Anybody that drives for a living during the winter knows the importance of being prepared for potentially hazardous road conditions. Especially surrounding the holidays. Even the most seemingly simple jobs must keep their maintenance priorities high and prepare efficiently during the holiday season.
This time of year can be incredibly stressful for a semi-truck driver, especially if their routes are long-haul, entailing several days’ worth of driving at a time. Routine checklists and maintenance aren’t enough to ensure the proper level of preparedness for what can be up to a week-long excursion.
Including extra items for the trip that commonly wouldn’t be thought of for a one-day ride becomes crucial in case of an emergency. Packing something as simple as an extra change of clothes and some batteries can be the difference between life and death if the conditions become treacherous enough.
If you’re a long-haul semi-truck driver or know someone who is, you might want to bookmark this article before the holidays hit. This is a comprehensive winter safety checklist for long-distance semi-truck drivers.
What Makes Long-Haul Semi-Truck Driving More Dangerous?
What makes the winter specifically such a hazardous time of year for long-haul semi-truck drivers? Compared to semi-truck drivers who can return home the same day, a substantially higher amount of risk is placed on these long-distance drivers. Here are a few reasons why:
- Varying conditions from one location to the next to make things unpredictable. Driving conditions can rapidly deteriorate without warning.
- Driving longer distances at one time poses a higher risk of fatigue which is especially dangerous on slippery roads.
- If a driver becomes stranded in snow or other hazardous conditions, the situation becomes more dangerous if the truck breaks down and there is no heat source.
Understanding these dangers is the first step to preparing yourself or a loved one for the event that the unthinkable happens. The following section provides a comprehensive checklist for preparing yourself and your semi-truck for hauling freight over the open road this holiday season
Holiday Season Preparedness Checklist for Long-Haul Truck Drivers
The following tips aren’t listed in any order of importance and should all be given the proper amount of attention. Additional measures may be taken to ensure safety during a long-distance trip. Still, these are the most basic measures to take before venturing on a long-haul freight run.
The Day Before the Trip
Take these simple precautions in the days leading up to the start of your trip. We’ve separated the list based on items and measures to take for yourself and your truck, respectively.
Consider taking the following list of items for yourself before leaving on a long-distance delivery run.
- Bring plenty of food and water. You should prepare yourself with several gallons of clean drinking water. Most semi-trucks have plenty of space in the cab area, so don’t be shy about bringing lots of water. Depending on the length of the trip, you should pack at least one gallon of water for yourself per day that you expect to be gone, plus an extra jug or two on top of that. For example, if you plan on being gone for five days, bring seven gallons of drinking water.
- Food items can be varied since most semi-trucks have some sort of storage for perishable foods. Even if you break down and lose power to a refrigeration area, most likely the weather outside is cold enough to preserve any items that can spoil. However, you should always think about bringing more non-perishables either way. Things like sleeves of crackers and cans of beans can provide quick nourishment if you find yourself in a waiting situation.
- Bring extra pairs of warm clothes and socks. You’re going to be packing clothes, underwear, and socks anyway, but it’s always a good idea to bring additional items. A good rule of thumb is to bring two additional changes of clothes beyond what you plan in the first place. The most crucial items are socks and thermal underwear. If you end up waiting or having to venture outside to deal with a mechanical issue on the truck, you’ll need a way to remain warm and have the ability to change back into dry clothes when you’re finished. Ensuring you have dry socks is one of the easiest ways to preserve your natural body warmth.
- Make sure you have all of the necessary prescription medications you take, as well. If you normally only pack what you need for the duration of the trip, you might want to reconsider this during the winter months. Either bring your entire prescription with you or pack enough for at least an extra two or three days just in case the trip runs longer than expected.
- It’s always a good idea to make sure you have all necessary emergency contacts programmed into your phone or written down somewhere. Family members and work contacts need to be your main priority. Additionally, if your company uses a roadside assistance program through a management service like Fast Fleet, you should have their contact information as well.
- Bring flashlights and plenty of extra batteries for your trip. If you plan on being gone for a few days, bring at least two flashlights and two extra packs of batteries. It’s never a bad idea to purchase a headlamp as well if you don’t already have one. These can be a lifesaver if you find yourself having to make repairs on your truck late in the evening.
- Make sure you pack extra blankets as well. If you end up being stranded waiting for roadside assistance or some other form of help, the most important thing is to stay warm.
Preparing Your Semi-Truck
Use the following tips the day before you leave to make sure your rig is ready for the long trip.
