Advice for Over the Road Truckers

By Salado & Sons Transport


5 Winter Driving Rules for Over the Road Truckers


Rule # 1: Get Your Truck & Trailer in working order before winter

A.  Invest time and money in maintaining your equipment 

1) Take your truck and trailer for servicing and do a thorough annual DOT inspection before winter starts.

2) Fix anything that is identified as not in good working order.

3) Make sure to flag up any issues you have found in the past months and fix those issues as well.

B. Do not drive in a Winter Storm

1) Avoid driving in the middle of a winter storm.

2) Do not let your dispatcher, broker or anyone else pressure you into driving in unsafe conditions. You are the one on the road and it is your call.

3) Check the weather on TV, computer or mobile apps for where you are and your destination, and follow your gut feeling to decide whether or not to drive.

4) If weather sources predict a bad storm, then let it pass and wait until snowplows have cleared the highways.

C. If you decide to drive in a Winter Storm

1) Do a thorough Pre-Trip Inspection on your truck and trailer to make sure they are fully operational.

2) If you find any major issues with your truck or trailer, have those issues fixed before getting on the Highway and driving through a Winter Storm.

3) If you cannot fix the issues at a shop near you, stay parked where you are. Don’t risk breaking down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere waiting for a road call.

4) Make sure you have enough fuel (diesel, DEF & Reefer fuel) and food to last you a day or more in case you have to wait out the storm at a rest area.



Maintaining Your Equipment

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Rule # 2: Major things to look for in your Pre-Trip Inspections

A. Engine Inspection

1) Make sure you have no check engine lights or any other warning lights on the truck dashboard.

2) If you have any warning lights, make sure to get them checked before driving in a winter storm.

3) Inspect your engine oil levels and make sure they are not too low or too high (you should have your engine oil changed once at least every 20 thousand miles or once every 3 months and get your truck and trailer greased too).

4) Do a visual inspection of your coolant fluid and make sure it is at the right level and there are no leaking hoses.

5) Hand check all of your belts, and visual check your power steering fluid level.

6) Look for any oil, coolant or air leaks on the engine compartment.

7) Do a good visual check for anything not right under the hood and around the engine.

8) If you find a major issue with your engine, make sure to get it fixed before starting to drive in a winter storm.

B. Air Leak Inspection

1) Build your air up while the truck is running to above 100 psi or until you hear a hiss sound from the air governor.

2) Turn off the engine and make sure both truck and trailer breaks are disengaged.

3) Do an air leak test by gently stepping on the service break for one minute and keep an eye on your dash for drops in the primary and secondary air gauges.

4) Make sure you do not lose more than 5 psi in that one minute.

5) Losing more than 5 psi in one minute means you have an air leak somewhere on the truck or trailer.

6) Test your spring breaks by pumping the service break as you were taught in CDL School until both your truck and trailer parking breaks pop up.

7) You should hear a low air warning sound in the cab when your primary and secondary air pressure gauges drop below 70 psi.

8) Finally, test your trailer breaks and your trailer coupling by disengaging only your truck parking break after you build your air back up to 100 psi. Put your truck in first gear and pull forward gently while the trailer breaks are on.

9) If you find an air leak on either the truck or trailer, make sure to have it fixed before driving in a winter storm.

C. Lights Inspection

1) Inspect both of your truck’s low beam and high beam headlights (and fog lights if you’re the few lucky ones to have them in their trucks).

2) Make sure the break lights on both the truck and trailer are working correctly.

3) Check that all of your truck and trailer marker lights are working too.

4) If you find any of your lights are not working, get them fixed as soon as possible (head lights and brake lights are a must in a winter storm)

D. Windshield Wipers & Mirror Inspection

1) Make sure your windshield wipers are working correctly.

2) Check your windshield washer fluid and make sure it is full with winterized fluids (not water) and that there are no leaks in the reservoir tank.

3) Double check to make sure the spray is working correctly. (These things stop working when you need them the most, like in the middle of nowhere in a snow storm.)

