Driving In Snow: What First-Time Truck Drivers Need to Know

Driving in snow can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. It takes time to master the forces of wind, snow, and ice. If you don’t have experience driving your truck on snowy roads, there is no need to worry. Here are some tips for driving in the snow for first-time truck drivers.

Slow Down!

Reduce your speed on the cold snow. Slower speeds are safer in snow conditions. A driver going too fast for the conditions may have trouble stopping or turning in an emergency, which could result in a crash. Are you worried you will be late for your delivery? Slowing down to speed up will prevent you from losing control and not making your delivery. 

  • Slower speeds help prevent skidding. If your tires lose contact with the road and you begin to slide without rotating, skidding on the icy surface will occur.
  • Slower speeds reduce hydroplaning. Hydroplaning is the condition where water builds up between the tire treads and the asphalt under wet conditions causing the driver and truck to lose control. 

You would think that a fully-loaded 18-wheel machine would maintain contact with the road surface, but even a heavy-duty semi-truck can lose control on a thin layer of water. The greatest danger is not posed to the truck driver but rather to the smaller vehicles traveling alongside the semi-truck, as they may have trouble avoiding an out-of-control vehicle as large as a semi.

Increase Following Distance

The following distance is the space you are behind the vehicle in front of you. The FMCSA recommends leaving at least one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length when driving below 40 mph. 40-foot semi trucks need to maintain at least 4 seconds and increase by one second over 40 mph. Large trucks need to account for additional space to brake safely during unexpected actions. It is a good idea to maintain a space distance and check your mirrors often so that you are alert and have more time to react to a road situation. 

Increasing your following distance is even more important when driving through snow and icy conditions. This helps drivers respond swifter and more efficiently. If you can see the hood of the car in front of you, it’s time to slow down!

Bridges and Overpasses

Bridges and overpasses are more slippery than other roads. In addition, they are more likely to freeze first and stay frozen longer, making them a hazard on the road. Bridges and overpasses also pose a risk to semi-trucks because they are more often than not in shadowed areas. As you drive over the bridge or overpass, the safest course of action is to reduce your speed gradually so you can give yourself a safety net to react if the road surface begins to ice up.

Caution When Braking

When it comes to slowing down in snowy conditions, your first instinct may be to push the brake pedal down until you hear a squeal. This is the one thing you explicitly should not do! When your wheels start sliding, they’ll have no traction because of all that slick roads and the snow. 

Slowing down gradually and safely before coming to a stop will increase the friction between the tire and the road, helping you gain control of your semi. Also, avoid stopping on any ice or snow-covered surfaces, including roadsides or medians, because sudden stops may equal sudden skidding, and having new tires does not avoid this! 

Avoid Sudden Turns

If you keep turning, you’ll get whiplash and perhaps something even worse… the most common mistake is turning too sharply in icy conditions. While it is tempting to cut across a lane of traffic or even make sharp turns when no one is around, you may lose control. Always use your turn signal, take your time, and slow down before turning when driving in snowy conditions. Your visibility is limited, and if you notice your tires lose grip and start spinning, if you panic, it will only make matters worse for you and those around you. If you want more tips, take a peek at our other blogs that help first-time snow drivers understand what to expect from the road and how to handle the different situations that will arise when driving in winter weather. Not only are tips helpful, but proper insurance will also provide you with a security blanket that will keep you warm and protected! 

Cruise Control Myth?!

Cruise control, also known as auto cruise, is the system in which a vehicle automatically controls the speed. It is known that cruise control is a great tool for maintaining even speed, saving gas, and allowing for some energy to be saved, but it can be dangerous in winter weather. Cruise control can cause you to drive too fast for the road conditions and the ability to lose control of the vehicle. 

Many drivers have the misconception that cruise control is safer than trying to maintain an exact speed while driving on icy roads. However, this is far from the truth! Using cruise control may increase your risk of skidding or hydroplaning because it causes drivers to get distracted by other things. 

Know When To Wait It Out

There may be some situations where there is a bad storm or a treacherous bit of road that isn’t worth going through. Knowing when to park your truck and wait for the storm to pass is important. There may be pressure to deliver a load on time, but getting there safely in one piece is always going to be more important than not getting there at all (if you get into an accident).

Learning How To Drive In The Snow Is Partially About Learning What Not To Do!

If you drive in the snow, make sure you understand how to drive safely in winter weather. We know it can be intimidating, but it’s important to remember to stay calm, slow down and have a safety net by contacting Alex Rue! It’s not just about getting covered. It’s about having the best coverage and rates, even on snowy days!

Alex Rue