Winter Driving Tips for Truck Drivers

Check our expert winter driving tips for truck drivers for safer hauls. They’ll get the job done without compromising your well-being or others.


Jacob Lee
September 9, 2020
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Winter driving tips for truck drivers are essential due to the challenging conditions this time of year can bring. Thee are many factors that can cause a semi to breakdown or even crash. With the right tips, a trucker can ensure their well-being while on the road. 

According to the American Trucking Associations, winter driving tips for truck drivers are key for safety. Some practices that should be followed include:

  • Pre trip inspection
  • Reduce Speed
  • Brake Slowly
  • Chain Each Tire

Truckers can include these skills on their resume to look more appealing when looking for a job with another company.

We’ll give you the rundown on winter driving tips for truck drivers and how it will help you stay safe. 

Why Truck Driving In Snow Is Dangerous

The winter can bring different types of weather conditions. In southern states, colder temperatures can be expected, while northern states tend to experience large amounts of snow and ice. These types of weather phenomenon can make trucking extremely dangerous. 

Snow and ice can cause the following:

  • Reduced visibility
  • Decreased traction
  • Unpredictable road conditions

When it snows, visibility can be significantly impaired. Snowflakes can cause a visual blur, making it difficult for drivers to see other vehicles, road signs and even the road itself. At night, this issue is further exacerbated by the glare from oncoming headlights reflecting off the snow.

Snow and ice significantly decrease the traction between tires and the road surface. This makes it harder for vehicles, especially large ones like trucks, to get a grip on the pavement. The lack of traction can also make it more difficult for truck drivers to stop or slow down their vehicles, which increases the risk of accidents.

Winter weather can lead to rapidly changing road conditions. A roadway that was clear one minute can be covered in a slick sheet of ice very quickly. While driving in these conditions, truckers must contend with the challenges of managing a heavy vehicle and the load they’re carrying. 

It takes a longer amount of time to stop a semi truck than a car in good weather. In snowy conditions, the stopping distance is even greater. Regaining control of a truck that slides or skids is extremely difficult in these conditions. 

If you’re more worried about thunderstorms, then check out our article on rainy weather safety tips for truck drivers. 

A semi operator following winter driving tips for truck drivers in a snowstorm

Winter Weather Driving Safety Tips for Truck Drivers 

Winter driving safety tips for truckers are essential. Due to the challenges of operating in these conditions, it’s vital that all the safety procedures are strictly followed. Fortunately, most winter trucking tips are easy to learn and apply. 

1. Inspecting the Truck

Before  setting out on a trip, truckers need to make sure they’ve  inspected their vehicle for any issues that could cause problems on the road. Taking the time to look over a semi will prevent the risk of breakdowns or accidents.  

Truckers should review a few items on their vehicle, such as:

  • Tire pressure
  • Tread depth
  • Vehicle fluids are unfrozen
  • Undercarriage of the truck
  • Air conditioning
  • Windshield defroster
  • Mirrors 

Checking tire pressure is a fundamental aspect of vehicle maintenance and is particularly crucial during winter weather conditions. Pressure can decrease as temperatures drop, and underinflated tires may not provide enough traction. 

Tread depth is another crucial aspect of tire safety during the winter months  when roads can be slick with snow or ice. The treads provide the traction a semi needs to grip the road and stop effectively. Therefore, truckers should make sure their tires are healthy before driving in snow or ice.

Checking the engine of the semi is a good practice to follow when temperatures hit freezing. Doing so will prevent truckers from causing damage to their vehicles. Ice can accumulate underneath semis during the winter. Truckers should check the undercarriage of their vehicle to make sure ice won’t fall and cause damage. 

It’s important for the AC of a truck to work because drivers need to stay warm. The defroster of a semi is important for visibility purposes as well. Finally, truckers should ensure their mirrors are clean to clearly see behind them. This will help them obtain full situational awareness while on the road.

2. What Speed To Drive?

When roads are covered with snow or ice, reducing speed is often necessary. It’s commonly advised that drivers should reduce slow down by 30-50% in these conditions. This slower pace allows for increased reaction time and reduces the likelihood of losing control of the vehicle.

Maintaining a safe speed isn’t only about avoiding excessively fast speeds. Drivers need to make sure they don’t go too slow. Traveling at a speed significantly below the flow of traffic can be just as dangerous and cause unnecessary risks. Truckers will need to determine what speed to drive based on the weather conditions and the surrounding traffic. 

3. Brake Slowly

Braking slowly is an important truck driver winter safety tip. Roads that are covered in snow and ice make it difficult for semis to get traction. Therefore, breaking suddenly will likely cause a truck to slide and skid. 

Drivers should slow down well before they arrive at a stop sign or red light. This will prevent them from losing control of their vehicle. Complete awareness on the road will also help a driver stay alert and give them enough time to slowdown.

4. Chain When Necessary

Another truck driver winter safety tip is tire chaining. This method helps improve traction and control over a semi on a snowy or icy road. Many states have laws requiring chains under certain conditions. 

Some highways even have checkpoints where truckers can place this device on their tires during severe winter weather. Knowing when and how to properly place chains on a semi can significantly improve safety on the road. 

Truckers should prepare themselves to put these tools on their vehicle by:

  • Always carrying chains in their vehicle during winter months
  • Putting them on in a safe and comfortable environment before using them on the road
  • Always following manufacturer instructions for installation and use

Despite the benefits of using chains, truckers will still need to drive carefully in snowy weather conditions. 

5. Keep Enough Space

Maintaining a safe following distance is always crucial when on the road. However, this practice becomes even more vital in winter driving conditions. Snow and ice on the road makes it easier for trucks to slip and slide. Drivers should create more space between their vehicle and the one in front of them while traveling through this kind of weather. 

