Winter work wear

We recently covered the ins and outs of tire chains in preparation for the upcoming winter driving season, so now we’ll go over some other things we need to have in order to have a safe and productive winter.

For some, this will be a simple reminder, and for those drivers who are about to experience their first North American winter, especially in Canada, this information could easily mean the difference between life and death.

First and foremost, always remember:  You are in control of the truck, and you alone decides when it moves, and when it doesn’t.  If and when you feel the weather and/or road conditions are beyond your capability, DO NOT DRIVE!   Your company may try and push, beg, plead, coerce or even threaten you to get moving, but if you don’t feel safe and comfortable driving, then just stay parked.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry.  Don’t go by what other drivers are doing, especially if it’s your first winter.  Most of the other drivers in the truck stop will have years, if not decades of winter driving experience.

Before the snow starts to fly, equip your truck with the essential clothing for winter weather.  What provisions we need will be covered later. Long underwear, tops and bottoms are an absolute must.  Don’t cheap out on long underwear, get the good stuff.  Stay away from department store brands. Go to a sporting goods store, or a work clothes store. Fleece or wool waffle weave are the best, and have 3 or 4 complete sets at least.  Stay away from the one piece long johns.  They’re a royal pain when you need to use the restroom.

Get a few pairs of good winter work gloves. The 3 pack gloves for $9.99 are okay in the summer, but not for the winter.  If you can find them, get a pair of linesman gloves. These are felt lined gloves with a cuff that extends about 8 inches up your arm.  Otherwise, use fur lined gloves, and keep a few pairs at the ready as they tend to get saturated with salt water, and they need time to dry.  The best place to dry them is in the floor by the floor heater vents. To help keep your hands dry, pick up a box of surgical style rubber or latex gloves from a drug store, and wear them inside your work gloves.

A good winter work jacket is an absolute must, and they’re not cheap, but when you have to work outside in -40° temperatures with a gusting wind, you won’t be too concerned by the cost.  A good pair of winter work coveralls would also be a good investment.  A winter wool hat, known as a toque in Canada and a beanie in the US is an absolute must.  90% of the body’s heat loss is through the head, so keep the old melon as warm as possible.  A balaclava that covers your entire head, with holes for your eyes and mouth is the best.  If you need to wear a hard hat at times, get a wool or fleece hard hat liner that covers you ears.

Good quality wool socks and good winter work boots will help keep your feet warm. Smart Wool brand socks are my personal favourite. For the work boots, again, don’t cheap out.  Go to an outdoor store, or a foot wear shop and buy a good pair of boots.  Mine are rated to -150°C. A bit of an overkill, but my feet are always nice and toasty.

The bottom line with all the winter work gear is comfort, safety, and the prevention of cold weather related health issues. The worst of these is frostbite.

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.