Winter driving tips for new drivers

For those new to winter driving, I’d like to offer a few pointers to help you make it through the most challenging driving conditions you’ll ever encounter.

First and foremost, see and be seen.  Make certain your full lighting system is on at all times.  Replace your wiper blades with quality winter blades.  Summer blades are useless during the winter. 

If the roads are snow covered, slow down.  The posted speed limit is for bare dry roads.  If you find you’re catching and passing a lot of trucks, chances are you’re driving too fast, and inviting a disaster.  Just stay behind the line of trucks, it’s safer there, and if the unfortunate happens, there are others around to assist if needed.

In the mountains, take extra care sending and descending hills.  This can’t be stressed enough!  More than once I’ve seen trucks all folded up at the bottom of a mountain grade because they were going a bit too fast.  Remember, you’ll make all the way down going too slow, but you’ll never make it down going too fast.  On steep grades, use the power divider going up or down.  This will reduce the likelihood of a spin out going up, and reduce the risk of a skid descending the hill.  Also, do NOT use the engine brake on a slippery road.  This could cause a jack knife quicker than you can react to correct it.

If you run the mountains, the law says you must carry tire chains.  It does NOT say you have to use them.  In my almost 30 years, I’ve used them once.  In my opinion, if the roads are bad enough that you need chains, then you shouldn’t be on them, especially if you’re new to winter driving. I’ll address chains and other traction devices in an upcoming article.

To put it simply, you as the driver have the final say as to whether your truck moves or not.  Dispatch and planners may try to talk you into going, but they can’t force you to drive.  Some companies will do or say anything to get you to go, but as the driver, you have the final say, and if you believe the road and weather conditions are beyond your skill level, stay where you are.  I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years, and I still pull over at times.  I’m confident in my driving abilities, it’s the skill of other drivers Im not so sure of.  Last thing i want is for a less experienced driver with their spouse and kids losing control and running into me.

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.