Winter is Coming!

WINTER IS COMING! And unlike the Game of Thrones where winter comes occasionally and is accompanied with great dread, our winters come every year. But we do have one thing in common with this series… we also feel great dread at its arrival. This is especially true in the trucking industry where the coming of winter may make us wonder why we decided on this career path.

The varied weather conditions with their accompanied hazards make it a season that you want to run away from in Canada. Although this sounds like the best option, it’s not what hardy Canadians do. We make it work. The first step is to make some smart plans to manoeuvre through the season and ensure a safe return to dry roads and days with long hours of sunlight.

Check your equipment
Start by ensuring your rig is fully inspected and minor malfunctions are repaired. Be absolutely certain that the defroster and heater are working properly. Before departure check that wipers, wiper motor, lights, brake and tail lights are working, that washer fluid is topped up, moisture is drained from the air tanks, that all brakes are working and that the windows and mirrors are completely clean. It is easier to conduct maintenance and repairs when it’s nice out. Making repairs on the side of the road in the cold weather without the benefit of gloves or a heated space will make anyone want to give up.

Equip your vehicle
A smart driver is always prepared for bad weather conditions. Ensure your vehicle is equipped for emergencies and for dealing with mishaps. You will no doubt have the mandated emergency equipment but you may also want to add some equipment that would apply to your type of hauling. Add shovels, chains, sand, fuel conditioner, methyl hydrate, extra fuel filters, washer fluid and a charged cell phone.

Get the right clothing
I live by the saying that ‘there is no bad weather…just bad clothing.’ As a Northerner, it’s so easy to get upset with the cold winds and deep snow. But I also know that when I’m dressed for the conditions, it actually becomes enjoyable to go about my activities. So ensure you carry warm clothing & socks, good quality boots, extra blankets or a sleeping bag. You will then be equipped to conduct inspections, repairs and deal with a breakdown with ease.

Prepare yourself
Once you’re on the road, there are lots of things that are out of your control. You must deal with other drivers, traffic, lights, pedestrians, emergency vehicles, road closures and construction zones. All these are impossible to predict and to plan for. Watch for some of your bad habits that are not as critical when driving in perfect weather conditions but can be disastrous in bad weather. When is the last time you actually drove 60 km in a 60 km zone? Keep a positive attitude about the changing conditions. As you plan for this you will feel more in control and ready to tackle them.

Refresh your defensive driving skills
This may be a good time to also take a defensive driving refresher course. We often think the new driver will be most at risk but we sometimes forget to remember that the experienced driver is also at risk due to complacency. The most important rule is to SLOW DOWN and to keep a safe driving distance for the conditions. Be aware that nothing is more frustrating for a car driver then to follow a convoy of trucks where it is next to impossible to safely pass. And when you’re able to stop at a safe spot, keep your tractor and trailer lights clean.

Prevention practices
There are many tips practiced by experienced drivers that can be used to prevent getting into a bad situation. It may be a good idea to keep the fuel tanks full to increase traction. Practice smooth starts to avoid spinning the driver wheels which can cause ice and reduce traction by almost half. Downshift smoothly when going up a hill and steer the vehicle smoothly when going around curves. Since the pavement markings may be covered with snow, keep well to the right side of the road. Plan lane changes well in advance and keep your speed even and smooth.

Stay Safe
The trucking industry has high expectations for delivery of its goods and many companies are rewarded or penalized for just-in-time delivery. These objectives may not be realistic and applicable during bad weather conditions. It is important to keep open communication with dispatch and express your concern if you feel that going on the road is unsafe. In the event of freezing rain and unusually heavy snow fall and slippery conditions, it’s best to stay put and catch up on paperwork.

This year, summer just keeps on giving. We have enjoyed more warm weather than normal and it’s difficult to believe winter is just a few weeks off. But it is coming. Prepare early and carefully. Before you know it, daylight will increase and we will be complaining about having to cut our lawn more than once a week. Stay safe and try to enjoy the refreshing air and the clear blue skies of winter!

Louise Philbin
Co-founder and Education Director
5th Wheel Training Institute
Haileybury, Ontario