fox
Justin is writing on behalf of Truck Locator, an online marketplace for the buying and selling of used trucks. A regular contributor to many publications relating to logistics, he has a particular interest in politics and current events, and what this means for those across the commercial sector.
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