Truckers that keep enough space will have enough time to react to sudden stops or changes in on the road. This technique also serves as a safety buffer in case the vehicle starts to skid or lose control. 

6. Planning Ahead

Planning ahead is a crucial winter tip for truck drivers. There are many items that a trucker will need to pack. Driving in snowy conditions can be dangerous, so it’s important that drivers have the right belongings for the journey. 

Items that truckers should bring with them include:

  • Winter clothing
  • Blankets
  • Food and water
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Jumper cables
  • Shovel
  • Ice scraper and snow brush

Keeping these items on hand will make winter travel more comfortable. Drivers can also use these items to help themselves out of any dangerous situations they encounter. 

Planning ahead also means considering different aspects of the journey, such as:

  • Route
  • Weather conditions
  • Rest areas

Taking the time to plan out a journey through snowy conditions can prevent stress. Most drivers will have a route plotted for them by their company. However, owner operators will need to plan their own path. These kinds of truckers will need to pick a route that’s the most efficient, while also being the safest. 

Drivers should always check the weather forecast before and during their journey. Finally, truckers have to make sure there will be rest stops along their route. It’s important for drivers to get some downtime after a long day of hauling freight. 

Read our article on truck driver essential to find the items that you’ll need when you go out on the road. 

7. Maintaining Your Vehicle

Although this is a vital practice to follow at all times of the year, truck drivers should pay extra attention to their vehicle while operating in freezing temperatures.

Not maintaining a semi throughout each season, especially in cold weather, can be detrimental to their vehicle. With proper care, a driver will reduce their chances of breaking down during their journey.  

Our semi truck maintenance checklist will show you what parts of your truck you should always monitor. 

8. Be Careful of Bridges

Driving over bridges requires extra caution, especially during winter months. Air passes above and below each surface of these structures. This leads to a drop in temperature more quickly than the surrounding roads.

Therefore, bridges should be approached with care for the following reasons:

  • Faster freezing
  • Unexpected slippery spots
  • Limited recovery space

Bridges and overpasses freeze more quickly than the road surface because they’re exposed to cold air from both sides. This can lead to icy patches that aren’t present on the rest of the roadway, which can catch drivers off guard.

Due to their propensity to freeze quicker, bridges may have slippery spots even when the rest of the road seems clear and dry. This can lead to sudden skidding or loss of control. The limited recovery space on bridges will make it even more difficult. Driving over bridges slowly and carefully during the winter will help drivers avoid these dangers. 

9. Keep a Firm Grip On the Wheel

It can be easy for truckers to get comfortable and loosen their grip on the steering wheel of their semi. However, driving in cold weather requires a firm grasp. The ice and snow on the road can make it easy for truckers to lose control. 

A firm grip allows drivers to respond quickly and effectively to any sudden changes in the movement of their semi. It also helps truckers avoid overcorrection in case their vehicle begins to skid. 

10. Maintain Fuel Levels

Keeping the fuel levels of a semi sufficiently high is an essential winter truck driving tip. The last thing any driver wants is to be stranded in cold, harsh weather due to running out of gas. Additionally, a full tank can help prevent fuel lines from freezing, which is a common problem when the temperature is below freezing. 

Truckers operating in snowy conditions can maintain their gas levels by filling up their tank more frequently. This can be time-consuming, but it’s a better alternative than potentially being stranded. Carefully monitoring fuel levels is also important. 

Are Semi Trucks Good In Snow?

Semis can perform in snowy and icy weather. However, the road conditions during the winter can make operating these vehicles more difficult. While winter truck driving tips are essential for safety, there are a few other factors that can improve the performance of semis in these conditions. 

This includes:

  • Weight
  • Dual tires
  • Air brakes

Semi-trucks are heavier than typical vehicles, which can provide better traction in snowy conditions. The weight of a load that a driver is carrying can also help with this as well. This means that semis that are carrying a shipment of freight will have better grip on the road. 

That said, drivers should still operate their vehicles with caution. The momentum and weight of semis makes it harder for them to stop, especially when the roads are slick with ice and snow.

The dual tires on the drive axle can offer better traction in winter conditions compared to single tires. Semi-trucks use air brakes, which can be modulated more precisely to improve functionality. This provides the driver with better control in slippery conditions.

Need more safety tips? Check out our articles on driving at nightdriving on mountain roads, and driving in the summer!

A semi truck traveling on a snowy highway

How Winter Truck Driving Tips Can Help Your Job Application

Learning the essential winter driving safety tips for truck drivers can help improve a driver’s job application. Applying these practices will help generate new skills and experience. These are two characteristics that transportation providers look for on a resume.

Carriers prioritize safety when it comes to moving freight. Therefor, applicants that a record of following winter driving tips for truck drivers will improve their chances of getting hired. Another way a potential candidates can make their resume look more appealing is by naming a few scenarios where these practices were useful.  

Truckers that include this information when they apply will demonstrate they’ve actually used these tips to stay safe while on the road.  

Show Off Your Winter Driving Skills with ABCO

At ABCO, we look for drivers that prioritize their safety and the well-being of other drivers on the road. Truckers that have experience driving in the snowy conditions and following the right guidelines to protect themselves make for strong candidates.

When you work for ABCO, you’ll be with a company that cares about your well-being as well. We give our drivers a flexible schedule that lets them balance out their home life and time on the road. ABCO drivers will also have the ability to vacation at one of our many resorts located throughout the country.  

If you’re ready to start working for a company that values your contributions, then fill out your ABCO application. You can also call our team at (866) 980-2710 if you have any questions. 

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