March 20, 2023

Chain Up!

Chain Up! Winter Driving Tips for Semi Trucks | Trucker Tips Blog

By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm

Ready or not, winter is here! If you run out west you had better be prepared to meet the requirements of the western states when it comes to snow chains. Even if you are stopped on a nice sunny day with no hint of snow in the forecast, you could still be at risk of getting a ticket for not carrying the proper amount of chains for the truck you are driving. It is extremely important that you familiarize yourself with the requirements for EACH state law regarding chains BEFORE you enter that state. Unfortunately, the laws are not the same from state to state, so getting the information ahead of time is crucial.

We recommend finding out which state has the strictest law and carry the maximum chains you will need, weight allowing. This way you will always be compliant. Another thing to check on, and be sure of, are the dates of requirement which can differ from state to state. For instance, Georgia now has a chain law as a result of all of the wrecks they’ve had in recent winter storms. Again, it’s important to look at the law in ALL states where you run.

When the chain law signs go up, you had better be prepared to hang “iron” or hire some of the people who sit at chain up areas to hang chains for you. If you don’t, you certainly aren’t going anywhere! Make sure that you know your company’s policy about chaining up or parking when the road conditions get to this point. Many companies will allow you to run around a severe winter storm or blizzard, which is the ideal situation. However if they don’t, you need to have the knowledge to keep yourself safe.

Before you find yourself in a situation where you need to put chains on your tires, it would be a good idea to find a place and practice putting them on your wheels. Standing in the cold and snow with drivers splashing you with yuck off the road is not the time to be figuring this out.

Make sure that you have plenty of bungee cords or spider bungees to help secure the chains once they are on. Time and travel on rough snowy roads can and will loosen them, so pay attention in your mirrors. It’s nice if you have a chain hanger under your trailer or on the frame of your truck so that you can hang wet sloppy chains up and not let them freeze in a big lump inside your tool box.

It’s a good idea to check your tires after running chains. Even if your chains didn’t break, other trucks will probably have one break and a broken link in a tire means a trip to the tire shop for repair. I would never have guessed this if a friend hadn’t told me (after learning the hard way).

Sometimes chains can help you even if there isn’t a chain law in effect. For instance, if the road is icy and you have to stop for an accident on an incline, chains might be the only way you are going to be able to get going again. Sometimes after a really big snow it can take truck stops awhile to get everything plowed, especially with all of the trucks in the lot. In a case like that chains or a shovel are going to be your only way out. Another good idea, one we ALWAYS do during winter months, is to carry a bag of sand, salt or kitty litter to help you get enough traction to get going. Be prepared – it may just save your life one winter day!

Remember to SLOW DOWN in inclement weather. Nothing will help you avoid disaster better than a slower speed! We have to keep a sharp eye out at all times for new drivers; 4-wheeler and 18-wheeler alike. For some, this could very well be their first ever winter driving experience. We need to be driving our trucks for them, as well as for ourselves, to keep everyone safe. It is our responsibility as the professionals out here to stay calm and behave as such. We can lead by example and do our best to keep the accident statistics down this winter.

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.


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