With the 2019 holiday season nearly upon us, more and more vehicles will be clogging the nation’s roadways, making it even harder for the men and women navigating those big rigs.
According to statistics, during the holidays, there are about 36% more vehicles on the road. Most of this traffic is made up of an increase in passenger cars (traveling for the holidays) delivery fleets (delivering for the holidays), and people-carriers, such as buses (transporting people for the holidays). Adding to that, is the potential for bad weather and decreased daylight hours. Both of which only add to the stress. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the traditionally, the highest volume of vehicles on the road is from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through Jan. 1.
With all of this in mind, here are 10 useful tips for Driving During the Holiday Season:
- Be Extra Patient in Winter Conditions
The holiday season can bring some pretty rough weather conditions with it, especially in the winter. No driver should be continuing on the road during any severe conditions. Rushing to get the job done is not worth the risk of rollovers, jackknifes and collisions. A trucker must also maintain space with vehicles around you and avoid tailgating. Giving that extra space in bad conditions in case of an emergency stop is optimal for preventing a problematic situation. Slower speeds are a must during the winter, and taking one’s time is the best advice for trucker safety.
- Allow Safe Space
In the winter, truck drivers should increase their following distance. Be sure you have more than enough space to stop and maneuver in unexpected traffic situations.
- Don’t Exceed your Driver Hours of Service
By law, a driver cannot exceed 11 hours of driving within a 24-hour period. This law is in place to minimize potential accidents resulting from sleep deprivation. Drivers should take care of themselves and get regular amounts of sleep, food and exercise in order to stay refreshed and alert behind the wheel. The holidays may be demanding, but it’s smarter to stay safe than to get somewhere in a hurry and risk harm to oneself or others.
- Keep A Firm Grip On The Wheel
It sounds simple, but it is one of the most important things you can do. Grip the steering wheel firmly to maintain control. Keep both hands on the wheel at all times to guide the vehicle through snow and ice.
- Keep a Close Eye on your Fuel Tank
Keeping the fuel tank topped off in the winter has a twofold benefit. It will add more weight onto your tires, allowing for better traction, and will prevent any water condensation from building up in the fuel lines. Any form of water in the tank will cause the truck to not turn on, stall, buckle or corrode the framework of the engine.
- Minimize Lane Changes
Leap-frogging back and forth between lanes doesn’t promote any safety while on the road; in fact it makes it more dangerous. There are a lot of blind spots on a big rig and drivers should signal early to let everyone on the road know where they’re planning on going. Take it slow and cruise in the right lane. It’s an easier drive and lowers the risk of sideswipe accidents due to blind spots.
- Use Caution When Approaching a Bridge
Bridges freeze much faster than roads. Slow down and cross the bridge with patience and be aware of black ice to avoid skidding or sliding into an accident.
- Don’t Use the Jake Break in Icy Conditions
The compression release engine break, aka the Jake Break, releases compressed air in the cylinders and will halt the wheels entirely. The rig will skid across the ice if the conditions are slippery enough. Put the truck into a lower gear and use regular friction brakes to maximize safety.
- Maintain Headlights
Maintaining your truck’s headlights isn’t just for safe driving at night. There are many animals, specifically deer, running around this time of the year. Proper headlights will help you spot those shiny eyes way before it’s too late. Clean your truck’s headlights regularly to avoid the accumulation of snow and dirt from obstructing your view.
- Keep an Eye out for Work Zones
There is always construction going on at all times of the year, and the holidays are no exception. Slow down the second you see work zone signs to save yourself a heavy fine and ensure the workers’ safety on the ground. A driver can risk losing their commercial driver’s license while speeding in a work zone.
The bottom line is, more trucks, more cars, bad weather, less daylight… All of these factors, when combined, are a concern for everyone. Whether you are a brand new commercial truck driver, or long time veteran driver, everyone would be best served to apply a little more caution for the next few months.