Driving a heavy truck at minus temperatures on snowy roads is no picnic. Basically, there are some things that you should pay particular attention to in winter. Here we show you what these are.
When the days get shorter – get your vehicle serviced!
It should be obligatory in every haulage company that the trucks are carefully inspected before the beginning of winter. The technicians must pay special attention to whether the lighting system is functioning properly, how well the brakes are working and how well the battery is charging. In addition, the technicians should ensure the frost protection is topped up in the radiator and in the windscreen wiper system.
You need the lights on in winter all day long, and you soon lose visibility especially in driving snow if your lights are not working properly. The brakes do not work as well on wet leaves, snow and ice, so they must be in perfect working condition.
The battery is under heavy demand particularly in winter. The cold makes it difficult, more power than usual is required for starting the engine and more electrical loads draw on it than in the summer. It is not without reason that it is always the first winter days in which a particularly large number of batteries fail – avoid this with an early service and, if necessary, replacement!
With winter tyres and snow chains
You should always fit winter tyres with deep tread, as it is this that allows the tyre to grip better on the road. In Germany, the tread must be at least 1.6 mm deep. Experts however recommend a tread depth of four millimetres, and even better six millimetres. In addition, in neighbouring countries such as Austria, a tread depth of four millimetres is required by law. It may therefore be the case that your winter tyres are legal within Germany, but violate the law beyond the border.
If you fit winter tyres from last year, you should inspect them carefully. If you get pulled over for a check, it is the most badly worn section that counts, not the average. Also, if the tread generally appears to be deep enough, you will violate the law if it is less than 1.6 mm deep at any point.
Snow chains should always be carried in the truck in winter. Check them carefully before packing them. Are they still intact, complete and without rust? You may need to clean them. Practise putting them on before setting off. This is easier than having to remember what the right procedure is at a layby in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm.
Fuel and engine oil
Diesel tends to flocculate at very low temperatures. If you know that you will be driving in areas with corresponding temperatures (down to -30 degrees Celsius), you can buy suitable additives that keep the diesel fluid. It is not advisable to mix petroleum or petrol in the tank as in the past. This can damage the injection system.
The engine oil can also be adapted to particularly low temperatures. There are particularly low-viscosity varieties, which ensure an easier start. They spread very quickly even at low temperatures. If you know you will be travelling for extended periods in areas where the temperature is below -20 degrees Celsius, changing over to this lower-viscosity oil can be worthwhile.
Before setting off
Each time before setting off, make sure your tyres have the correct pressure and your lights are working properly. You also need to check if snow and ice have settled on the truck. This should definitely be checked before starting off, as it must not fall off whilst driving and endanger other drivers. Removing snow and ice from the truck is your responsibility as a driver. Therefore, you should carry a ladder and a hand brush with you, just in case. Although you can find gantries at some petrol stations and service areas, this is not always the case. It is better to be prepared for all eventualities.
Pack a little more food than usual along with the ice scraper and the door lock de-icer (which you carry with you and do not leave in the truck!). Be sure to bring a thick jacket and an extra blanket. Warm, waterproof shoes are also important. You never know if you might get stuck.
Regular maintenance is particularly important in winter
The lower part of the truck is exposed to a high level of stress by moisture and road salt or other substances used for gritting the roads. Metal parts can corrode, such as trailer sockets or bare cables. To ensure that the power does not suddenly go out, it is important that you have the truck cleaned thoroughly in winter. In the case of snow-clearing vehicles or construction site vehicles, which are also used in winter, it is even worth opting for the not so cheap underbody preservation.
Driving in winter calls for a great deal of concentration
If you are on the roads in the winter, you should drive slower than in good weather conditions and keep a larger distance to the vehicle in front. A braking distance can easily triple in snow and ice! In addition, as soon as the visibility drops to below 50 m, you must not overtake with a vehicle over 7.5 tons. Even if you may not be able to meet your schedule, it is better to stick to this rule. If you get caught, you have to pay a €120 fine and get a point on your licence.
Another point which initially seems less important, but you still should not neglect it. Turn on the air conditioning occasionally in the winter too. Although you do not need it right now, if you do not use it for several months at a time, the chances increase that it will not start again in the spring when you want to turn it on again.
Summary: Truck drivers need to be proactive in winter
If you want to travel by truck in winter, you have to prepare yourself for many different possible situations in which you may find yourself. A thorough service before the start of winter is mandatory. Load up with the appropriate equipment before setting off and make sure that you can free the truck from snow and ice. Drive slower and more carefully and maintain a large safe distance. In case of poor visibility, avoid overtaking manoeuvres, clean the vehicle regularly and check the functionality of the brakes and lights before driving off.