4) Inspect all of your mirrors for cracks. Especially make sure your rear view mirrors have no cracks and that they are in the right position for you when you are sitting in the driver’s seat.

5) Check that the heating for the mirrors is working.

6) If you find that your windshield wipers, rear view mirrors or heat are not working as they should, get them fixed before driving in the snow.

DO NOT drive in a winter storm with any of these things not functioning properly.

E. Tires Inspection

1) Make sure all of your truck and trailer tires have good tread on them.

2) All of your tires should be inflated to the correct psi (check with your company shop or with a tire tech if you’re owner operator).

3) Generally, steer tires should be at least 110 psi.

4) Drive tires are generally kept between 100 and 110 psi if they are duals.

5) Trailer tires are also generally kept between 100 and 110 psi if they are duals.

6) Your trailer or drive tires are generally kept between 110 and 120 psi if they are supper singles.

7) Again, double check with your company’s shop or with a tire tech for the right psi to run your tires.

8) Make sure all of your tires are at the right psi before driving in a snow storm.

9) Check your tire air levels only after 10 hours of being parked when the tires have had time to cool down – not after you have been driving for hours.

10) Park overnight at Love’s Truck Stop and have them check your tire’s air level in the morning if you can at least once a month (most Love’s have machines and trained tire techs to check your tire pressure on the first fuel aisle).

11) Love’s charges $5 for the truck and $5 for the trailer if you have no points to cover the tire inspections (worth the price in the winter if you ask me).

12) They do a good job and will let you know if one of your tires needs to be checked at their shop (don’t let them sell you tires when you don’t need them).

13) If you find any of your tires low on air, inflate it to the right psi right away and make sure you check that tire again or have it checked by a tire professional.

14) DO NOT drive on a tire that is low on air in a winter storm or you will have a bad experience. Cold weather drops tire air psi and for an already low tire that can mean over heating when it is carrying all the weight of a truck and trailer down a highway. If you’re unlucky, you can have a tire blowout at the wrong place and time!

F. Brakes, Shocks and Airbags Inspection

1) Go under you truck and trailer to check your brakes.

2) Look for any oil or water between the brake pads and drums.

3) Make sure you have enough brake pads.

4) Every time you do a Preventative Maintenance (PM), make sure you get your breaks adjusted by a professional at the shop.

5) If you are told that you need new breaks, make sure you replace those breaks right away. Safety is not something to skimp on.

6) Go under you truck and trailer to check your shocks.

7) Check your shocks for any oil leaks visually (have them checked at PM time).

8) If you find anything wrong with your shocks, get them fixed before driving in a winter storm.

9) Go under you truck and trailer to check your airbags.

10) Visually inspect your airbags for any sound of air leaks.

11) Make sure your airbags are inflated and not soggy.

12) If you find any of your airbags leaking air, get them fixed right away and do not drive with them in a winter storm.


How To Do A Thorough Pre-Trip Inspection

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 Rule # 3: Secure and balance your load

A. Secure your load before leaving the shipper

1) Use at least 2 load-locks or straps to secure your load before you close the trailer doors. If you’re picking up a preloaded trailer it is important to check if the load was secured before the trailer doors were locked. Remember: your load, your responsibility.

B. Weigh your truck and trailer axles

1) Go to the nearest Cat Scale to weigh your truck and trailer axles.

2) Make sure your steer axle is below 1,200 pounds.

3) Your drive axles should be below 34,000 pounds combined.

4) Also, your trailer axles need to be below 34,000 pounds combined.

5) Total weight for both your truck and trailer combined should be no more than 80,000 pounds unless you have a special permit to be overweight.

6) Being overweight on one or more axles means, you must adjust your load balance by moving either the trailer axles forward/back or your fifth-wheel forward/back as needed.

7) If your total weight is above 80,000 pounds and you do not have permits to haul that weight, make sure to go back to the shipper and get the weight reduced. If you drive overweight you risk a ticket at a DOT scale so company drivers need to talk to their dispatch; owner operators with their load broker.

