Tips from a Pro: Don’t be a Hero

With Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en in our rear view mirrors, it’s now time to turn our attention to the annual winter driving season.  For this article, I’ll share a few tips and suggestions aimed mostly at those drivers yet to experience winter driving.  

First and foremost, make sure your truck is ready for winter driving.  Good visibly is an absolute must, so be sure you have wiper blades.  Summer blades are useless, as they get wet, then freeze, and lift off the windshield.  One other trick to maintain good visibility, is do NOT use the defroster excessively.  The best way to keep the windshield clear, is to use the floor/vent setting for the heater, and turn down the sun visor.  Heat rises, and gets “trapped” by the turned down visor. 

When it comes to driving in winter weather, remember:  You are the one making the final decision on road conditions.  Dispatch may try and coerce you into driving with lines like “Johnny Boy was just through there, and he said it’s great driving conditions.”  Fine.  Maybe they are, but maybe they aren’t.  Maybe Johnny Boy has 20 years of winter driving experience.  The bottom line is, if you don’t feel comfortable driving in the current conditions, don’t drive.  Better to sit and wait it out than risk hitting the ditch, or killing yourself and others on the road.  Also, don’t let other drivers on the road try to goad you into driving faster than you’re comfortable with.  Better to go too slow and arrive late, than to drive too fast and never arrive at all, especially in the mountains.  Remember, speed limits are a suggested maximum speed for ideal road conditions.  Roads slippery with snow or ice require a lower speed.  Just because every other can and truck is flying past you doesn’t mean you’re too slow.  Drive within your comfort zone.

Avoid using the engine brake unless the road surface is bare and dry, otherwise you risk a serious jack knifing.  This is the voice of experience talking here.  It happened to me a few years ago, and the bill was over $100,000 in total.

Don Taylor has been a professional driver since March 1985.  In 1994 he made the jump to driving tractor trailers, and has accumulated over 3.5 million miles, including over 4 years of driving turnpike doubles in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.  He is currently hauling flat decks across North America.