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Tips to keep trucking through icy conditions

Feb. 16, 2023
The temperature may be rising enough to melt snow in some parts, but at night, that could freeze again into ice. Ensure your drivers are vigilant on icy roads and remember these tips for slippery situations.

In late December, Old Man Winter delivered a hammer blow to much of the country. Anyone daring to drive was greeted by high winds, drifting snow, and plummeting temperatures. For fleets, the conditions put all your winter planning and preparation to the test.

Now, in many places, snow may be giving way to rain, and daytime temps are edging above the freezing mark. The worst is not over because the transition from winter storms to clear roads often brings another hazardice.

Sunshine and higher temperatures mean melting snow. Rain expedites that process. Snowplows may clear the roads, but frozen surfaces may lie beneath those snowmelt puddles. And the puddles will harden as overnight temperatures drop.

As a fleet manager, remind your drivers to continue general winter precautions:

  • Check weather reports and road closures before heading out.
  • Keep your seatbelt buckled and anticipate slippery conditions.
  • Bring a blanket, warm winter clothing, food, and water in case accidents block roads.
  • Pull safely off the road, and call the terminal when roads or truck parking areas are closed.

The icy conditions that follow a winter storm bring additional awareness:

  • Watch your speed! Unseen black ice can affect stability and control.
  • Icy roads require greater stopping distances. Leave a bigger gap between vehicles.
  • Plowed roads can become a temptation to other drivers. Be alert for motorists who may hydroplane and skid when driving too fast for melting/icy surfaces.
  • Fog? Yes, evaporating moisture from the roads and blowing flakes from roadside snowbanks can blur vision. Slow down and back off.

Finally, don’t forget about the truck itself:

  • Safe driving requires clear vision. Drivers should make sure to de-ice and de-fog windshields and mirrors before hitting the road. Turn on heaters and defrosters. An ice scraper can come in handyand don’t skip the truck lights.
  • Pre-trip inspections are even more important in icy conditions. Snow and ice may build up on air hoses or on lights and reflectors.
  • It’s a good time to remind your maintenance folks to drain air tanks, check wiper blades, and switch to a washer fluid with a de-icer blend.

Driving through snow can quickly turn into driving on ice. Both require complete driver attention, plus some help from the maintenance staff back home. Be safe as conditions change.

Steve Vaughn is vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and electronic toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

About the Author

Steve Vaughn | Senior Vice President of Field Operations

Steve Vaughn is senior vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and electronic toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

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