Mountains And Winter Driving

Topic 17713 | Page 1

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Jim R.'s Comment
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I am a new driver, three months now on my own as a solo driver. This past week I was dispatched on a load going across I 80 to Salt Lake City then north on I 84 to northern Oregon. That part of the country was hit by a huge winter storm. I have little driving experience in winter conditions and zero experience driving in mountains with snow and ice. I went as far as Laramie Wyoming, then told my FM that I didn't feel safe going any further. I was not only fearful for my own safety but the safety of others as well due to my inexperience. I also told my FM that I wanted to get some training on driving in winter conditions, especially in the mountains. In my mind going down several miles of 6% grade hills snow covered isn't the time to wonder if a particular driving technique is the right one if things start to go south. Long story short, my FM did get my load re powered and I got out of there. My question is, did I over react, or make the right call ? I'm sitting home now at my FM's direction waiting on him to get me with someone for the additional training I asked for. In talking to my FM this morning, my gut is telling me that I may have messed in my nest. I'm really at his mercy now, my tractor is back at the company yard and I'm home.


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.
LDRSHIP's Comment
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As you have pointed out, you are missing out on loads as they wait for a trainer to become available for you to ride with to get you the experience and training you requested. Yes, you will probably go back to receiving training pay once you are on the road with the trainer. BUT, it is better to be safe then live with the guilt of losing control and killing someone. Or even end your own life.

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Hey, you have the entire rest of your life to make all the money you can make but the key to reaching that potential is not killing yourself prematurely, ya know what I mean? Go flying off a cliff and you won't be making any more money, that's for sure!


In your case, you were heading into some of the roughest territory out there during some pretty severe weather and you have very little experience. There's nothing in the world wrong with playing it safe. Winter driving techniques aren't that complicated once you know what works and what doesn't, but it's critical you learn the proper techniques. A lot of drivers wreck themselves by reacting the wrong way to a slight loss of traction.

I grew up in a really heavy snow region so I had some experience with it but I used to practice in the rig all the time. Anytime I came across a big, wide open parking lot covered in snow, especially at night when there wasn't anyone around, I would practice everything I could possibly think of. I would roll along a gentle curve and pop the trailer brakes to lock em up and learn to steer with the trailer to keep the tractor and trailer in a straight line as it spun.

Back then we didn't have traction control so if you hit the gas and the drive tires started spinning you could keep them spinning. So you could learn to do donuts where you would get going along a curve, turn the wheel and punch the throttle to break the drive tires loose, and then keep feathering the gas as you slowly went around in a circle with the drive tires spinning, kind of like dirt track racing.

I'm tellin ya - I learned soooo much by practicing that way over the years and it saved me a couple of times when my truck broke loose on slick roads. Plus it was more than just a little fun doing that kind of stuff!


When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Gladhand's Comment
member avatar

You made a good choice. Safety always comes first. After driving in some snow a lot of my fear went away. Granted my first snow in a semi was on a road and through a mountain pass I know very well.

It really is a feel thing. I am still a little scared in the snow, but I'll get used to it. I love the west more than the eastern part of the country so I have to learn how to deal with it sometime.

Make sure the person training you with winter driving shows you how to chain. Right away ask for a chaining lesson. You will be glad you did.

We have plenty of good money making days ahead. I just need to survive the winter. As soon as the spring hits I'll be running harder than I ever have before.

Scott L. aka Lawdog's Comment
member avatar

Jim -

The best decision(s) you will ever make is the "safe decision(s)", I've had my CDL now for just over 6 months. The company I am driving for had my orientation in Denver and deadheaded from there to St George. Low & behold I was routed on I70 over Vail and they were getting a good snowfall. Didn't have to chain-up until halfway-up the mountain. Though I learned about chaining in CDL skewl and also during orientation, I asked another driver to help me out and he did. We only put one set on my drives and took less than 15 mins. I was issued cables and the driver loaned me a spare set of his chains, followed him up the pass, removed his chains and I gave him $20 bucks. It was a great experience, I didn't let fear overcome me, took it nice and slow and "followed the leader."

Recently I've experienced a great deal of weather driving loads between UT-NV-ID. This last storm, I only made it about 58 mi north of ST George and stopped because the weax was grossly unsafe to drive in. The school I earned my CDL from I feel prepared me for driving in rough weather, but I know that when it is unsafe to drive I will pull into a safe area and let my dispatch know.

Nothing, absolutely nothing is more important that the life of a driver and the lives of others out on the road. I saw so many semis and 4-wheeler skid-outs and crashes in the last month that SAFETY is my #1 goal.

Be safe dude!/scott


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.


To drive with an empty trailer. After delivering your load you will deadhead to a shipper to pick up your next load.

Christian R.'s Comment
member avatar

Looking for advice. I'm looking at Joining Melton on September 20th. I have not driven in hills or snow before. Just don't have those around here. Would it be better to wait to join until the worst of the next winter is over or just jump in and hope for the best?



Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Pianoman's Comment
member avatar

Looking for advice. I'm looking at Joining Melton on September 20th. I have not driven in hills or snow before. Just don't have those around here. Would it be better to wait to join until the worst of the next winter is over or just jump in and hope for the best?


I started in the winter and I live in Colorado and ended up driving back and forth from Denver to Salt Lake and back every day for a month with my trainer. It was pretty terrifying at first but I did fine and I was actually glad to get my first experience in the snow in a truck with a trainer sitting right next to me. Getting on a route like that during training is not likely to happen to you but I personally don't see anything wrong with having your first experience in snow with a trainer there with you. Just my two cents


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Bruce K.'s Comment
member avatar

Christian, you will be best off in the long run by getting going sooner rather than later. After all, you can't take every winter off. Like Pianoman, I started out in the winter. In fact, the first morning I went out with my trainer it was from Green Bay (the frozen tundra) and it was a sloppy mess of freezing rain and snow. Just go slow until your confidence grows. And then, still go slow.

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