Messages from the field reinforce importance of winter driving safety

February 9, 2011 By    

Ice, snow, sleet and rain can change the playing field when it comes to safely delivering product in the propane industry.

A recent survey on winter driving, initiated by my newsletter, The Safety Leader, generated great response from around the country on tips and ideas to prevent accidents and protect employees and the bottom line.

The majority of survey responders mentioned the need to slow down. Speed in excess for conditions can put your drivers, their trucks and other drivers in jeopardy. A speed limit of 55 mph doesn’t mean it is safe for conditions.

In many cases, survey responders mentioned that their biggest challenge was watching for others drivers making bad decisions. Safe drivers have to watch for other drivers who might be distracted or those not paying attention. Proceeding with caution is always a good idea when it comes to winter driving.

The pros know how to slow down and adjust to conditions, including the weather, roads and other driver activity. They know there is no schedule so important that it is worth risking property damage, bodily injury or the resulting downtime for the truck. A constant message from survey responders was that it is much more efficient to back off and give all situations space.

Years ago, my family and I were returning from a hockey tournament in northern Minnesota during a snowstorm. We were on a stretch of Interstate 35, going 55 mph in the left lane, when we hit black ice. A gust of wind hit our van, I overcorrected and suddenly we were spun around – headlights on the frightened driver in the right lane. My wife and kids woke up screaming. Somehow I managed to snap the front around and ended up plowing snow in the left ditch. With the van still traveling about 45 mph, I gradually pulled it back onto the road. My heart was in my ears as I looked back at the chaos I had created for drivers behind me. We were all going too fast for conditions.

In my younger days, I had my share of speeding tickets. My father would simply say, “Slow down.” It took me years to discover he was right. When I was speeding, it was mostly related to not paying attention to the speed limit. I had many excuses, such as “My car didn’t feel like it was going that fast” or “I was passing someone going just below the speed limit.” Somehow I always justified 10 mph over the speed limit as “safe.”

Sometime during my 30s and 40s, I became less in a hurry. I began to watch for other drivers, especially those who were not paying attention and those going too fast.

During the winter, I often see those same fast cars pulled over by a trooper or in the ditch a little farther up the road.

The most consistent messages from my survey, Winter Driving Safety for Bobtail and Transport Drivers, were:

■ Slow your driving speed to what is reasonable for your travel conditions.
■ Increase your following distance.
■ Test your brakes frequently.
■ Look ahead and have an “out.”
■ Don’t be in a hurry.
■ Get adequate rest and know your limitations with regard to fatigue.
■ Always assume other drivers have not seen you.
■ Onsite delivery: Walk it before driving on it. When in doubt, stay out.

This month’s message about winter driving safety can be summed up in three thoughts:

■ Slow down
■ Assess conditions
■ Proceed with caution

No amount of time saved by “pushing it” can justify the cost of a preventable accident.

Comments are currently closed.