Reports of snow and ice have already been coming in from several major trucking routes and just this week the interstate in Bozeman, Montana was impassable due to snow and ice. With the official start of winter still many weeks away the United States is once again preparing for a potentially harsh winter.
If you are an OTR truck driver running northwest lanes in states like Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington State, always be prepared for the worst. Conditions can go from bad to worse without warning like I-80 in Wyoming getting shut down for four days straight in 2019. Being prepared can make these situations less stressful. And the best start to that is packing your truck with essentials for any winter weather emergency. Just remember winter weather is not isolated to the Northwest, just seems to start there sooner than say the midwest.
So now is the time to gather your winter essentials, so you are not buying them out on the road at much higher cost. We put together a list of some basics you should have on hand in case you find yourself fighting Mother Nature. A big thanks to some of our drivers for adding their must-haves to the list.
Warm and Comfortable Clothes
Appropriate clothing is a must when you are an OTR driver. Coat, gloves are items all drivers know to have, but this time of year is when you add the heavy coat, snow boots and winter gloves. Some other items that are great to keep in the truck are long sleeve shirts, Flannel shirts or flannel lined pants, and long underwear. Layering is a great way to keep warm as well.
Portable Heating Equipment
A Dynamic Transit we equip our trucks with APU’s and bunk heaters, but we all know things can break down. If this happens when you are sitting in bad weather, you need a back up plan. A good option would be a space heater, an electric blanket or even a sleeping bag. A space heater will take up some room but better than freezing and the blanket/sleeping bag can be kept out on bed. (Side note: confirm your inverter can handle the wattage of these items)
If you’re regularly running a route in an area known for cold weather, your truck is most likely already equipped with APUs and bunk heaters. If not, save room for a space heater. It may take up more room than you’d like. But, you’ll be glad you have it if your bunk heater stops working. Or, if you’re nowhere near a hotel or repair shop. Even an electric heated blanket can provide another level of warmth.
A Few Days’ Worth of Food and Water
A good portion of drivers today eat at least one meal per day prepared in the truck. So carrying food and water is already part of a driver’s daily life. During bad weather season, stocking up on some non-perishables is a good plan. Items like Peanut butter, Tuna, jerky, granola/protein bars, fruit cups or nuts can be eaten without cooking and will last all season.
Before we discuss items needed for outside the truck let’s discuss one in the truck. Your phone/smart device. Are you checking the weather for the road you are traveling? Do you have notifications turned on to alert you of impending changes?
When outside your vehicle in bad weather you should always have on some PPE. For bad weather PPE go for reflective, bright colored clothing so that you can be seen. Shorter daylight hours have drivers doing their pre/post trip in the dark, so to add light consider a headlamp. This will free up your hands to thoroughly check the equipment but don’t forget the extra batteries. Many drivers carry a folding shovel for snow removal and kitty litter can get you some traction. Speaking of traction, if you are in an area known for ice another great item to consider is removable cleats for your shoes.
Assembling the items on this list may seem time-consuming or even overkill to some. However, if you find yourself facing the storm of the century you will be well prepared to out last mother nature and be as comfortable as possible until you can get the wheels turning again.
Check out our blog on the four rules for tractor trailer breakdowns and emergencies. It lists even more ways to keep yourself safe and secure no matter what part of the country you’re in.