Preparing Your Truck for the Road in Winter

Hauling freight over long distances places stress on many truck components, including the tires, chassis, brakes, engine, transmission, and more. Despite varied road conditions, a well-maintained semi-truck can last for decades and drive well over 750,000 miles.

You can get more years and miles out of your truck with proactive maintenance. Taking care of your truck is most important during the winter months when many challenges are more pronounced.

Why is winter tough on semi-trucks?

  • Road quality is often lower due to ice, snow, salt, and potholes.
  • Snow and slush expose metal parts of the truck to moisture.
  • The engine undergoes rapid temperature changes if it starts from a cold temperature.
  • Oil and transmission fluids behave differently at low temperatures.
  • The air within pressurized tires contracts under cold temperatures.
  • The combination of ice and heavy vehicles increases the risk of accidents.

Minimizing the Effects of Cold Temperatures

Many winterization techniques help your truck function better on cold days. An engine block heater allows you to heat your engine before you start it so that the engine components heat up gradually.

Diesel fuel can gel at low temperatures when paraffin wax becomes crystalline and settles out. Keeping at least a half tank of fuel in your tank reduces the risk of the diesel fuel getting too cold. Transmission fluid becomes more viscous when the weather turns cold, limiting its ability to lubricate the transmission.

Changing the oil and transmission fluids each fall increases their effectiveness.

Check the tire pressure when the weather gets colder. If the pressure is too low:

  • Fuel economy decreases
  • Stopping distance increases
  • Handling suffers
  • The tire could wear unevenly, go flat, or blow out

Any of these changes increase the chance of damage to your truck.

Protecting Your Truck From Rust

Snow and slush can damage the exterior and chassis of your truck. Corrosion in the truck's body could expose other components to water damage and reduce fuel efficiency.

  • Avoid driving through snow drifts and puddles.
  • Store your truck in a heated garage in cold weather.
  • Clean the truck often, especially if any rock salt or salty slush gets on it.

Optimize Your Truck for the Hazards of Winter Driving

Even if your truck is in good repair, include steps to minimize the risk of accidents. Ensure that drivers have comfortable driving conditions, good visibility, and the ability to respond swiftly and appropriately when they encounter challenging winter driving conditions.

  • Have a mechanic inspect the heating system so the cold does not distract drivers.
  • Inspect the windshield wipers since they will get frequent use on snowy days.
  • Fix any cracks in the windshield, which could gradually grow bigger and hinder visibility.
  • Clean the lights frequently so they can illuminate the road effectively when snow or sleet falls.
  • Check the brakes and repair them, if necessary, in the fall.
  • Switch the tires for snow winter tires.
  • Install commercial truck snow chains or studded snow tires on your truck unless regulations prohibit them in states where your company hauls cargo.

Stock Your Vehicle With Emergency Supplies

For the safety of your driver and to help you keep on schedule despite roadside trouble, include an emergency kit that includes:

  • A first-aid kit
  • Gloves, a hat, and warm clothing
  • A sleeping bag
  • Water and non-perishable food
  • Jumper cables
  • A flashlight
  • A high-visibility vest
  • Contact information for a provider of emergency roadside assistance.

OSHA requires that employers supply workers with the safety equipment they need to do their jobs safely. If you employ drivers for your trucks, check that your vehicle contains any necessary equipment before each trip.

Practice Safe Driving Tips for Winter Driving

Follow safe-driving strategies and train your employees to do the same when they are behind the wheel of your trucks.

  • Increase the distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you.
  • Do not use your brights in foggy conditions.
  • Defrost the windows.
  • Scrape any ice or snow off the mirrors.
  • Be vigilant for brake lights while driving.
  • Be aware that other drivers might veer or change lanes suddenly.

Discover More Ways To Extend the Life of Your Truck

Winterization is only one of the responsibilities that semi-truck owners face. At DMR Transportation, we prepare our trucks and our drivers for every contingency because our business would not exist without them. We operate a family-owned business and believe in the principle that families look out for one another.

When customers depend on us, and when our drivers are on the road, they are like family. We hope these winter driving tips save you money and protect your drivers throughout the winter season.

To find out more practical tips for maintaining and operating your truck safely in winter and the other seasons, call our team at DMR Transportation at 616-560-5341 today.