Here it comes again—for drivers the three certain things you can’t avoid are death, taxes and winter. Death and taxes are fairly unpredictable, but winter is very predictable and hasn’t changed a lot since driving started. Shorter periods of daylight that reduce visibility are certain. Periods of inclement weather, rain, snow, sleet, fog and ice all affect visibility and traction and can create some very challenging and dangerous driving conditions. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (DOT) has a lot to say about hazardous conditions in Part 392.14:
“Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated. Whenever compliance with the foregoing provisions of this rule increases hazard to passengers, the commercial motor vehicle may be operated to the nearest point at which the safety of the passengers is assured.”
Since you can’t control conditions you can prepare both yourself and your vehicle for winter. Pay special attention during your pre-trip, en-route and end-of-trip inspection to lights, tires and brakes. Clean mirrors, windshield and side glass is essential for you to see what is going on around you, so carry an extra supply of towels and glass cleaner with you. Heater and defrosters must be in good working order and check your tires for both tread depth and proper inflation. If you are likely to be somewhere that has a “chain law” make sure your tire chains are available and that you are familiar with how to install and remove them. Winter is also the time to keep a close check on your oil and coolant levels and be sure to drain those air tanks frequently. This is definitely that time of year when you need to program a little extra time for your run just in case you come across these adverse conditions. Slower speeds, increased following distance and no unnecessary lane changes can do a lot to help you avoid wintertime problems. Beware of vehicles passing you that may be blinded by spray from your rig and, whether it is a state law or not, anytime your windshield wipers are on, your lights should be on as well.
Take care of yourself! Winter driving puts a lot more pressure on you, makes you more on edge and can create fatigue in a shorter amount of time than in normal conditions. The only thing that will cure fatigue is rest, so extra rest and quality sleep will help get you ready for these challenging days. Carry a thermos of hot coffee or soup, some bottled water and snacks just in case you get stuck in a road block or if you’re delayed away from an eating facility. Extra blankets, good insulated work boots and gloves, as well as a good winter coat, will help keep you warm and safe if you have to get out in these conditions.
Watch out for the holiday drivers from Thanksgiving to Christmas through New Year’s; expect more traffic, motorists impaired by alcohol and/or fatigue and heavy volumes of traffic, especially in urban areas. Winter didn’t just happen; we have been through many before and we will get through this season safely.
The information contained in this report was obtained from sources which, to the best of the writer’s knowledge, are authentic and reliable. Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. makes no guarantee of results and assumes no liability in connection with either the information herein contained, or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein, or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedures.