Although snow-capped trees and a blanket of fresh powder on the ground can be very striking and beautiful, winter presents some very real driving hazards for tow truck drivers. Roads can get very slushy, icy, and otherwise dangerous in winter weather. According to an American Towman article, 540,000 accidents and 140,000 injuries can be attributed to winter weather each year. To help you stay safe on the road, avoid accidents, and keep your tow truck insurance rates down, we have some tips for how to drive in snow and winter weather.
Tips for winter tow truck driving
1. Slow down your speed in response to road or winter weather conditions.
When you’re driving in winter, slowing down a bit will help you increase your traction on the road. Try to maintain your speed, but don’t use cruise control.
2. Increase your following distance.
Keep a healthy amount of distance between you and the car in front of you. This gives you more time to respond to any slowdowns so that you can stop gradually and carefully rather than hitting the brakes. Visibility can be tricky in winter, so back off and leave ample room ahead of you – following distance is important.
3. Speed up and slow down gradually.
Traction between your tires and the roads is reduced if the roads are slick or slushy, so it’s important not to jam on the brakes or hit the gas suddenly. You could end up skidding.
4. Drive defensively.
Driving defensively means that you’re focused on the road, anticipating problems, and planning escapes or solutions. Look ahead and scan for potential obstacles or hazards. Keep in mind that if there is a hazard, you may need to slow down and steer around it instead of coming to a complete stop – you don’t need as much space to go around the problem as you do to bring your tow truck to a complete stop.
5. Check your tow truck before you depart.
Take the time to clear the snow off the roof and hood of your cab, as well as the windows and mirrors. This will help your visibility, and it’s kind of important to be able to see when you drive.
Also, make sure that all of the lights on your tow truck are functional and clear of snow an ice. Any light or reflective surface meant to make you visible should be clear of snow and ice. It’s super important that other drivers can see you.
6. Wear your seatbelt.
Seatbelts are there to keep you safe. If you get into an accident, the seatbelt will distribute the force of the crash over the strongest parts of your body to reduce injury. So, don’t forget the importance of wearing your seatbelt.
7. Signal your turns early and brake with lots of time.
By signaling your turns early, you give other drivers lots of time to respond and slow down safely. If you know that you’ll have to stop for a stop sign or traffic light, you can slow down carefully and, again, give other drivers notice of the change of speed.
8. Watch out for ice and black ice.
You can keep an eye out for icy patches by paying attention to the water being kicked up by the cars around you. If they’re spraying a lot of water drops, the roads are still wet. If there is little water or no water being spattered off the road by the other cars, that’s a sign of ice. You need to take extreme caution. If there’s water coming off the road and then all of a sudden there isn’t, there could be ice ahead.
Stay on your guard for black ice – a type of ice that’s all but invisible. Watch out for spots where the road seems to have puddles or a sheen. Ice can form at the bottom of hills or slopes and in places that are in shade with no sunlight. Bridges are also hazardous as they tend to freeze before the roads do. If you see that trees and road signs have a layer of ice, be on high alert.
9. Stay safe around snow plows in the winter months.
Take care around snow plows. Give them the right of way and leave lots of space between you and them (they stop and turn often.) Don’t try to pass a snow plow – they kick up snow, which reduces visibility, and debris that could hit your wrecker. And don’t get in the middle of multiple snow plows; they’re probably working together and you could cause an accident. Basically, just leave lots of distance between you and any snow plows or sanding trucks you may encounter.
Driving in snow or wintery weather presents challenges for tow truck drivers. The roads could get slushy or icy, which means that you won’t get very good traction. You need to slow down, increase your following distance, and speed up and slow down smoothly. Don’t try to rush – just take it easy, stay calm, and drive safe.
If you’re looking to get tow truck insurance quotes, we can help you with that. We can help you shop around for the best wrecker insurance rate for your business. We know that tow truck insurance prices have been going up, but our mission is to help businesses like yours save money on their insurance.
Kolman, David A. “Winter Driving Best Practices.” American Towman, Dec.
2017, pp. 65-66.