What You Need To Know
By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm
As temperatures plummet you have to be prepared for potentially life threatening conditions. The brutal cold is hard on equipment and can cause it to break down leaving you without heat for hours, or force a road to close leaving you in the same spot for hours, even days at times.
1. It is essential you keep your fuel tanks filled above a half tank as you do not want to be stranded with the gauge approaching empty. You should always carry a spare fuel filter and filter wrench remembering that, if necessary, you MUST fill the filter with fuel before putting it on.
2. Watch for spray coming off tires, both your own and that of others as this is a good indicator of the iciness of the road. Even if there is spray the road can still be freezing up, especially on bridges and areas where wind is more constant, so be cautious and look at oncoming traffic, see how much snow and ice is building up on their grills and landing gear. Where they are coming from is where you are headed, pay attention, you can learn a lot. The only way to learn to drive in those conditions is to do it but if the oncoming traffic is getting less and less, it might just be time to find a safe place to park. IF it becomes necessary to park remember NOT to set your trailer brakes right away, give them time to cool down first, otherwise the melted snow and ice will refreeze causing the brake shoes to freeze to the drums.
3. When the time comes to stop on a slick road, if you gently pull down on your trailer brake before applying gentle, steady pressure on your foot pedal, you will have allowed the air to travel through the system and reach the farthest brakes first thereby allowing you to come to a straight stop instead of jack knifing. Getting into this habit will serve you well over the years for any panic stop on icy roads. Believe me, we know.
4. Make sure your radiator is full of antifreeze, if your heater seems to be blowing cold air it could be because it is running low. Topping this off may be all it takes to fix it.
5. The newer LED lights are brighter and much easier to see but they burn much cooler so they don’t melt snow, be sure you go back and wipe off all your lights and turn signals often so you can be clearly seen from behind.
6. We have a “winter carry list” of necessities that we always pack at this time of year and we are going to share it here with you now. It includes for the truck:
- A gallon or 2 of antifreeze windshield washer fluid (It’s very hard to keep the windshield clean when it’s snowing and traffic is slinging slush, truck-stops sell out of this very quickly)
- A Good hammer (to beat on the brake drums if frozen to the shoes DON’T BEAT THE SHOES)
- Rubbing alcohol (it can be poured into air lines at the glad hands when frozen, alcohol dissipates water/ice so brakes can be released)
- Carry a bag of rock salt (when you are stopped or parked you may/will get frozen to the ground, this will melt the ice so you can move when ready)
- If your key won’t turn in the lock, rub it, repeatedly, put it in and out of the lock and turn it back and forth and repeat until it turns. It will work, if you are patient.
7. For yourself, keeping warm is important, make sure you have clothes for the conditions: Insulated coveralls, good winter boots, gloves, socks, hats, scarves, blankets, hand warmers, bunk warmer, huge pillar candles can provide a little heat if the truck shuts down. Have your flashlights and extra chargers all with new batteries and keep a stocked first aid kit. If you are prepared for the worst you’ll probably never have to face it. At least that’s our sincerest hope for you all!
Stay safe out there and keep it shiny!
Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.