10 Useful Tips for Driving a Truck During the Holiday Season

10 Useful Tips for Driving a Truck During the Holiday Season

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

What specific types of winter weather conditions should truck drivers be most cautious of during the holidays?

  • Truck drivers should be particularly cautious of snow, ice, and freezing rain during the holiday season. Snow can reduce visibility and traction, making it harder to control the vehicle. Ice and especially black ice, which is nearly invisible on the road surface, can cause trucks to lose traction and slide uncontrollably. Freezing rain can lead to a quick accumulation of ice on the roads and the truck itself, including critical components like brakes and windshields, which significantly increases the risk of accidents.

How often should truck drivers check their headlights for cleanliness during the holiday season?

  • Given the importance of visibility during winter, truck drivers should check their headlights for cleanliness at least once a day during the holiday season, especially if they are driving in areas prone to snow, ice, and slush, which can quickly dirty or obscure headlights. Additionally, before starting a trip and after any significant stop where conditions might have changed, a quick check can ensure headlights are clean and functioning optimally.

What are the legal consequences of exceeding driver hours of service during the holiday season?

  • Exceeding the driver hours of service can result in several legal consequences, including fines, being placed out of service for a certain period, and points on the driver’s commercial driving record. In severe cases or repeated offenses, it could lead to the suspension or revocation of the driver’s commercial driver’s license (CDL). The specific penalties can vary by jurisdiction but are designed to discourage fatigued driving and ensure road safety. The holiday season can see increased enforcement efforts, making adherence to these regulations even more critical.