Safe Winter Driving Tips for Truck Drivers & Fleets

  • long haul truck on winter road

Winter Weather Driving Safety Tips for Truck Drivers

At the moment right before a collision, it might not appear there is anything that can be done, but by slowing down, enforcing habits that promote safety and alertness, truck drivers can be the shepherds of the road and do their part to keep the roads safe.

Every year the United States and Canada is pounded by snow, and there are always plenty of accidents. Some of them are not avoidable, but in many cases, they are preventable.

This article isn’t here to pick on truck drivers. A study conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in 2013, explained when investigating over 8,000 fatal crashes between cars and trucks, that 81% of fatal car-truck accidents were caused by car drivers.(1)

The aim of this article is here to show everyone – car drivers, truck drivers, safety managers, and warehouse attendants – can do their part to ensure that the roadways are safe this winter.

1. 10-day forecasts + navigation is a must

truck navigation on dash mounted in cab device

Fleet managers should know how to keep changing winter weather conditions in the back of their minds. The United States is staggeringly different depending on where you are, so anticipating the weather on truck routes is essential for drivers and fleet managers when planning routers, delivery times, and safety precautions.

If a company does not have in-house weather technology, using websites, like weather.com, is an adequate substitute. However, relaying that information to a fleet is difficult, and even the smallest fleets should invest in a modern navigation device with live weather updates.   

In mountainous areas of the country, weather changes frequently. On one side of the mountain, there can be clear skies and warm weather and on the other a massive whiteout. A navigation device will let a driver know what dangers are ahead.

2. Listen to the CB radio

In addition to navigation devices providing updates, CB radios offer peer-to-peer updates for what’s ahead. During a storm or striving on icy conditions, listening to ESPN radio or your favorite comedian on Sirius XM, can be hazardous. It’s far better to be prepared and focus on the road when conditions are treacherous.

3. All eyes on deck - proper inspections are not just for drivers

driver performing DVIR inspection

Doing proper inspections are mandatory for drivers, but everyone in the warehouse and truck yard should have their eyes open. In the winter, trucks are covered with ice and snow, making damage difficult to spot. It’s important to keep a watchful eye in the yard for any kind of damage before a driver leaves.

Using an ELD with a smartphone application can eliminate ambiguity with DVIR reports. Take as many pictures as possible and store them in the smartphone and backend web portal. Keeping track of any damage and fixing it immediately is a major key to keeping the winter roads safe for drivers.

4. Tires: tread, pressure, snow tires, and chains

Snow tires are a must for safe driving in the winter, but even tires with the deepest tread are ineffective without the right amount of pressure inside them. According to Overdrive Online, set the steer tire pressure to 110 psi on a 12,000-pound front axle, then set the drive and trailer tire pressure around 95 psi.(2)

Mixing “black ice” with high-speed trucks is a recipe for disaster. Whenever there is a chance of ice buildup, snow tires should be used instead of summer tires.

Truck drivers in mountainous areas know the benefits of using snow tires and chains. In many cases, they‘re mandatory fixtures for cars and trucks on certain roads and conditions. It’s best to keep them in the truck cab at all times.

5. The winter survival kit

commercial truck driver reviews hours of service

When a winter disaster strikes, drivers can run into situations where their ability to survive in cold temperatures is tested. It’s vital for drivers to have a winter survival kit with all the necessary refinements to keep warm, fed, and in constant communication with the home office and police if necessary.

Here is a list of items that could benefit a driver, just in case…

  • Extra warm clothing
  • Gloves, hats, blankets.
  • Flint, matches, flares, tinder
  • Flashlight, Swiss army knife and/or multi-tool
  • Jumper cables
  • Rugged solar smartphone charger
  • Snow shovel
  • Canned foods and snacks

6. Things to avoid: pack driving, shoulder breaks, congestion, and jake brakes

It may be lonely driving all alone, but it’s safer than driving in heavy traffic with icy roads. Staying away from other vehicles will obviously reduce the risk for accidents, so keep a healthy distance. The shoulders are also not a good place to be for breaks. Keep all breaks to rest areas, trucks stops, and parking lots.

Minimize the occurrence of accidents by avoiding congested areas in slippery conditions.  This makes the alertness of the driver paramount to spot possible accidents prior to them happening. This kind of precognition is not fool-proof, but something that comes with the experience of driving in harsh conditions for years. New drivers beware. 

Engine brakes, a.k.a. Jake brakes are great for saving brake pads but dangerous during icy conditions.  Engine brakes create friction within the engine to slow the truck and are not designed for icy terrain. Instead, use the anti-lock braking systems – ABS – which is perfect for icy conditions.(3) When the ABS is engaged just step on the brake, stay on it, and steer in the direction of safety.

7. Just slow down and overestimate customer delivery times

Considering the CSA penalties, loss or damage of shipment, and of course, the possibility of injury or fatality, just slow down. There’s too much at stake.

Rushing a driver to make a delivery time is never the right decision. In the winter, the likelihood of an accident becomes more probable with poor road conditions, lack of visibility, a decrease in stability, tractions, and performance.

In the winter, just be honest with clients and under promise and over deliver.

Ensuring that your drivers are prepared and equipped to drive in winter driving conditions is an important part of keeping your fleet - and roadways - safe this winter. Rand McNally can help. Our full suite of fleet management solutions can not only keep your fleet safer this winter but also improve your fleet operations overall. To learn more about our fleet management solutions and how they can improve your fleet's safety, contact us today.

For more information in the world of trucking check out the Rand McNally: Milestones.


1. 80 percent of car-truck crashes caused by car driver, ATA report says, 2013. Retrieved from https://www.ccjdigital.com/80-percent-of-car-truck-crashes-caused-by-car-drivers-ata-report-says/

2. Dump the thump: Measuring tire pressure precisely is worth more than the time it takes, 2014. Retrieved from https://www.overdriveonline.com/dump-the-thump-measuring-tire-pressure-precisely-is-worth-more-than-the-time-it-takes/

3. Top 10 Safety Tips’ for Driving in Snow and Ice. Retrieved from http://www.rsa.ie/Documents/Road%20Safety/Weather/Downloads/Top_10_Tips_Driving_Snow_Ice.pdf

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