Winter Driving

By: Chandler Magann, President of Next Exit Logistics

It’s about that time of year again for winter driving. Although temperatures may be in the 80s in the South, nasty weather will be here soon enough and the days are getting shorter. Winter driving is never easy so I wanted to compile a list of tips and best practices for the upcoming season.

Pre-trip inspection
Safety starts before you even hit the road. A pre-trip inspection can identify issues before they become dangerous. Check your wiper blades, lights, fluids and tires. Make sure your spare tire is in working order. Also check your load. If possible, make sure weight is evenly distributed during loading. When the roads are icy, you don’t want your product sliding around.

Emergency preparedness 101
In addition to preparing your truck, think about what supplies you might need. What if you have to camp out in your truck during a snowstorm? You’ll need extra blankets, water and food. Don’t forget the can opener! Other handy items include:
• An extra set of dry clothes, including gloves
• Flashlight
• Windshield scraper
• Jumper cables
And remember, if you do get caught in a blizzard, you and your emergency supplies should stay put inside your truck. It’s easy to get turned around in a bad storm and freeze to death.

A clear view
Driving in rain or heavy snow conditions can make your life a whole lot harder. Install good wiper blades before the wintry mixes hit you. Reduce ice on your windshield and prevent your window cleaner from freezing by adding rubbing alcohol to your window washer fluid. Rain-X also improves visibility.

Dealing with ice
Ice is not your friend. For safety’s sake, you need to be vigilant about when the road freezes up and adapt your driving accordingly. The road usually stays slightly warmer than the air temperature, but once the degrees dip below 32, be extra careful. Watch for spray coming off the tires of vehicles in front of you. This means the roads are probably wet. When the spray stops, the road has frozen.
Driving on snow is safer than driving on the clear parts of the road, which might conceal the dreaded black ice. Black ice may also look like water. Likely spots for black ice include shady places, under overpasses and bridges and at intersections.
If you’re trying to get started on ice from a complete stop, using a higher gear can counteract sliding. You might get stuck on black ice at a loading dock. Sprinkling some sand or salt behind your wheels can help you get going.

Anti-Gel Fuel Additive
When cold temperatures hit, your engine may shut down or not turn on. The paraffin in diesel can turn to gel as the fuel cools. Condensation in your fuel tank may freeze over. Using an anti-gel fuel additive can help. Carry at least two gallons of anti-gel fuel additive at all times. If the temperature is below freezing, put some in when you fuel up. Check your owner’s manual for exact guidelines. And keep your fuel tanks as full as possible to avoid getting moisture in your fuel system.

Chain it up
Bring your chains. And before you set out on your first winter trip, make sure you know how to put the chains on your truck. If you don’t, or if it’s been a long while, practice before you go. It’s much easier to learn before you’re out there in snow and freezing temperatures.
You might need to chain up your tires to get through snow. The tightening links go on the outside. Add tarp straps for extra safety. Check your chains every 25 miles or so, and retighten when necessary. Some drivers think when conditions are bad enough to require chains, it’s time to pull over and wait for better weather.

Common sense
A lot of best practices for winter driving come down to common sense. You already know tailgating is bad form, but it becomes really stupid when traveling on roads that require longer-than-average stopping times. Give other drivers their space.
If you see a lot of four-wheelers pulled over along the highway, that might be a sign you should stop, too. Are you really that different? But don’t park on an incline, where you might get stuck.
Above all, take it slow. While getting that load delivered quickly might seem vital, I guarantee it will seem a whole lot less important if you wind up in a ditch or recovering in a hospital.