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Winter Driving Tips & Items To Bring

Last Updated: Apr 5, 2016

What New Drivers Need To Know About Driving CMV's In Winter Conditions:

Winter driving conditions, especially for those who haven't lived in or experienced them, present a whole new set of challenges and approaches to safety for new drivers. A driver's main concerns will be visibility and road conditions.

Driving through sleet and snow is one thing, but a driver should never be afraid to shut it down and wait out weather considered dangerous, i.e. a raging blizzard. Most drivers will normally be paying close attention to weather forecasts, anyways, especially during the winter. Pushing through a mountain blizzard at 20 mph with chains on the tires generally won't get you far enough to make it worth the risk, but WILL burn up your clock, and tires.

Winter driving will require specific, additional, equipment to help the driver cope with the perils of driving a truck in inclement weather. While emergencies don't often happen, there are times that being specifically prepared will be worth the effort. Many of the items will be things that the driver will normally have, while some are kept as a "just in case of emergency".

Always check with your company before using fuel additives or otherwise making any modifications to the truck, if you don't own it.

Snow is to play in, not drive on. You have the rest of your life to make money, safely. You will hear, repeatedly, that "No load is worth your life, or the lives of others." Heed that advice.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) operates a service, called 511, designed to provide updated travel conditions for any state in the country, by simply dialing "511"

511: America's Traveler Information Telephone Number

Items To Take For Winter Truck Driving:

In addition to the usual items that drivers will need on the road, winter conditions sometimes require seasonal gear to keep them warm, safe, and alive.

See Also: Items To Bring To CDL School, Training, & OTR

  • Warm Winter Clothes:

    Especially if you are typically driving in the North, or over mountains, a good winter jacket, hat or ski-mask, and gloves are absolutely essential to life on the road. In treacherous conditions, good winter protection could become vital. Pack clothes that can be "layered", rather than one bulky item, especially if you will be spending a generous amount of your time outside the truck, i.e. flatbedders.

    Flatbedders, being exposed to the weather on a more regular basis, will especially want to pay attention to the quality of their winter gear. Even in Southern states, overnight temperatures can still plummet well below freezing.

    Waterproof gloves, while more expensive, will keep your hands warmer, longer, and allow you to keep using them, if necessary.

  • Good, Water-Proof Boots (and Good Socks):

    A hard, flexible, sole to prevent slipping, and preferably water-proof and insulated. Especially crucial in an emergency situation. In case water does get in, good wool socks will help keep your feet warm, for a short time. The first time you get out of the cab and step in a ankle-deep hole filled with icy water covered in snow you will appreciate having brought along a good pair of boots.

  • Ice Scraper or Brush/Foldable Snow Shovel:

    There are several companies making all-in-one versions of the ice scraper-brush-snow shovel. Check the camping, outdoor, or automotive sections at your local WalMart or Home Depot.

    Also, windshield deicer is a useful item to keep on hand, as well.

  • Extra Snacks & Bottled Water:

    Non-perishable foods, like canned goods and pre-packaged snacks are generally items that will come in handy in any weather, but in case of emergency, or even if you have to wait out a blizzard, keeping food on hand will make it abit more bearable.

    Eating snow is, contrary to popular belief, NOT a good way to stay hydrated, as it takes more energy for your body to heat and melt it than is gained. Easier to just have jugs or bottles of water on hand at all times. If you do, as a last resort, need to rely on snow, try to melt it into water first.

  • Extra Blankets:

    In an emergency,or if you are stranded, will keep you warmer in case of mechanical issues that prevent the truck from running, or the heat in the truck from working.

  • Bag Of Ice Melt Or Road Salt:

    In case of snow or ice build-up in front of or behind the drive wheels, to help get the tractor moving.

    Kitty litter or sand could also work, in a pinch. Anything that improves traction.

  • Diesel Fuel Anti-gel:

    Diesel fuel, and other petroleum products, contains paraffin wax, which helps increase fuel engine power and MPG, and fuel stability, viscosity, and lubricity. It also likes to gel up and clog the fuel filter in very low temperatures, eventually preventing the engine from getting enough fuel to run.

