Winter Driving Tips for the Professional Driver

Winter Driving Tips for the Professional Driver

When the cold starts to set in we all get prepared for driving in the fog, rain, ice, snow; slippery, muddy, or oily roads, and poor visibility conditions. It can be a dangerous time for pedestrians, light vehicle drivers and heavy vehicle drivers. Winter is inevitable and nothing can be done to avoid it, but preventive maintenance and extra caution can be important factors in accident prevention. First take a little extra time during your pre-trip inspection:

  • Are the windshield and side windows clear?
  • Do the windshield wipers work?
  • Are the blades in good condition?
  • Can you see in all the mirrors?
  • Are the headlights clean enough to allow proper visibility?
  • Does the defroster work or is there so much on the dash that the defroster could not properly work?
  • Do the tires have good tread and adequate pressure?
  • Are the brakes working properly?
  • Do you have emergency or repair equipment in the vehicle, including flashlights, flares, fire extinguishers, and chains where applicable?
  • Have you planned your travel route?
  • Did you check the weather before going out?

While driving…

Most vehicles are equipped with Cruise Control and for most using it is second nature; saving fuel costs, preventing leg fatigue and keeping us away from speeding tickets. However using this during bad weather conditions can be dangerous because when the vehicle skids or hydroplanes, the vehicle sensors will feel a loss in speed and accelerate. When this happens a driver can lose control of the vehicle.

Always be alert to the possibility of black ice when temperatures are near or below freezing. Pavement that looks dry but appears darker in color and dull-looking should alert you to the presence of black ice.

Drive slowly. It’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick surface. Increase your following distance enough so that you have plenty of time to stop. When braking without anti-skid, brake carefully with short, rapid application. Vehicles with anit-skid, brake carefully by pressing and holding the brake, the vehicle will do the rest. Accelerate gradually to avoid loss of traction. Turn with caution to avoid sliding on the road. Pass with care and avoid sudden movements. If you find yourself in a skid, stay calm and ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go.

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Staying Healthy in the Winter

Most of us hate to see winter come. Not only does it bring cold temperatures, it brings a whole new set of driving skills to apply for driving in snow and on ice along with shorter hours of daylight driving. The winter months also bring in the colds and flu season. Statistics show that colds happen more in the winter months as people are more prone to spending time indoors where the air is recycled and people are in close quarters. There are ways you can either avoid or reduce the severity of colds and the flu.

Get enough sleep. Bring your own pillow along. Sleeping in a truck or hotel room doesn’t always allow you to rest like you were in your own bed at home. By bringing your own pillow, you can get a better night’s sleep.

Eat Healthy. Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants and vitamins that can help you from catching a cold or the flu. Berries, broccoli and tomatoes are full of vitamin C which studies have shown help combat germs.

Don’t smoke.

Get a flu shot. Although they can’t always be 100% effective, they will help in the severity of the flu symptoms.

Drink lots of water. Water helps regulate body temperature, helps lubricate your joints and helps to get rid of bodily waste.

Exercise. Better some than none. Get out and walk around the truck or when loading and unloading. When at home walk, bike, swim, lift weights etc. Remember if you are just starting, start small.

Take care of yourself. Driving a truck is your profession. Being on the road means you are not with your family back home. When you do get home you want to be well enough to spend time doing things with them. That means while you’re gone on the road you need to focus on staying healthy and safe.

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A Guide to Determining Preventability of Accidents

The first step in reviewing the accident is to determine if the driver involved adhered to the Defensive Driving Code.  That is, did the driver “drive in such a way to commit no errors himself/herself, and so controlled the vehicle as to make due allowance for conditions of road, weather and traffic, and to assure that mistakes of other drivers did not involve him/her in an accident”?  It is important to remember that police action in issuing citations for an accident is not a factor in determining whether a driver could have prevented an accident from occurring.

