Wintertime in Northern Alberta is about as real as winter gets. Snow and ice-covered roads, bitter cold temps and a lot of after-dark driving are just some of the challenges a semi-truck driver will face. Being ready means being prepared for anything because “anything” pretty much describes the potential situations you’re likely to encounter on any given day on the road.
Here are some tips for prepping your semi so that it — and you — are ready for it …
Start at the Bottom
Check your tires in advance of the really nasty stuff. Having old tires can get you into all sorts of trouble since you’ll be relying on them to keep you on the road, get you up icy hills, etc. The last thing you want is worn tires! And don’t forget to carry tire chains since you can count on needing them from time to time.
Check Your Fluids
This means everything — right down to making sure you’ve got windshield washer fluid that’s rating for freezing conditions. Also, make sure to address
- your coolant mix (Ideally it should be 50/50 coolant to water.)
- your diesel fuel, which will perform better with an additive designed to keep it liquid and usable no matter how cold
- switching your rig’s oil to a 10W-40 grade, which is rated for below-freezing temperatures.
- alcohol for clearing frozen lines
Take Care of Your Own Cold Weather Needs
You never know when you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’re stranded and waiting for help for what could be hours in freezing temperatures. Here’s a checklist of gear to carry at all times that will not only make your wait — or time spent outdoors working on your rig — a lot more comfortable, but could literally save your life …
- a sleeping bag, a warm blanket, and a space blanket
- non-perishable nutritious snacks like trail mix, granola bars, even MREs are all good ideas
- plenty of bottled water (an absolute essential)
- sterno (to thaw frozen water or to heat water for a hot drink)
- instant coffee, tea bags and/or powdered instant cocoa
- a first-aid kit
- extra socks, gloves and a change of clothes
- hand warmers (for inside gloves)
- a Leatherman or other multi-purpose pocket tool
- LED lantern
- reading material (4 or 5 hours can be a long time to wait without something to keep you from boredom and/or loneliness.)
- toilet paper
Many of the items listed above are things you’d take on a camping trip, so checking a camping supply catalog or website might give you, even more, ideas for increased comfort and safety in case you are stranded for a time. (It may seem like overkill, but you’ll be glad you were prepared if the worst case scenario becomes a reality!)
Be Prepared to Help Less Experienced Drivers
Those in smaller vehicles may not always have the know-how or the means to avoid ending up hopelessly stuck in a snow bank or a ditch. Keep your eyes open when you’re on the road and be prepared to stop and lend a hand. Carry a snatch-em strap for pulling somebody out, as well as jumper cables for dead batteries. It’s the best feeling in the world to be able to help a fellow traveler who finds himself in dire straits in a harsh, unforgiving climate. You know the feeling of gratitude and relief you feel when somebody stops to help you, so it’s important to pay it forward whenever the opportunity to do so arises!