Wintertime brings a higher likelihood of truck drivers facing slippery surfaces and poor visibility, increasing the risk of crashes. Are your drivers prepared? The transportation industry ranks just behind first responders for the highest number of injuries that cause time away from work, according to the National Safety Council. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost to the employer for those injuries is $40,000. Winter operations bring additional risks, with snow, black ice, and other dangers. Driver training can help reduce the chances of injuries from crashes or from slips and falls. See how much you already know with the following winter driving safety quiz.
1. True or False: Reducing the air pressure in your tires will improve your traction. A: False. Reducing air pressure doesn’t improve traction, but it does reduce steering ability, and can cause a blowout if the tire eventually overheats.
2. Which of these two common incidents is more likely to happen: A vehicle collision or an out-of-vehicle slip and fall? A: Slips and falls are the leading cause of driver injuries, and 22% of those injuries are serious enough to cause those drivers to miss 30 or more days of work while recovering.
3. Which weather condition causes more crashes – rain or snow? A: Actually, rainy weather conditions cause five times more accidents than snowy conditions.
4. Which is the most common reason a truck will go into a skid: driving too fast, excessive braking and/or decelerating too quickly for the conditions, over-steering, or over-acceleration? A: Going too fast. Driving fast is easy; stopping is the challenge.
5. When driving on a wet road, drivers should: reduce speed by 10%, 25% or 30%? A: Reduce speed by 25%. For example, if you’d drive 55 mph in ideal conditions, reduce your speed to 40 mph when the road is wet.
6. In winter, drivers should never let their fuel tank get below 10%, 25% or 30%? A: 25%. There are two reasons to keep your tanks at least 25% full. First, a full tank reduces condensation that can plug up your fuel line. Second, if road conditions take a turn for the worse, you’ll be glad to have more fuel than you thought you’d need when you left for the trip.
7. On what day of the week are drivers most likely to get into a deadly collision? A: Saturday is the most common day for fatal collisions in winter, and the odds spike during winter holidays. During the week, Friday is the most dangerous day.
8. When driving on snowy or icy roads, it can take up to 5, 10 or 20 times longer to stop? A: 10 times longer. Increase your following distance accordingly.
9. In snowy weather, what should drivers do every time they pull over: Check weather conditions, check headlights, check reflectors, or all of the above? A: All of the above, of course. Weather conditions can change throughout the day, so check each time you stop for fuel or a rest break. Clear accumulated snow, ice or road grime off your lights and reflectors. This helps you see better and increases the chance other drivers will see you. Keeping your lights and reflectors clean can also help you avoid getting pulled over. Observable defects are the primary reason for DOT inspections. The bad weather will already be slowing you down, and a traffic stop will only put you farther behind. Experienced drivers often carry spare bulbs and fuses, as well.
10. What should drivers do if they start to skid? Brake lightly and steer in the opposite direction of the skid? Ease off the accelerator and steer toward a reference point into the skid? Honk your horn to alert others and steer away from oncoming traffic? A: Ease off the accelerator, steer toward a reference point, and into the skid. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, you should also slowly depress the clutch while you ease off the accelerator.
Now that you realize you may not know as much as you thought you did about winter driving safety, let’s explore some tips. Remember to follow these general safe winter driving tips. Go slowly and increase following distance. Be gentle with the accelerator and brake pedals. Plan routes to avoid hills whenever possible. Carry and use chains in states that require them (and practice putting them on before the flakes begin to fall). Wear boots appropriate for winter weather. Keep some basic survival supplies in the vehicle just in case you get stuck.
Ensure that you have the proper emergency supplies before you begin your trip including anti-gel fuel additive for diesel engines, extra headlight bulbs and fuses, safety flares or reflective triangles, tire chains, wiper blades, and antifreeze wiper fluid. Ensure that you have the following personal survival gear, as well, including food and water, a cell phone with a fully charged battery and charger, sturdy boots, hat and gloves, a headlamp or flashlight, and medicine, if needed.
Conducting a pre-trip inspection is particularly important in the winter months. Ensure that your battery is charging and holding a charge. Did you know that freezing temperatures can reduce your battery power by half? Make sure your battery box cover isn’t cracked or damaged. If your truck has slack adjusters, look for loose, damaged, or missing hardware (such as pins), and check for proper operation. Inspect your chains for broken or bent links, and then fix anything that needs to be repaired. Make sure your tire tread far exceeds the required minimums (4/32 of an inch on steer tires and 2/32 of an inch on rear tires).
The following items should be checked and/or addressed on a daily basis during the winter months. Fuel up at the end of the day and never let your vehicle get below a quarter of a tank. Check the weather report throughout the day, as weather conditions may change unexpectedly. Clear ice and snow from your headlights, taillights, reflector lights and markers. Check your antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid levels. Ensure that the defroster is working properly and remove any paperwork or other items that could block proper airflow from the vents. Inspect your exhaust system for leaks – carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly!
Lastly, when pulling over, apply light pressure to the brakes to gently heat up the drums before you pull over to park. Taking appropriate winter driving precautions can ultimately save time, money, and reduce your chance of injury. Winter throws a lot at truckers, and it’s hard to know where to focus limited training time. If you want more help or advice, NTA is always here for you. Call (800) 805-0040 or visit us at www.ntassoc.com today.