By: Steve Vaughn, vice president field operations, PrePass Safety Alliance

In late December Old Man Winter delivered a hammer blow to much of the country. High winds, drifting snows, and plummeting temperatures greeted anyone daring to drive. For fleets, the conditions put all your winter planning and preparation to the test.

Now, in many places, snow may be giving way to rain and daytime temps edging above the freezing mark. Yes, your breath may still emerge in a fog, but it’s a sigh of relief that the worst may over… or is it? Because the transition from winter storms to clear roads often brings another hazard – ice.

Sunshine and higher temperatures mean melting snow. Rain expedites that process. Snowplows may clear the roads, but under those snowmelt puddles may be a frozen surface. And, as overnight temperatures drop, the puddles themselves will harden.

As a fleet manager, remind your drivers to continue general winter precautions:

  • Check weather reports and road closures before heading out.
  • Keep your seatbelt buckled and anticipate slippery conditions.
  • Bring a blanket, warm winter clothing, food, and water in case accidents block roads.
  • Pull safely off the road and call the terminal when roads or truck parking areas are closed.

Dealing with the icy conditions that follow a winter storm brings additional awareness:

  • Watch your speed! Unseen black ice can affect stability and control.
  • Icy roads require greater stopping distances. Leave a bigger gap between vehicles.
  • Plowed roads can become a temptation to other drivers. Be alert for motorists who may hydroplane and skid when driving too fast for melting/icy surfaces.
  • Fog? Yes, evaporating moisture from the roads and blowing flakes from roadside snowbanks can blur vision. Slow down and back off.

Finally, don’t forget about the truck itself:

  • Safe driving requires clear vision. Drivers should make sure to de-ice and de-fog windshields and mirrors before hitting the road. Turn on heaters and defrosters. An ice scraper can come in handy – and don’t skip the truck lights.
  • Pre-trip inspections are even more important in icy conditions. Drivers may find ice and snow buildup on lights and reflectors or underneath on air hoses.
  • It’s a good time to remind your maintenance folks to drain air tanks, check wiper blades, and switch to a washer fluid with a deicer blend.

Driving through snow can quickly turn into driving on ice. Both require complete driver attention, plus some help from the maintenance staff back home. Be safe as conditions change.

Steve Vaughn is vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and electronic toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. 

This blog was originally published on the website