Operating a commercial motor vehicle during the winter months poses many challenges for the professional driver.
One of these challenges is dealing with rapidly changing weather and road conditions.
From icy roads to blinding blizzards, it is important for drivers to be prepared for whatever hazardous conditions they may face.
Now is a good time to review some of the steps that drivers should take and issues they need to be aware of when it comes to staying safe during the winter months.
Winter survival kit
All drivers should have a winter survival kit in their vehicle. In addition to the items that should be in their vehicle at all times (warning devices, jumper cables, tool kit, first aid kit), they should also carry a snow brush and scraper, shovel, traction devices, a brightly colored cloth, blankets/sleeping bag, extra food and water, extra medications (if necessary), and proper outerwear (extra coat, gloves, hat, boots).
Stranded during the storm
Knowing how to react if stranded on the road during a snowstorm is key to driver safety.
First and foremost, if a driver is stranded in his/her vehicle, he/she should stay in the vehicle. He/she should never leave for assistance, unless help is visible and close (within about 100 yards). Leaving the vehicle is a dangerous decision, as it is easy to become disoriented in blowing and drifting snow.
If able to safely do it, the driver should hang a brightly colored cloth outside the vehicle.
He/she should run the vehicle’s engine (with the heater on) for about 10 minutes every hour to keep warm. While the engine is running, the driver should open a window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Also, to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, the driver should make sure the vehicle’s exhaust pipe is clear and free of snow.
Retaining body heat is important to avoid hypothermia, a condition brought on when the body’s temperature drops to a dangerously low level.
Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, and drowsiness.
Ways to stay warm and prevent hypothermia include trying not to stay in one position too long, dressing in layers, and using any additional blankets and coats to insulate the body’s heat.