Despite the fact each accident must be judged individually, experience in fleet safety over years has shown that certain types are generally non-preventable on the part of the professional truck driver and certain others, in absence of extenuating circumstances, could have been prevented by defensive driving.  The types of accidents listed below cannot cover every accident that may occur, but they are intended to provide guidance in determining the eligibility of drivers for safe driving awards.

Non-Preventable Accidents

  • Struck in Rear by Other Vehicle

Non-Preventable if:

Driver’s vehicle was legally and properly parked;

Driver was proceeding in his/her own lane of traffic at a safe and lawful speed;

Driver was stopped in traffic due to existing conditions or was stopped in compliance with traffic sign or signal or the directions of a police officer or other person legitimately controlling traffic;

Driver was in proper lane waiting to make turn.

  • Struck While Parked

Non-Preventable if:

Driver was properly parked in a location where parking was permitted;

Vehicle was protected by emergency warning devices as required by DOT and state regulations or if driver was in process of setting out or retrieving signals.  These provisions shall apply to the use of turn signals as emergency warning lights under DOT regulations.

Preventable Accidents

  • Accidents at Intersections

                Preventable if:

Driver failed to control speed to stop within available sight distance;

Driver failed to check cross-traffic and wait for it to clear before entering intersection;

Driver pulled out from side street in the face of oncoming traffic;

Driver collided with person, vehicle or object while making right or left turn;

Driver collided with vehicle making turn in front of him/her.

  • Striking Other Vehicle in Rear

Preventable if:

Driver failed to maintain safe following distance and to have the vehicle under control;

Driver failed to keep track of traffic conditions and note slowdown;

Driver failed to ascertain whether vehicle ahead was moving slowly, stopped or slowing down for any reason;

Driver misjudged rate of overtaking;

Driver came too close before pulling out to pass;

Driver failed to wait for car ahead to move into the clear before starting up;

Driver failed to leave sufficient room for passing vehicle to get safely back in line.

For our members, refer to the entire “Guide to Determining Preventability of Accidents” found in the “Safety Award Program”

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Tips for Avoiding Tire Violations

Know the Regulations. Motor carrier regulations set minimum requirements for safe tire operation, including provisions for proper inflation and loading, minimum tread depth and safe tire condition. Compliance with these regulations does not guarantee safety but it significantly reduces the likelihood that a tire issue will cause a crash, either for the truck or bus, or for other vehicles that encounter the carcass of a failed tire. Tire regulations fall primarily under 49 CFR 393.75.

                Keep you vehicle suspension in alignment. In addition to potentially affecting safe control of the vehicle, improper alignment will at least rapidly wear down tires. Your maintenance plan should include tire/wheel/suspension alignment.

                Follow industry best practices for tire management. Tire inflation should be checked at appropriate intervals for the operation. There are many resources available to assist with proper tire management, including purchasing, maintaining, inspecting and removing from service tires for any type of operation. Check with Rubber Manufacturers Association, Tire Industry Association, tire manufacturer organizations or Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations.

                Understand Tire Specifications. Tires are rated not only for size, but for maximum load, type of service and speed of operation. Tire specifications on the vehicle tire information label should be followed. Inspectors may check for overloading of tire capacity when scales are in use.

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Safety Tips Checklist

Safety Tips Checklist

Buckle up! It is your last line of defense!

Pre-inspect the condition of your vehicle before and check for load securement. Maximize the vision around your truck with properly adjusted mirrors; Be sure your mirrors are properly set and clean.

Get in a safe mindset! Obey speed limits and traffic signs. Excessive speed reduces your ability to avoid a crash, extends your vehicle’s stopping distance, and increases the severity of a crash when it occurs. Slow down in bad weather and at construction zones.

Maintain a safe following distance. Follow other vehicles at a safe distance. Make sure to constantly check your mirrors.

Make only safe and necessary lane changes. Pick a lane and stay in it for as long as possible. Lane changes increase one’s risk of an accident.

Focus on your driving and avoid or minimize in-truck distractions such as cell phone use, changing CDs, eating, or other activities that can remove your attention from the road.

