Prepare for three seasons in one day

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The good thing about being a Canadian trucker is that you can experience three seasons in one day. The bad thing about being a Canadian trucker is that you can experience three seasons in one day.

It would be a funny joke if it wasn’t true. Of course, if you live in the Centre of the Universe, aka the Golden Horseshoe, aka the Greater Toronto Area, you may not know what I’m talking about. There, you’re always around hot air.

But as soon as you venture out, even two hours north, the weather changes. Constantly.

As someone from the true Center of Canada — we even have a monument to that effect — it’s important to be prepared for sudden weather changes.

If I had a dollar for every time I helped someone who was woefully unprepared, I could retire.

Tree Lined-up Snowplows Removing the Snow the Highway on a Cold Snowy Winter Day
(Photo: istock)

I’m going to give you some basic tips on what I do.

Let’s start with an often-overlooked strategy: Get your head in the game. Seriously. The weather is going to change. Expect it. Accept it. You can get upset about bad weather, but that will only make you more dangerous. The most important safety tool is you, the driver. The most important skill is your attitude.

Pay attention to the road and come to recognize subtle differences, like a shiny road in near-zero temperatures that indicates ice and slippery sections. We often hear about “black ice” or “unexpected conditions”. To me, that’s just code for “I’m not paying enough attention”.

It comes back to the same reason I don’t like the word “accident”. There are very few accidents. Lots of crashes, but rarely accidents. Crashes are preventable. Usually, they involve driver error of one kind or another.

If you’re new to driving big rigs I recommend researching what you will face. There are good training videos. Even videos showing crashes can show you what not to do.

Equipment and supplies

Now let’s shift gears to the big rig itself.

If you drive something that is not ready for changing conditions and are involved in a crash, you, the driver, can be held liable. You sign your name to a document that says the truck is safe to operate.

I pay special attention to brakes, tires, lights, and wipers as the temperatures drop. If the truck isn’t safe, don’t drive it. If you don’t know, or have a question, then ask someone.

And what do you carry for supplies? I like a basic wrench set, hammer, pry bar, vise grips, shovel, and duct tape, a couple extra gallons of washer fluid, premixed coolant, engine oil, and a spare fuel filter. Even if you don’t need it, someone who’s in a bind may need something. That’s right, do what you can to help each other. You may save a life. I like to carry tire chains, too. Rarely have I used them, but it’ll be expensive if you need a tow because you didn’t carry chains. And you may get a ticket.

In personal terms, think about your own safety. A couple gallons of water, non-perishable food, extra blankets, winter boots, and rain gear are a must. A crash can close the road for hours, and if not prepared you’ll have to rely on others who have better things to do than babysit you. Tow truck drivers, cops and other emergency personnel have died trying to help idiots who weren’t prepared. I know a local guy who told his driver to stay in the town due to whiteout conditions and not come the 15 kilometers to the yard. The driver became stranded in a snow drift. The boss went to rescue him and died after crashing his snowmobile.

It’s not uncommon for drivers to get hypothermia, either. I have a news flash: We get cold weather. Across the Prairies and North you will encounter temperatures like – 40 Celsius, even without the windchill. Flip flops and sweatpants won’t be much help in these conditions.

This is not a comprehensive list, but I hope it will make you think. Think about yourself and those around you. Think about what will get you home safely and in a good frame of mind. Take pride in being prepared. 

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David Henry is a longhaul driver, Bell Let's Talk representative and creator/cohost of the Crazy Canuck Truckin podcast. His passion is mental health and presenting a better image for trucking to the public.

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