Driving in Snow: Best Practices for Safe Commercial Driving

Driving in snow can be a daunting task, especially for commercial drivers whose jobs depend on navigating safely through challenging conditions. It is important to learn how to drive in snow for personal safety and maintain efficient operations. This comprehensive guide will equip you with essential tips and techniques to handle snow-covered roads like a seasoned professional. 

Snowy conditions significantly alter road dynamics, presenting unique challenges that require specific preparation and driving techniques. This has more consequences for commercial drivers as their timely deliveries and passenger safety depend on whether they are able to navigate well during the winter season.

Driving in Snow

Understanding Winter Driving Challenges

Before you hit the road, it is essential to understand the various snow conditions you might encounter. From powdery snow to packed ice, each surface demands different driving strategies. Truck drivers face several significant challenges when driving in snowy conditions:

• Slick Roads and Black Ice

Driving in snow and ice greatly reduces tire traction.  Black ice, a thin layer of ice on the road that is nearly invisible, is particularly dangerous as it can lead to sudden loss of control. Snow and ice greatly reduce tire traction making it difficult to control the truck.

• Increased Darkness

Visibility can be severely restricted during heavy snowfall or blizzards; this makes it hard for truck drivers to see other vehicles, road signs, or obstacles. The reason is that there are shorter daylight hours in winter meaning that more time must be spent driving while it is dark compared to other seasons of the year. This requires drivers to rely heavily on their vehicle’s lighting, which can increase fatigue and reduce reaction times.

• Road Closures and Delays

Winter storms can lead to road closures and significant delays. This can disrupt schedules and increase the stress on drivers who must navigate tight deadlines and HOS requirements.

• Steep Grades and Hills

Navigating hills and steep grades are more dangerous in snow and ice. Trucks can lose traction, making it difficult to ascend or descend safely.

• Frequent Maintenance

Winter conditions require more frequent vehicle maintenance checks. Drivers must ensure their trucks are equipped with proper winter tires, functioning heating systems, and other winter-specific equipment.

How to Keep Winter Driving Safe

There are special considerations for driving in snow for commercial vehicles that would be dealt with here. Winter weather conditions can include dangerous road conditions, such as slippery ice and snow-covered roads that increase the chances of collisions. Making sure appropriate equipment is used, adopting safe driving practices, and keeping informed on weather changes are some of the ways commercial drivers can prioritize safety. 

Expert tips and best practices ensure commercial drivers navigate snowy roads more safely and efficiently resulting in the well-being of themselves together with other road users. Here are some tips to ensure safety:

1. Vehicle Inspections: 

Perform extensive pre-trip inspections before driving in snow. Check tire tread depth and pressure; ensure windshield wipers and defrosters are operating properly and all lights are clean and functioning properly. Fill up all fluids, especially the windshield washer fluid.

2. Use Winter Tires and Chains:

Install winter tires for better traction on icy roads before winter driving. In areas with heavy snow, use tire chains to provide additional grip. Familiarize yourself with how to install and remove these chains efficiently.

3. Before Driving in Snow Plan Your Route:

Check weather forecasts and road conditions before setting out. Plan your route to avoid areas with severe weather and allow extra time for your journey. Stay informed through reliable sources and update your route as necessary.

4. Drive Slowly and Smoothly:

Decrease your speed due to reduced traction forces available. Accelerate, brake, or steer gradually to prevent skidding and to improve traction on snow. Use a higher gear to minimize wheel spin thereby maintaining a consistent speed limit.

5. Keep Safe Distances:

Increase your following distance to give yourself more time to react to sudden stops or obstacles. This is crucial on slippery roads where stopping distances are significantly longer.

6. Use Low Beams in Winter Driving:

During heavy snowfall, low-beam headlights should be used as they enhance vehicle visibility and make it visible to others while winter driving. High beams can reflect off the snow and reduce visibility.

7. Prepare an Emergency Kit:

When driving in snow, truck drivers should carry an emergency kit which includes blankets, food, water, a flashlight, and a first aid kit. This ensures you are prepared if you get stranded.

8. Stay Connected:

Keep in contact with dispatch and other drivers for live updates on road conditions and any potential hazards ahead.

Use these Methods if You Get Stuck While Driving in Snow

Driving in snowy conditions can be challenging, and getting stuck in the snow is a common issue.  If you find yourself stuck while driving in snow, there are several steps you can take to safely release your vehicle and ensure your safety. Here are detailed tips to follow:

1. Stay Calm While Driving in Snow:

Take some moments to observe where you are at, plus how your truck is doing. Staying calm will help you think clearly and take appropriate action.

2. Stay Inside the Vehicle:

When stuck in a location far from the city or experiencing adverse weather conditions, staying inside one’s truck is usually safer.

3. Call for Help:

During winter driving if you have a phone with a signal, call for roadside assistance or a towing service. If your phone is dead, and you’re in a relatively safe and populated area, you may consider seeking help from nearby drivers or residents.

4. Clear Snow from Around the Wheels:

Get a short-handled shovel to stow in storage if you need to remove snow from around the wheels of your vehicle. Plastic shovels tend to work but sometimes are prone to breaking. You may go for the metal in case you also need to chip at ice or compacted snow. This will give your wheels a better grip on the road surface.

5. Use the Forward-and-Back Technique:

Shift between drive and reverse to rock the vehicle back and forth gently. This can help you gain momentum and traction to free your truck. Place materials like sand, gravel, kitty litter, or even car mats under the drive wheels. These materials can provide the extra grip needed to move the vehicle out of the snow.

6. Engage Low Gear:

If you’re driving in snow, a manual or an automatic with gear options, shift to a lower gear. This will provide better control and reduce the chances of the wheels spinning.

Winter driving

Ensure Safe Winter Driving with TruckX ELD Pro

By integrating fleet management software, truck drivers benefit from a holistic approach to safety management in snowy conditions. TruckX AI Dashcams provide real-time detection and alerting on unsafe driving to enhance situational awareness, proactive maintenance, and driver accountability. When it comes to navigating unexpected extreme weather conditions, TruckX’s ELD Pro allows you to swiftly enable the Extreme Weather Exemption.

This combination not only improves safety outcomes but also boosts operational efficiency by reducing downtime and reducing risks associated with winter driving challenges. For commercial drivers in the US, leveraging these technologies ensures they can navigate snowy roads confidently while prioritizing safety and compliance with industry standards.

Conclusion

While driving in the snow requires a blend of preparation, technique, and awareness, TruckX fleet management software helps commercial truck drivers maintain safety. Following the guidelines outlined in this article, commercial drivers can navigate snowy roads safely and confidently. Remember, practicing these skills regularly and staying informed about changing road conditions are key to successful winter driving.