Whatever type of over-the-road semi trailer you’re hauling—dry van trailer, flatbed trailer, refrigerated trailer, etc.—winter weather poses unique challenges, both for the trailer and the tractor pulling it. To ensure that you get to your various destinations safely, it’s vital that you take action to protect your rig from the elements.
Cold-Weather Preparedness for Your Tractors and Owned or Leased Semi Trailers
Depending on where you are, winter driving conditions can last for several months. For example, in the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains, the cold temperatures and snow come early in the fall and stay late in the spring!
If winter driving conditions persist where you are, it’s important to take the cold-weather preparedness actions below and to revisit them further into the season.
- Inspect your tractor and semi trailer electrical systems. Batteries drain more rapidly in cold weather. Consequently, you should ensure that your tractor battery is free of corrosion and functioning properly. You should also clean and tighten connections as needed. In addition, it’s a good idea to inspect the wiring in your tractor and semi trailer looking for corrosion or frayed components and clean/repair/replace components as needed.
- Check your tractor’s coolant system. Ensure that your coolant is ready to withstand frigid temperatures. You can do this by conducting a pressure test on the system. When you turn on the heater control spigot, the pressure should be 15 to 18 PSI. You should conduct the same pressure test on the radiator cap at 5 PSI. Also, inspect water and heater hoses for wear, hardening and cracks. Be sure to tighten any loose hose clamps you find.
- Ensure that your water separator and fuel filter work properly. Check your water separator and fuel filter to ensure they’re functioning properly. And be sure to monitor the separator as the temperature drops to look for condensation and drain the water regulator as needed. Also, have additional filters available in case the one in use becomes full of water.
- Check the pressure and tread depth on your tractor and semi trailer tires. Tire issues can be dangerous under any conditions and are particularly treacherous on snowy or icy roads. Confirm that your tires are properly inflated and that they have sufficient tread depth for the conditions.
- Inspect your wiper blades. The start of heavy snowfall when you’re far from the next exit is a bad time to discover that your wiper blades are worn and can’t keep your windshield clear. Replace them if appropriate and remember to keep a spare pair with you. It’s much safer to change them at a gas station, but if you need to pull off the highway to make the switch, that’s still better than driving with poor visibility as a result of a snowy/dirty windshield.
- Inspect your headlights and other lights, and keep them clear. Being seen from a safe distance by other vehicles can prevent a collision, particularly if you’re on the road when blowing snow decreases visibility. Make sure all of the lights on your tractor and semi trailer are working properly before each trip. Then, at every stop, clear and/or clean those lights if they become obscured by snow, ice or road grime.
- Get an electric block heater. If you drive routes in particularly cold regions, you should consider installing an electric block heater. It protects the engine from extreme cold when the truck isn’t running and helps ensure that it will start properly.
- Use anti-gel fuel additives. Put an anti-gel fuel additive in your tank to ensure that fuel flows through the filter easily. Ideally, you should do that before you add fuel to the tank so that you get a good mixture. As with other winter-weather supplies, be sure to have anti-gel additive with you in case it’s not available at the gas station.
- Check your semi trailer door latches and other moving parts. Freezing temperatures, along with an accumulation of snow or slush, can freeze a door latch and prevent it from working properly. Do an overall inspection of your semi trailers periodically in the winter months. This is especially important if you lease a semi trailer or rent a semi trailer, since you may not be as familiar with that equipment.
Preparing Your Rig and Driving It in Winter Weather
In addition to preparing your tractor and semi trailer for winter, it’s important to use winter driving best practices. As we describe in our blog post, “Hauling a Semi Trailer on Snowy Roads? Use These 10 Tips.”, this includes things like driving at slower speeds, leaving a much larger buffer between you and the vehicle in front of you and braking and steering gradually.
You should also avoid making assumptions about road conditions or the intentions and abilities of other drivers. A stretch of road that looks surprisingly free of snow may be covered in ice instead. In bad weather, it’s best to assume the road is slick and act accordingly.
And, you never know how other drivers will react to adverse driving conditions. For example, the person in front of you on the road may be right on the edge of losing control of their vehicle but simply hasn’t lost control yet. While it may not be fair, you must be prepared to compensate for the poor decision-making of others!
Get Safe, Winter-Ready Semi Trailers From Boxwheel
When hauling semi trailers in winter, you want equipment that’s properly maintained all year. If something goes wrong with your semi trailer on a slick road, it can put you and your tractor in jeopardy.
At Boxwheel, our semi trailers are maintained and inspected with the utmost care—in every season. If a trailer doesn’t meet our high standards for some reason, it doesn’t leave our lot. We’ve been in this business for a long time and we value the safety of the drivers and companies that rely on us above all else.
To learn more about our inventory of flatbed, liftgate, reefers, and dry van semi trailers for rent or lease, contact us today.