How Should I Prepare My Truck for Winter Weather?

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Winter may not officially start for another couple of weeks, but the temperatures are already starting to plummet. All motorists are urged to make sure that their vehicles are prepared for the cold winter weather, and that goes for truck drivers as well. In fact, owing to the massive size and weight of the average commercial truck, it is crucial that truck drivers and trucking companies take the necessary steps to ensure that their vehicles are properly maintained and ready for the cold weather. The maintenance process can be time consuming, particularly if repairs need to be made or parts need to be replaced. Therefore, it is a good idea to make sure the truck is in good working order before winter officially arrives. For drivers who are involved in an accident involving a truck, an experienced truck accident lawyer can provide valuable assistance.

Items to Include on a Truck Maintenance Checklist

Commercial trucks that are properly maintained on a regular basis are less likely to break down or have other mechanical problems that can cause serious traffic accidents. Truck drivers who follow a comprehensive maintenance checklist will ensure that the truck will be able to handle extreme temperature changes, heavy snowfall, and icy road conditions that can occur during the winter months. The following components and systems should be checked:

  • Battery. Batteries drain more quickly in cold weather, and they are more difficult to charge. Drivers must make sure that the battery’s expiration date has not passed. The state of the charge can be checked by using a handheld battery and electrical system tester. This measures the volts when the battery is fully charged.
  • Diesel fuel. Cold weather causes the paraffin in the diesel fuel to turn waxy. As a result, the fuel cannot pass through the fuel filter. In some cases, it can cause engine failure. To prevent this from happening, truck drivers should use a fuel blend that has a high cetane rating and add anti-gel additives every time they fill up the tank. Truck drivers should always follow the mixing procedures exactly. A failure to do so can damage the fuel system.
  • Cooling system. Maintaining the cooling system is an important part of the winterizing process. If any of the hoses, clamps, or other parts of the cooling system are damaged or cracked, they will only get worse as the weather gets colder. The antifreeze should be strong enough to handle cold temperatures. The coolant system should be at 15 to 18 pounds per square inch (psi) after turning on the heater valves. Then the radiator cap should be pressure tested to confirm a minimum pressure of 5 psi. Aerosol ether starting fluid should never be used. All heater and water hoses should be checked for cracks, hardening, or softening, and loose clamps should be tightened.
  • Fuel filter and water separator. The truck’s water separator should be checked daily and drained when full. Old filters should be replaced on a regular basis as well.
  • Air dryer. The air dryer is installed between the compressor and the wet tank. It collects and removes contaminants from the air so that they do not enter the brake system. Drivers should confirm that the air dryer is in good working order and change the filter if necessary. If the air dryer is not properly maintained, it can cause the brakes to malfunction, increasing the risk of a serious truck accident.
  • Engine block heater. Truck drivers who travel through some of the coldest areas should consider using an electric engine block heater when the truck is parked for a long period of time.
  • Tire pressure. Cold weather causes the air inside the tire to condense. As a result, the tires can become underinflated and wear out faster. Truck drivers should check the tire pressure before each trip. If the pressure falls below 20 percent of the pressure recommended by the manufacturer, the tire should be removed and possibly replaced. Underinflated or worn tires can lead to dangerous blow-outs. Some states require chains during the winter weather. The truck driver is responsible for installing chains if necessary and making sure that the chains are the correct size for the truck. If the chains are worn, twisted, or damaged, they must be replaced.
  • Windshield preparation. Snow and ice can quickly accumulate on the truck’s windshield. Before winter arrives, truck drivers should inspect the windshield wipers and replace them if necessary. The windshield wiper fluid should also be filled, and an extra supply should be kept in the trunk. Drivers should always clear away all ice and snow from the windshield and all other windows prior to the trip. If a large piece of ice flies off the truck, it can hit another vehicle and cause a serious accident.

Safety Steps Truck Drivers Should Take During the Winter Months

In addition to maintaining the truck, there are a number of other steps that truck drivers should take to stay safe and prevent serious truck accidents during the cold winter months, including the following:

  • Check the weather report. Before starting any trip, drivers should check the forecast. If severe weather is in the forecast, drivers should either avoid travel until the weather clears or plan a route on roads or highways that are likely to be cleared and salted first.
  • Plan for extra time. Snow, ice, freezing rain, and heavy winds can cause major traffic delays. Truck drivers often have very tight deadlines, but it is important to budge extra time when there is inclement weather. The Department of Transportation (DOT) allows two extra hours of driving for unforeseen weather conditions. However, this applies only if there is an unexpected storm that caused the delay.
  • Keep an emergency kit in the truck. Large commercial trucks can break down for a number of reasons, but when it happens during the winter, it can be very dangerous for the truck driver if he or she does not have emergency supplies on hand. An emergency kit should include the following items:
    – Extra warm clothing, including a warm coat, a hat, waterproof gloves, and socks. This will help keep the truck driver warm and dry if the clothes that the driver was wearing got wet from the snow or freezing rain.
    – Flashlight with extra batteries
    – Extra blankets
    – Portable cell phone charger
    – Hand and feet warmers
    – Reflective vest and flares
    – Tool kit that includes wrenches, screwdrivers, a hammer, pliers, duct tape, zip ties, and any other tools that could be useful in an emergency situation
    – Rock salt or kitty litter
    – Anti-gel fuel additives to add to the tank before filling the gas tank
    – Bungee cords and heavy-duty tow straps
    – Portable radio
    – Shovel
    – Non-perishable food items and plenty of bottled water
    – First-aid kit

What Should Drivers Do When Involved in a Truck Accident?

Truck accidents often cause significant property damage and severe injuries, particularly to the occupants of the passenger vehicles involved. Therefore, it is crucial that police and emergency medical technicians arrive at the accident scene as soon as possible. Motorists should take the following steps immediately following a truck accident, if they are able to do so safely:

  • Call 911. Dispatch will send police and an ambulance to the accident scene. Someone must inform the dispatcher know how many people have been injured in case multiple ambulances are needed. The police officer will generate a police report, which will provide important documentation about the accident when filing a claim.
  • Seek immediate medical attention. Even if the occupants of the passenger vehicle do not think that they were seriously injured, they may have injuries that are not immediately detected. Head injuries and internal injuries may not be obvious right away. However, injuries can get worse if they are not treated. Everyone involved should request a full medical evaluation at a hospital or doctor’s office.
  • Collect evidence. Someone should document the accident scene by taking pictures of the vehicles, skid marks on the road, weather conditions, debris in the road, and anything else that may help prove fault. If there were witnesses at the scene, drivers should ask for their contact information if they would be willing to provide a statement.
  • Exchange information. Drivers should gather important information from the other driver, including name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, insurance information, and the name and contact information of the trucking company. When interacting with the other driver, a driver should not apologize, even if it seems like a nice gesture. This could be interpreted as guilt and used against the driver during the claims process.
  • Contact an experienced truck accident lawyer. Truck companies have their own team of lawyers who will work hard to protect their interests and avoid paying a large settlement amount. A truck accident lawyer will protect the victim’s rights and secure the financial compensation he or she deserves.

Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Truck Accident Victims

If you were seriously injured in a truck accident, and the truck driver failed to take the necessary steps to maintain the truck and prepare it for the winter, you are urged to contact the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We will determine who is liable for the accident, including the truck driver, the truck company, and the maintenance company, and seek the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.