Never drive under the influence! Watch out for other motorists whose driving behavior suggest they may have been drinking.

Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation and fatigue can cause lapses in attention, slowed awareness and impaired judgement.

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Fog and the Professional Driver

Weather can be hazardous even for the professionals. Fog creates dangerous conditions and has been the cause of a number of accidents.

The greatest problem with fog is the visibility. Heavy fog is visibility below one quarter of a mile. If you must drive in fog, here are a few safety tips:

Slow down

Be cautious

Increase following distance

Turn on all your lights and use low beam headlights

Turn on your flashers to approaching vehicles a better chance to see you

Use windshield wipers and defroster as necessary

Be ready for emergency stops

Turn off cruise control

Use the right edge of the road

Listen for traffic you cannot see

Do not change lanes or try to pass other vehicles

Signal early when you plan to brake

If visibility gets too bad find a spot to stop preferably at a rest area

As the weather gets warmer people who spend a lot of time outdoors run the risk of suffering from more than just heat exhaustion. The sun’s rays are most intense and damaging during the summer months usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Take some steps to protect yourself from those UV rays that can cause various forms of skin cancer among other things. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Protection for the face and other parts of the head can be as simple as wearing a hat.

Long-sleeved shirts and pants in lightweight, tightly woven fabrics provide both comfort and protection.

UV-absorbent sunglasses can help protect your eyes from sun damage.

Parts of the body that cannot be covered with clothing should be protected with sunscreen.

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Safety Starts With Proper Vehicle Maintenance

Ensuring the safety of a driver and the safety of the general public starts with a thorough pre-trip and post-trip vehicle inspection. The driver is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the vehicle being driven is in safe operating condition, with the assistance of appropriate inspection procedures and reports. The driver is also in a position to detect vehicle deficiencies and refer them to maintenance for repairs. Listed below are areas to cover in a pre-trip and post-trip inspection.

Pre-Trip Inspections

Before driving a motor vehicle, drivers must be satisfied that the vehicle is in safe operating condition by reviewing the last inspection report and signing the report, only if defects or deficiencies were noted, to acknowledge that he/she has reviewed the report and ensure that the required repairs have been made.

The following parts and accessories should also be inspected to ensure “good working order” prior to driving

Service brakes, including trailer brake connections

Parking (hand) brake

Steering mechanism



Windshield wipers

Rear vision mirrors

Coupling devices

Also ensure that the following emergency equipment is in place and ready for use:

Fire extinguishers

Spare fuses

Warning devices

Some vehicle deficiencies cannot be detected by daily inspection procedures and need to be addressed by periodic inspections and preventative maintenance procedures by maintenance personnel. Requirements for company-owned equipment also apply to leased owner/operators and other leased equipment, if controlled for 30 days or more. The DOT requires that motor carriers “shall systematically inspect, repair and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired and maintained, all motor vehicles subject to its control”. This ultimately makes the motor carrier responsible for ensuring that owner/operator equipment is well maintained.

Post-Trip Inspections

At the completion of each day’s work, drivers must prepare a written report, Driver Vehicle Inspection Report, for each piece of equipment operated. The report must contain the following information, at a minimum:

Service brakes, including trailer brake connections

Parking (hand) brake

Steering mechanism

Lighting devices and reflectors



Windshield wipers

Rear vision mirrors

Coupling devices

Wheels and rims

Emergency equipment

The driver must list any defect that would affect the safety of operation or would result in a mechanical breakdown. If no defects are discovered, the driver must so indicate on the report. In all instances, the driver must sign the report, except that in team operations, only one driver needs to sign the report, provided both drivers agree as to the defects or deficiencies.

Any defects likely to affect the safety of operation must be repaired and the motor carrier or agent must certify on the report that the defects have been corrected, or that correction is unnecessary before the vehicle is dispatched again. This report must be retained for three months from the date the report was prepared.

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