*This is a guest post by experienced trucker Hank Barton. Be sure to share if you like this post!
As a trucker of more than a decade and a half, I can confirm that there’s a universal truth among all truckers – and it’s that none of us love the snow. But commerce doesn’t stop just because of a little inclement weather, and that means that trucks don’t stop either.
Through frozen diesel and black ice, making the miles is imperative for all truckers no matter what the road throws at us.
If you find yourself taking a long-distance trip through a blizzard too, there are some things I can share. Through my years of experience driving in inclement conditions, I’ve compiled several tips that you should keep in mind if you ever intend on taking on such a difficult feat.
1. Avoid turning your car into a cage
When you absolutely need to pull over to rest, or if your car experiences failure and requires a pit stop, common sense might tell you to seal your windows tight and bundle up to fight back frostbite. While it may seem counterintuitive, cracking open a window can be necessary even when you gut tells you to keep your warmth inside. When cars are abandoned in icy conditions for extended periods of time, you can easily become trapped within your own vehicle due to freezing doors. Simply cracking a window ever so slightly can prevent this possibility.
2. Never touch your cruise control
Many folk who start a long road trip tend to pick up the bad habit of leaving cruise control on constantly and simply holding the wheel steady. I can confirm that as soon as I passed the CDL test and started trucking, I fell in love with it. However, this bad habit is even worse when dealing with snowy conditions. Any wet or icy surfaces can result in your wheels accelerating rapidly if you hydroplane, since the car detects this lack of traction as a loss of speed. The hazard is so serious that many modern vehicles will not allow you to enable cruise control when the windshield wipers are in use.
3. Eating Lifesavers can be a life saver
I always keep a couple of hard candy mints in my cup holder, regardless of rain or shine. Rather than a way to keep my sweet tooth happy, I find that peppermint is a great way to perk up the senses and fight off fatigue.
However, if you ever find myself stranded in the snow, it’s important to remember that keeping a little hard candy available can keep your mouth moist. Letting your mouth dry out in the arid winter air can result in discomfort and wicked halitosis. After too long, it can cause mouth sores and infections.
4. When road salt fails…
When you find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere, a big bag of road salt probably isn’t something you have on hand. When nothing is available, digging through snow to find enough sand or gravel can give you adequate traction. However, you’ll want to limit your outside exposure to prevent frostbite. In this case, it can pay to be a “cat person” – if you happen to have a bag of cat litter, it can make an excellent alternative to road salt. I’ve never been one for cats, but I can say I was a grateful cat litter owner in October of 1991.
5. Fighting snow with snow
I’m fortunate that I’ve never been in a situation in which I’m stranded for long by the side of the highway. However, if you do find yourself stuck outside in subzero temperatures for hours on end, it can pay off to recognize the insulating powers of snow. Many survivalists realize that packing oneself in snow can help retain your body heat and fight back wind-chill. Similarly, it can help to pack your car with snow to create something of a makeshift igloo. As ridiculous as it sounds, it can work wonders in keeping you warmer.
Just be sure to leave a cracked window for ventilation purposes – and be sure to pop a flare if anyone passes, or you might be mistaken as a snowman’s getaway ride.
About the author: A trucker with years of experience handling wintry roads, Hank Barton is a philosopher by nature who enjoys musing about life on the road and the freight industry. He currently writes to advocate for trucker safety and to support eGears’ CDL practice test programs.