It is easy to dismiss the challenges of winter driving while roads are still clear and temperatures are somewhat warm. Doing so is not always smart, though. In many parts of the country, winter arrives in early to mid-November when cold air from Canada starts streaming down and bringing Arctic moisture with it. With that in mind, truck drivers need to start thinking about winter weather now.
We always say that preparedness is the key to staying safe during rough weather events. This is certainly true during the winter. Remember that the professional driver’s first responsibility is to get to where he or she is going in one piece. While CDL trucking jobs come with tight deadlines and demanding shipping requirements, the driver’s own health and safety comes first.
With winter knocking at the door, we recommend drivers begin preparing now as follows:
Familiarize Yourself with Weather Terms
The National Weather Service and local TV and radio stations are invaluable resources for live weather information. And, of course, drivers can always check the weather online. When they do, they need to be familiar with some of the most important terms of the season. Consider the following three classifications of warnings that might be issued:
- Winter Storm Watch – A winter storm watch indicates that there is a potential for heavy snow in a given area, with or without accumulation, within the next 24 to 36 hours. The watch does not necessarily mean severe winter weather is imminent; it does mean people should watch and be aware.
- Winter Storm Warning – When the National Weather Service issues a winter storm warning, this means an organized storm already producing significant snow and accumulation exists and can severely impact the covered areas.
- Blizzard Warning – A blizzard warning is issued whenever there is an existing winter storm with winds consistently at speeds of 35 mph or higher along with significant snowfall and reduced visibility. Conditions must be expected to persist for several hours in order to issue a blizzard warning.
Understanding weather terms is imperative so that drivers know which areas to avoid in the event watches and warnings are issued.
Assemble a Winter Preparedness Kit
Since CDL truck driving jobs can involve so much time on the road, drivers should always be prepared for breakdowns that could keep them stranded for a while. Part of that preparation is putting together a winter preparedness kit that can be kept in the cab. A good kit for truck drivers include :
- tire and chains
- flashlight or lantern with spare batteries
- emergency flares
- extra blankets
- extra winter gloves and hats
- spare battery for cell phone/radio
- emergency food and water
The typical truck driver usually carries a basic set of tools that can be used to make minor repairs in the event of a breakdown. It is a good idea to add to those tools anything that might be necessary to deal with things such as frozen brake or cooling lines and other weather-related issues.
Establishing Lines of Communication
Lastly, professional drivers should put in place some means of communication with family members or friends in order to keep them apprised of their winter journeys. Someone other than the driver’s employer needs to know where he or she is going from week to week just in case something does go wrong.
Severe winter weather does not get as much media exposure as hurricanes and tornadoes, but it can be just as dangerous. CDL drivers should begin thinking about winter now and preparing for its eventuality. It’s a matter of safety.