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Winter Driving: How Can You Better Prepare?

Truck driver jobs are important to the economy because trucks bring most of the things we need to the places where we need them. The country would have to shut down if trucks stopped running since store shelves would be empty and factories would lack raw materials. We need trucks to keep moving and that means truck drivers have to be prepared to deal with winter driving.

Professional truck drivers face a wide variety of extreme weather conditions in all kinds of geographical locations since they travel all over the country. At high elevations, winter weather can occur at any time of year and good drivers are ready for it. You can be better prepared for whatever is on the road ahead if you know what you have, know where you are going, and know who to contact when things go wrong.

Know What You Have

Whether you are an owner-operator or driving a company truck, you need to be completely familiar with your vehicle and the supplies it holds. A flatbed loaded with steel is going to handle differently than a flatbed with a shipping container. Experience in good driving conditions gives you muscle memory for the quick response that is needed when the road is slick. But don’t be overly confident -- the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says that 23 percent of large-truck crashes happen when truck drivers are going too fast for road conditions. You have a wealth of information on their site and it’s a free resource to keep in mind. Having the skills to drive in winter conditions is essential if you are going to be prepared.

Pre-trip inspections and regular maintenance help prevent breakdowns since potential trouble is spotted and fixed. Even if your company provides in-house service shops, it’s a good idea to carry some basic parts and tools with the knowledge to use them if necessary. Along with that basic tool kit, a few other supplies are good to have in a winter emergency:

  • Food and water for at least three days

  • Warm clothing and gear for sleeping in the cold

  • Something to do, like read or play solitaire

  • Cell phone and power to keep it charged (battery or solar)

  • Flashlight

  • Fire extinguisher

  • First Aid kit

  • Sand or salt

  • Tire chains

  • Windshield scraper, extra wiper blades, and washer fluid

  • Jumper cables

  • Warning devices and familiarity with laws regarding their placement

  • Cash and credit card with a way to keep receipts

  • Any required recordkeeping your company asks you to maintain

It might seem like overkill, but when a blizzard hits on the prairie and you have to pull over, there won’t a place to get what you need. If you haven't brought it with you, you won't have it.

Know Where You Are Going

Professionals know what to expect and how to deal with the unexpected. Planning a route may be done by your company dispatcher but you need to be familiar with the route, too. Having alerts for weather and traffic updates on your phone, listening to the radio, and using more than one type of map is a good idea. If you don’t have service for your GPS, a paper map gives an overview when the road is closed and you need to know if the detour will handle your rig.

Contacting your dispatcher may provide some good advice if the area is one that company trucks have traveled in the past. You can benefit from someone else’s experience. Nobody wants to back up a two-lane road in bad weather because their truck couldn’t make a sharp turn. Having an idea if you can fit under an overpass is a good idea because exact measurements win over guesstimates when you have to decide on making the attempt. Winter weather often means closed roads, accidents, and detours so having a plan for alternative routes is wise.

Know Who To Contact

Know who to contact when it becomes apparent that you will be delayed. Good communication with the people at both ends of your route keeps everybody on the same page.

Flatbed trucking companies, for instance, are dependent on the truck drivers keeping in touch so they know where the shipments are. One call to the dispatcher might be enough if that dispatcher then makes the necessary contacts on the other end, but companies vary so having a good understanding of yours is important. Truck drivers and dispatchers need to be friendly.

If you do have to be delayed or rerouted, a good understanding of insurance policies and company procedure is another essential to have. Without the proper records and procedures, you may not be reimbursed for a hotel stay or lost wages due to the highways being closed. Reimbursement might take a few months or you might not be able to drive as often as you’d like, so being prepared for winter truck driving by having some savings is a good plan.

While you are contacting people, don’t forget to contact your family. Truckers have families who spend a lot of time worrying while sitting at home watching the weather report. Keeping in touch with your loved ones during winter trips is good for everybody.

Alco Transportation works hard to give its drivers less downtime by using in-house service shops to maintain equipment. Company trucks and owner operators do pick up and delivery service of heavy haul shipments in Michigan and Indiana as well as spread shipments all over the continental US. Truck driver jobs are available for those looking for the opportunity to have more home time, higher revenue, better equipment, etc. with a career that prepares you for the future.

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