- Just like you packed extra water for yourself, make sure you have extra water for your semi-truck. During the winter, it’s much easier to run into radiator or overheating issues because of the treacherous weather and fast-changing conditions. This is especially true if you’re traveling between areas that have a wide range of climate conditions. Bring several gallons of water for your radiator in case your rig begins to overheat. It’s also a good idea to bring extra anti-freeze as well.
- Bring a shovel and some litter or salt with you that you can pack into the cab of your semi-truck. Even though you’ll have chains or cables packed for the tires, it’s never a bad idea to have additional options.
- Check the condition of the tires before you set out on your journey. Make sure they all have the proper amount of tread and aren’t too worn down. You’ll also want to make sure you have some type of chains or wires in case you run into snow and ice. This is especially important if your journey includes traveling through mountain passes.
- Check all the vital areas of your vehicle in a thorough inspection. Use a voltage tester to ensure that all the critical electrical systems are working correctly with your rig. It also wouldn’t hurt to make sure that your brakes are working properly. Take your semi-truck for a test cruise around the local area and make sure the brakes are responsive, and you won’t have any issues on mountains or hills.
- Inspect the cab and other areas of your truck to make sure you have the proper emergency kits in place throughout the vehicle. You should have a first-aid kit somewhere in the truck, as well as an emergency roadside kit. Make sure everything is included in both of these kits that you need during your journey. Your emergency roadside kit should include the following:
- A neon-colored vest
- Road cones/signs
- Wheel chucks
Again, all of these things should be done during the days leading up to you leaving for your journey. There are also some important things to remember the morning you leave as well.
The Day of the Trip
On the morning of the trip, take the following steps to personally prepare yourself for your journey.
Things to Do Personally
- Set all of your luggage and personal items next to the door the night before you leave. This way, you don’t forget anything important before it’s time to venture out.
- Make a list of all of your expected stops along the way. List the cities you plan on stopping in, the routes you plan on taking, as well as a list of potential warehouses, businesses, and cold-storage lockers you stop at along the way. In case of an emergency, it’s always good to let your significant other or family members know where you plan on being for the duration of your trip.
- Make a personal list of all your scheduled rest stops. Use your cell phone to map out all your potential rest stops so you know when you’ll be taking a break each evening. If your trip includes hotel rooms, call and either book in advance or double-check your reservations if you’ve already had the rooms paid for.
- Double-check your inventory as you load it into your rig. Cross-reference everything with a list you already have written down. During this time of year, it’s vital that you don’t miss any of the critical items you’ll need for your trip.
Now that you have a list of what to do personally, you should use the following list for the final check on your vehicle the morning you leave.
What to Check On Your Semi-Truck
- The morning you leave, you should do a thorough inspection of all of the running lights on your vehicle. Make sure no bulbs are out that run whenever the vehicle is on. Additionally, if you have someone to lend a hand, you should check the brake and reverse lights as well. Make sure all of the lights are working on the sides of the trailer as well.
- Make sure you give your semi-truck plenty of time to warm up before you leave as well. The last thing you want is a malfunction because you ran your semi-truck too cold or took off before everything had a chance to crank efficiently.
- If you need to, scrape all of your windows and mirrors, so they are free of ice and frost. When you’re done, make sure the scraper and brush stay in the semi-truck with you so you can use them throughout the duration of your trip.
- You should check to make sure you have all of your proper paperwork and documentation. The insurance and registration should be in the glove compartment or somewhere in the vehicle.
- As your vehicle is warming up, check all of your fluids to make sure nothing needs to be topped off. You should already have extra fluids stocked in the truck, and you can top fluids off from these extra supplies if you need to. Check oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and your windshield wiper fluid. You should also be sure you have a winterized version of your windshield wiper fluid. This can help deice your window on extremely cold mornings.
- Finally, take a look at the most updated weather forecast as weather changes by the minute. It’s possible that the forecast you saw the night before could be completely different the morning you leave. Tune in to a nationally syndicated weather station that fills you in on the conditions across the country. You’ll want to take a peek at the forecast for every major stop and area you plan on driving through. If there’s a chance for inclement weather in areas you’ll be passing through, try to plan a way around them or time your trip to avoid the mess.
The job of a long-haul semi-truck driver during the wintertime can be an extremely dangerous one. You never know the unpredictable pitfalls that you might face over the open road.
However, with a moderate amount of preparation, you can put yourself in a favorable position to make it home safe. Remember to pay attention to the weather in the areas you’re going and pack all the necessary items. The number one thing to remember is keeping the ability to stay warm in the event you become stranded!