Driving a Rig Safely in the Snow

Keeping the rubber to the road may seem like a simple task, but when the snow and ice piles up this is no easy job. Driving a tractor trailer in serious winter conditions demands a specific set of skills for all professional truck drivers. Good maneuvering and skid control skills are imperative when the roads are covered. 

Accident Frequency in Bad Weather 

According to a February 2020 report by the United States Department of Transportation, “Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet. Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually.” 


Snow and ice reduce pavement friction and vehicle maneuverability, causing slower speeds, reduced roadway capacity, and increased crash risk. There are some steps drivers can take to reduce their risk and stay safe. Here are a few reminders of things you can do to keep yourself and the other drivers on the road safe this coming winter driving season. 

Slow Down Speeds 

Most experienced drivers know that speed is a major contributing factor when it comes to driving in winter weather. The Department of Transportation reports that average arterial speeds decline by 30 to 40 percent on snowy or slushy pavement. Freeway speeds are reduced by 3 to 13 percent in light snow and by 5 to 40 percent in heavy snow. 


Driving the speed limit in the middle of a snowstorm is an unwise act. Most “at fault” accidents are due to excessive speed. Always slow down to maintain a safe speed while on the road. This should be the paramount of importance for all truck drivers during this upcoming winter season. 

Keep a Safe Distance 

Just like other cars or commercial vehicles, trucks should maintain ample room between the rig and the vehicles around it. Sliding, skidding, and accidents occur when there is no reaction time available. By keeping a safe distance, these types of accidents can be avoided. 


Truck drivers often travel as a pack and stay in visual contact of other long haulers. While this is great for pit-stops and camaraderie, it is important to keep a good amount of space between these rigs for safety purposes especially when the roads have a covering or snow or ice. 

Check All Lights 

As an important part of your pre-drive check, be sure that all of your lights, both front and back, are free and clear of snow or ice. Clean them off completely so other drivers can see you and your lights. This will allow for other drivers to see your lights and keep a safe distance from your rig in order to increase reaction and response times. It also allows you to have full lights on the road ahead of you, thus increasing your visibility. 

Avoid Stopping on the Side 

Many vehicles make this fatal mistake. When a truck or car is stopped on the edge of the road, other vehicles can sometimes mistakenly believe that they are still moving and slam directly into the back of it. Pull off the highway or head toward a rest stop to handle issues especially when the road visibility is low. 

Pay Special Attention to Your Windshield

Your front windshield is the window to the world (or road) ahead of you. If it is covered in snow or ice, that view is potentially lowered, thus causing dangerous situations. Make sure your windshield is warmed up, clear of snow or ice and the wipers are working properly. 

For more tips on driving in the snow, check out Smart Trucking and the Department of Transportation. Safe driving!