18 degrees Fahrenheit is the magic number in winter driving

Even the most experienced drivers struggle with icy roads and sub-zero temperatures when winter delivers a mix of nasty weather and road conditions. The miles get harder and slower compared to summer, and any hidden equipment fault is exposed almost immediately. This makes fall the time to prepare for winter. 

Read more about preparing yourself and your equipment for winter trucking here.

DAT Freight & Analytics asked a number of experienced long-haul drivers for their best tips for winter driving, including Rocky Mountains veteran driver Dave Nadeau. According to Nadeau who hauls propane gas from Canada to the U.S. Northwest, he’s always watching the ambient temperature. 

“18 degrees Fahrenheit seems to be the magic number,” says Nadeau. “Any warmer than that and the road surface is slippery. Any colder the road surface seems to be sticky and dry.” 

On the technical side, Dave advises drivers to slow down. Even though drivers feel they can accelerate and corner with more confidence, they’ll slide just like a bobsled in winter if they have to brake hard. Other hot tips for winter driving include making smooth adjustments and giving themselves plenty of time to brake gently to avoid locking up their wheels. Even anti-lock brakes slide on slick surfaces. 

Dave’s final tip is to check tire color and appearance: 

“If they look shiny and wet with water spraying from them, and the highway crews haven’t sprayed de-icer, then you might be driving into a black ice situation. If the tires look dry (no water spray), then the road surface will be cold and sticky.”

Have more winter truck driving tips?

Do you agree with Dave or have other suggestions? We’d love to hear from you! Now’s the time to prepare our field while the weather is favorable. 

Write to us with your favorite tip or what you’ve learned about trucking in winter at [email protected].