    As the air temperature drops, the wax begins to crystalize, starting at the "cloud point" of around 32 degrees F for most diesel fuel. Essentially, diesel fuel anti-gel disrupts the wax molecules from congealing into a mass, or "glob", and plugging up the fuel filter, by lowering the temperature at which the wax begins to crystalize.

    It is a good idea to also carry an extra fuel filter during the colder months, just in case. Avoid letting your gas tank fall below half-full, whenever possible or reasonable, and add anti-gel when the temperature is above the cloud point, to ensure that it will mix with the fuel properly. Always check with your company's mechanics before adding ANYTHING to the fuel, to ensure compatibility and avoid damaging the engine or fuel system.

  • Extra Medication:

    If you happen to get stranded, or stuck, you do NOT want to run out of your favorite blood pressure or other necessary medication.

  • Other Handy Winter Items For Truckers:

    • Candle and Matches
    • Flashlight and spare batteries
    • Spare cell phone batteries
    • Tire chains (required in some places)
    • Strap-on boot traction equipment
    • Jumper Cables

Winter Truck Driving Tips:

See Also: Daniel B.'s Winter Truck driving Tips

  • Pay Attention To The Weather Forecast:

    It cannot be stressed enough that knowing what the weather is doing up ahead of you, or is going to do, or might do, or forecasters think there may be a chance of it doing, will help you plan your trip, manage your time, and stay clear of danger.

    Plan trips according the weather conditions forecast, and keep up with any changes. Learn to read the weather radars, and check them frequently.

    See Also: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service

  • Park The Truck:

    In the end, the decision to drive is the driver's alone, nobody else's. If you are not comfortable driving, or consider it dangerous, don't drive. Some people in some companies may give drivers heat about not driving in bad weather, but driving and risking life, limb, and property simply to avoid heat is a lose-lose situation.

    Some states require that commercial vehicles carry tire chains at all times. If the weather gets bad enough that chains would be necessary to drive through it, most drivers will consider it too dangerous to drive, and shut down until it's safe to drive again.

    If you do drive knowing you may be encountering bad weather, be prepared to find a safe place to pull off the highway, or crawl along the shoulder until you reach an exit or rest stop, if necessary. Any time the highway departments start closing exits or stretches of interstate , it would be a good time to find a safe place to park the truck.

  • Let Conditions Dictate Speed:

    If you feel it absolutely necessary to drive in bad, wintery, weather, or need to at least get to a safe place to stop, slow your speed, increase your following distance, and stay out of situations that would require you to use the brake pedal.

  • Black Ice:

    A frozen phenomena in which, especially in conditions that were recently wet and at temperatures right around 32 degrees F, ice forms on a surface and is almost unnoticeable. Black ice is just regular ice, but virtually transparent, and while regular ice may appear shiny or different in color, large patches of black ice will appear the same color as the roadway.

    Black ice will tend to form first on bridges and overpasses, as air can circulate both under and above the surface, causing surface temperatures to drop more rapidly. Road signs stating "Bridge May Be Icy", or simply showing a set of wavy skidmarks, are common in particularly problematic areas.

    Hint: Watch for tire spray from other vehicles. If it's below 32 degrees F, and the roads look wet, but there is no spray coming from the tires, you're probably driving on ice.

  • Keep Electronics Charged:

    When possible, keep cell phones, laptop computers, etc., as well as batteries, plugged in while driving, to give you the most battery life in case of emergency.

    Mini portable external batteries are gaining popularity as a backup/additional power source for cell phones and tablets. Mini Portable Charger Examples

In Case Of Emergency On The Road In Winter:

  • Don't Panic:

    GPS, satellite tracking, etc., means that somebody, somewhere probably knows where you are. If you get stranded, stay calm and plot your next move. There could be worse things than being stuck in your road-home in a blizzard.

  • Call Somebody:

    Remember those extra batteries, and keeping things charged up? Depending on your level of emergency, call your company or emergency personnel.

  • Stay In The Truck:

    If possible, and safe, never leave the truck. Not only will the truck offer protection from much of the weather, but a person walking through a snowstorm is much harder to find than a stranded truck.

Video: Trucker's Winter Driving Tips


Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.


Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.


Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.


Commercial Motor Vehicle

A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and may fit any of these descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards


Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).


Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.


Operating While Intoxicated

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