During the winter, your drivers will face unpredictable challenges and hazards on the road. It’s important for them to plan ahead so they are prepared for worst-case scenarios. They also need to know how to handle severe road conditions that accompany winter weather driving.

A University of Iowa study found that crash rates can increase up to 84 percent in winter weather conditions. Drivers have to battle reduced road friction, loss of vehicle maneuverability, travel delays and road closures, all of which increase their risk of crashing. 

During the winter, drivers should slow down, increase their following distance and scan the road ahead as far as possible for potential hazards. They should break gently to avoid locking their wheels and sliding uncontrollably, and should not use engine retarders. Cruise control is designed for normal road conditions and should always be turned off when driving on icy, slick or wet roads. When a truck encounters a slick condition with cruise control on, the unit may automatically slow down because of a lack of traction. Cruise control will then increase engine speed to maintain the vehicle’s speed, causing the wheels to spin uncontrollably.

The riskiest time to be on the road is often right after it starts snowing or sleeting because road maintenance activities such as plowing snow or salting icy roads may not have started yet. Drivers should keep in mind that highways typically receive attention from road maintenance crews before local roads, which can remain dangerous for longer periods of time during winter storms. Snowplows and other road maintenance vehicles must be given plenty of space to do their job.

Drivers should never hesitate to pull over to a safe spot if the conditions become increasingly severe. Because snow can cover up pavement markings, shoulders are not a safe option in any inclement condition. Approaching motorists might think a vehicle on the shoulder is actually in a travel lane and crash into it. If there is an extreme emergency and drivers have no other option but to pull onto the shoulder, they should turn on their flashers and place emergency warning devices around their truck, per U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. They should also carry a flashlight and wave it in the direction of traffic to help other drivers see them. 

If a driver becomes stranded on the road due to inclement weather, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends pulling off the highway to a safe spot, turning on hazard lights, alerting a dispatcher and calling 911. Drivers should also take the following five steps if they become stranded: 

  • Remain in the vehicle and not attempt to walk anywhere on foot unless a building is close by where they know they can take shelter. 
  • Run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour to stay warm. 
  • Keep a window cracked for fresh air and be cautious of potential carbon monoxide buildup in the cab. 
  • Eat and drink regularly to stay hydrated. 
  • Wait for conditions to improve or emergency responders to arrive with help.
  • Categorized in:
  • Driving Techniques
  • Transportation Safety
  • Weather Conditions
  • Seasonal Driving Tips