Trucking on Ice – Winter Driving Tips
One of the most frequently cited tips for driving in bad winter weather is simply not to do so unless you have to. The average commercial driver, however, does have to – so for those who do need to brave the roads in all conditions, here’s some advice to make sure you’re prepared.
Check your vehicle
Winter demands a bit more attention on your pre-journey checks. Make sure that your tyres are properly inflated and aren’t worn down, and that your windscreen is clear. Any snow on the roof of your vehicle should be cleared off if possible, as it can fall down onto the windscreen or blow onto other road users and obscure their view. Make sure you’ve got sufficient antifreeze, and that your screenwash is suitable for the temperatures – not all screenwash is the same. You may need to allow extra time in your schedule to make sure that you’ve got time for things to defrost.
Snow & Ice
Firstly, be aware of the space between you and the vehicles around you. In snowy and icy conditions, you should leave around ten times as much space as you would in clear conditions to ensure that you have enough time to react.
If you’re driving on ungritted roads, be wary about driving in the tracks of other vehicles – compressed snow is more likely to be icy.
If your vehicle starts to skid, steer gently into it – if the back of your vehicle is sliding to the right, steer right. Don’t stamp on the brakes and don’t take your hands off the wheel.
In general everything you do, from steering to accelerating and even changing gears, should be done smoothly and slowly.
High winds are a particular issue for high-sided vehicles, but can cause problems for any driver as gusts can get under cars and affect their handling and braking. Firstly, plan your journey – if there’s an alternate route you can take with less exposed roads, it’s a good idea even if it is a detour.
When driving, keep your hands firmly on the wheel – winds are rarely constant, and a strong gust can take you by surprise at any time. Give extra room to cyclists, motorcyclists, and large vehicles like buses and lorries – these are particularly prone to being blown around by side winds. Keep extra room between you and the vehicle ahead, and watch them for warning of the conditions you’re about to drive into.
Be especially wary of crossing high bridges, passing vehicles towing caravans, and debris on the road.
Heavy Rain & Floods
As with high winds, if there’s heavy rain forecast it’s a good idea to check your route before you set out – some roads are more prone to flooding than others, and are best avoided. Use dipped headlights in the rain – both so that you can see where you’re going and so that other road users can see you – but don’t use rear fog lights, as these will only dazzle other road users and mask your brake lights.
Large vehicles can cause a lot of spray which reduces visibility – whether you’re driving past one or driving one yourself, be aware of this.
Driving too fast through standing water can cause your wheels to lose contact with the road, leaving you aquaplaning. If this happens, you’ll feel your steering go light all of a sudden. Don’t brake, but ease off the accelerator to slow down until you regain control.
If you encounter a flooded area, you shouldn’t attempt to drive through unless you’re sure it’s shallow enough. Look for the side of the kerb as a depth indicator. If you do need to drive through, stay on the highest part of the road in the middle, and go slowly so that you don’t create a bow wave in front of you. If the water is flowing fast, stay out of it – it doesn’t need to be very deep to be strong enough to wash a car away.
We hope, of course, that the weather won’t be severe enough for all of these tips to be necessary, but as in all things it is best to be prepared so that you can stay in control. Here at Fueltek, our fuel management systems can also help you stay in control – for more information, contact us on 01254 291391 to speak to our team.