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Remember To Adjust Driving Habits This Winter

Driving challenges increase at a chilling pace in winter. Whether you are a seasoned professional transport driver who has clocked thousands of hours on winter roads, or an industry newcomer, there ar...

Driving challenges increase at a chilling pace in winter. Whether you are a seasoned professional transport driver who has clocked thousands of hours on winter roads, or an industry newcomer, there are guidelines to keep in mind that will help you stay safe. Safe winter driving demands knowledge of defensive driving skills and adjustments. The winter scene will be less hazardous if you keep some of these in mind.

While the two major hazards in winter driving are commonly considered to be poor traction and reduced visibility, research has shown there are six important problems which confront all drivers:

Poor traction

To keep your grip, start off slow and easy. Do not spin your wheels. In deep snow, try turning your wheels from side to side to push the snow. Before you turn off the ignition, move your vehicle back and forth one to two metres (four to five feet). This packs the heavy snow for easier starting. When you are pulling out, use a light foot on the accelerator, easing forward gently.

Reduced ability to stop

It takes three to 12 times the distance to stop on ice and snow covered roads than on dry roads. Under winter conditions widen this gap accordingly -the more severe the conditions, the wider the gap.

Starting and stopping

Braking on ice is never easy but as the temperature rises, ice becomes even more slippery. For example, your braking distance can double with a temperature variation from -18 to 0 degrees C.

Slippery surfaces

The action of tires spinning and sliding on snow and ice polishes the surface. It happens most often at intersections, on curves and on hills. Slow down early when you approach a slippery intersection, curve or hill. Gearing down may be necessary to slow down safely.

Black ice

Ice sometimes becomes disguised. The road ahead may appear to be black and shiny asphalt. Be suspicious, it may be covered by a thin layer of ice known as black ice. Generally, in the winter, asphalt is a gray-white colour. If you do see a black surface ahead, slow down, and brake smoothly and gently. Proceed with caution.

Reduced ability to see and be seen

Before starting your trip, clean off the entire windshield and all the windows. Wipe off the headlights, stop and tail lights and turn signals so that others may see you. This may be necessary frequently during a heavy storm. Road splatter can leave you blind. Use your windshield washer often. At night, stop occasionally to clean off the headlights. In fog or snow, keep lights on low beam and adjust your speed.

Hazards of jackknifing for tractor-trailer combinations

There are two distinct kinds of jackknifing: a tractor jackknife in which the rear of the tractor skids sideways; and a trailer jackknife in which the rear of the trailer comes around.

Repeated tests have shown that if a jackknife develops beyond 15 degrees, it is almost impossible to recover. A jackknife can go to 15 degrees in 1.5 seconds. You must react fast in order to take preventative action and recover control of your vehicle. The faster this 15 degree angle develops, the greater the severity and potential damage of the jackknife. Safe defensive driving and adjusting to conditions offer the best safeguard against jackknifing. Going over a hilltop at 60 km/h to discover a sheet of ice or cars and trucks piled up below, invites tragedy.

Letting the truck build up speed downhill before a turn or a stop invites danger by having to overbrake, which could result in a skidding or jackknife accident. There has been considerable difference of opinion on the subject of jackknifing and driver techniques have been studied to find the most effective methods of maintaining control of a tractor semi-trailer.

The most effective technique for recovery from a jackknife on ice is almost complete reliance on steering with little or no use of the accelerator or brakes. A prompt start in correcting a jackknife is important.

Experience and practice count. Drivers with the most experience have greater confidence and better control. Directional control is best with all the wheels rolling.

The tractor is most likely to jackknife when the drive wheels of the tractor are locked and the front and trailer wheels are rolling. When the trailer wheels are locked, a trailer jackknife can also develop.

Brakes on empty vehicles still have all the power necessary for a full load. When the truck is unloaded, it’s easy to overbrake. So, when driving on a light or empty unit, brake with extra care.

Power should be applied cautiously. Spinning the drive wheels risks a jackknife. This can easily occur on icy uphill grades and usually result in a tractor jackknife which blocks the road and ties up traffic.

Jackknifing often develops while braking for a curve. Do your braking or gearing down well before the turn, get down to a safe and easy turning speed, then take the turn with all the wheels rolling.

-Michael Burke is president and CEO of the Transportation Health and Safety Association of Ontario. For more tips on winter driving and other transportation workplace safety topics, visit:

Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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