8) Knowing how to balance your truck/trailer weight is very important, if you don’t know, ask a fellow trucker for help. If they are not in a hurry, most truck drivers are helpful, so don’t be shy about asking someone if you’re a new CDL driver or just need some assistance.

9) DO NOT drive with an overweight steer axle in a winter storm or at any other time of the year because you risk blowing out your steer tires and this can be deadly at 70 MPH!

10) Finally, make sure you are carrying enough Snow Chains or Auto Socks and know how to put them on in an emergency. By law you must carry either chains or socks if you’re driving anywhere west of the Mississippi River. Auto Socks are 100 times easier to put on and off, and they weigh a lot less than chains, however they are more expensive.

How To Secure Your Load

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How To Use Cat Scales

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How To Slide Your Tandems & 5th Wheel

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How To Slide Your Tandems

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How To Put On AutoSock

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How To Put On Chains

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Rule # 4: Reduce your speed and DO NOT Over Break

A. Do not drive according to the posted speeds

1) Drive slower than the posted speeds and according to the road conditions.

2) Do not use cruise control in a snow storm or in icy and foggy road conditions.

3) Reduce your speed even more when taking off-ramps and curvy roads.

4) Avoid slamming on you breaks – you could jackknife your truck.

5) Instead, down shift to a lower gear, use your breaks gently in a pumping motion and have your engine breaks on at maximum to help you slow down.

6) Keep your following distance in a wintry road conditions twice as much compared to normal road conditions.

7) Your eyes need to be open and on the lookout for four-wheelers (cars and pickup truck) hard breaking in front of you when the road conditions go from bad to worse. Non-professional drivers often panic and can slam on their breaks if they start to slide or are in treacherous weather conditions. If you are following too close and need to slam on your brakes, you are heading for a potential rollover.

8) To avoid this, change lanes to the left when you see four-wheelers panicking and hard-breaking or slowing down to a crawl when the road conditions are bad. Activate your four-way flashers to warn others (mostly four-wheelers who might run into the back of your trailer).

9) Give snowplows enough space to do their job. (There is a very good reason why they drive 10 to 25 MPH on a 70 MPH Interstate Highway, lit up with all kinds of flashing lights like Santa Claus sent them with a truck full of sand and salt to drop after clearing snow and ice from the roads)

10) Don’t be surprised if you see the real Santa Claus driving a snowplow truck somewhere near a mountain pass on I-90 Interstate in Idaho, Wyoming, or Washington State (I might have seen him or someone that was dressed like him near that area a few years ago when it was snowing crazy.)

Driving a Truck in The Snow

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Driving a Truck in The Snow 2

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Rule # 5: When should you get off the highway?

A. Signs that the road condition is too dangerous

1) When it is very foggy, windy, and icy or snow is coming down at a fast rate and visibility is very low, you must get off the road before you find yourself in a ditch, or worse, rolled over.

2) If there is black ice on the road, get off the road immediately!

3) When you notice the road condition is treacherous, you drive past 2 or 3 trucks jackknifed near the medium; it is time to get off the road before you end up in the same position.

4) The moment you see, “chain up” or highway patrol telling you to put on chains at a scale or near a mountain pass, park your truck as soon as you can safely find a parking spot. Then wait until the snow-plows do their job.

5) When you see a sign stating the highway is closed ahead, you have no choice but to pull over and park your truck. (If you did not recognize the bad road condition before you were forced to stop then you must have a word with yourself never to do that again.)

6) NEVER, ever ignore your gut feeling, experience, and common sense and not pullover and safely park your truck because you have a pick/deliver deadline. Remember a dispatcher or broker is not on the road, you are.

7) Whatever you’re hauling can wait another day or two instead of never getting to its destination and you ending up in a hospital or dead. Just turn off your cellphone if dispatchers or brokers are pressuring you to keep driving when it is too dangerous to do so.


When You Should Get Off The Highway

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When You Should Get Off The Highway 2

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