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PAM Pro Tips: Safe Truck Driving in Winter

Even the most experienced truck driver can be caught off guard by a sudden winter storm. That’s why PAM’s Safety Department regularly shares safe truck driving tips like these for navigating hazardous conditions during the winter.

Plan Before You Drive

Safe truck driving always begins with planning and communicating with Dispatch and your Driver Managers to prepare for winter’s worst. They can help you plan your routes according to weather forecasts and help you avoid dangerous driving mistakes such as: 

  • Failure to slow down, even when roads “look” dry (black ice is not visible on the road).
  • Aggressive braking or shifting mistakes on slick roads.
  • Poor negotiation of a curve or a steep hill.
  • Failure to plan routes according to weather conditions.
  • Leaving the vehicle if your truck becomes stranded.

Prepare Like a PAM Pro

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), “adverse driving conditions” means snow, sleet, or fog, as well as other adverse weather conditions such as a highway covered with ice or unusual road and traffic conditions.

The PAM Safety Department sends out weekly emails to help our drivers prepare for winter driving challenges. Just a few safe truck driving tips include:

  • Watch out for sudden road condition changes caused by winter weather.
  • Prepare your truck by keeping it in top condition and remove snow/ice buildup.
  • Use your three points of contact when exiting the truck, to avoid injuries.
  • Always keep extra food, water, and warm clothes on board.
  • Use extra caution on bridges and overpasses, as they will freeze before the roadways. If the road looks wet but you don’t see spray coming from the tires of the vehicle in front of you, that’s ice!
  • When conditions worsen, be sure to:
    • Reduce your speed.
    • Disengage your cruise control.
    • Increase your braking distance.

Know When to Chain Up

Safe truck driving in the winter begins with knowing the chain laws in every state on your route. But you also have to make sure you’re confident you can manage the route in chains. If not, don’t be afraid to sit it out. There’s nothing more dangerous than an unsure driver navigating through a winter storm.

Here are just a few tips for installing your chains.

  • Dust off any snow or debris before draping the chains over the tires.
  • When connecting the chains, check that the hooks are facing out and that the tensioners are open.
  • Be prepared to get under the truck, as the inside chains are the most difficult ones to connect.
  • Avoid unbalanced tires by checking each tire to see if you have the same number of links on the inside of the tire as you do on the outside of the tire.
  • Finally, you can tighten the chains with a tension tool. Don’t forget to leave about a finger’s worth of space between the tire and the chain. 

Stuck? Stay in Your Truck!

If you get caught in a blizzard or winter storm, find a safe place to pull over. If you can’t get to an exit or a stop that offers assistance, stay put. Make sure you keep your exhaust pipe free of snow, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, and keep your window cracked to let in some fresh air. You’ll want to keep your engine running for about 10-15 minutes per hour.

After putting your flashers on and triangles out correctly, you will have to remain on duty until you are able to move. Also, if you are being towed, you will have to remain on-duty until you get to the shop and are relieved from the responsibilities of performing work. Note that you can be on duty for more than 14 hours and not violate your hours limitations. You just can’t drive beyond your 14-hour clock.

If you hit your 14-hour mark and you need to move your truck once it has been repaired, do NOT leave it in on the side of the road. Take your truck to the nearest safe place to park and take a 10-hour break. And that doesn’t mean the nearest truck stop, motel, or place of comfort. That means the nearest safe, legal or authorized location where your truck will no longer pose a danger to the motoring public.

Of course, the best safe truck driving tip is to check with Dispatch and your Driver Managers for road condition updates in the winter months. Ten minutes of winter route planning can save you 10 hours of waiting in the cold. That’s why PAM keeps the lines of communication open at all times with our drivers, both on and off the road.

Want to work for a company that’s committed to keeping truck drivers safe? See our available jobs today!

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