Slipping into winter mode

Dec. 1, 2012
Attention to detail, planning can prevent winter incidents

After surviving the wrath of Hurricane Sandy right before Halloween, it occurs to me that many of your drivers are in the midst of yet another rough winter. Drivers have become accustomed to winter driving, but even the most seasoned driver must be vigilant when it comes to winter driving and expecting the unexpected.

Weather during the winter months comes in all shapes and sizes, depending on your geographic location. Our partners on the road, though, can often be just as unpredictable as the weather. At times, drivers can travel from rain, to sleet, to snow in one workday. I hate to sound like the Postal Service, but on many occasions, our truck drivers adhere to the Postman’s Creed of not letting weather interfere with the delivery of the mail or in the case of the truck driver, the cargo.

At this time of year, drivers are often reminded to be more careful when operating their commercial motor vehicle. This column serves as a reminder for you—as the owner or manager—to remind them that rough weather can be just around the next bend. As evidenced by Hurricane Sandy, any weather does not necessarily have to be localized either; it can impact an entire coastline, not to mention inland areas, in several different forms such as snow, wind and rain.

Winter weather, however, is almost always associated with snow. In that regard, it is important to remind drivers that any accumulated snow be removed from the top of their trailer. They also need to be cognizant of the trailers and cars in front of them with snow accumulation. Snow can harden; it can blow off and create a road hazard that could lead to an accident, certainly not something you want to happen.

Just the thought of ice and snow blowing from the rooftops of trucks that can create serious danger for fellow motorists leads me to discuss the inevitable limited visibility that often accompanies winter driving. Snow and sleet can certainly limit day and night visibility when proceeding through a winter storm, thus placing more emphasis on the pretrip inspection than originally thought. The presence of a winter storm should be a reminder to your drivers to check all fluids in the truck, including wiper fluid, should the need arise to clean the windshield. Not only do you have to deal with fresh snow falling from the sky, but that being kicked up from the road.

Pretrip inspections, snow on the rooftops, and winter driving all lead to one very important aspect when it comes to delivering freight: planning. Obviously, the best-case scenario is staying out of harm’s way. Clearly, that cannot always happen, so trip planning is essential when driving during the winter. Stay tuned to the radio to keep on top of weather conditions, know what you are driving into, and allow your drivers the option of saying enough is enough.

Our drivers perform these tasks every day without fail; however, let’s not forget the importance of reminding them to once again complete these tasks and be wary of the environment that surrounds them. A well-prepared driver is always better equipped to tackle the elements of the winter season and the slippery roadways that come with it.

About the Author

David Heller

David Heller is the senior vice president of safety and government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller has worked for TCA since 2005, initially as director of safety, and most recently as the VP of government affairs. Before that, he spent seven years as manager of safety programs for American Trucking Associations.

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