Driving a Tractor Trailer in Snow

Driving a Tractor Trailer in Snow

Driving tractor trailer in snow heavy situations is described as operating a CMV in adverse weather conditions. When moisture builds on the road surface, either from rain or snow, it creates slippery conditions for the tractor-trailer’s tires. If the auxiliary brakes are left on during slippery road conditions, any braking action transmits a large amount of force from the retarder to the drive axles. Applying the air brakes, will put even more braking force on the drive axles and cause the truck to slide, skid, and/or jackknife. In order to an accident during icy or snowy road conditions, turn the retarder also called the jake-brake, OFF.

Rainy conditions require the retarder to be switched off for the first several minutes of rainfall because the initial rainwater mixes with the oil present on the road surface to create a slippery mixture for your truck’s tires. In heavy rain conditions, reducing retarder power is an option given the retarder has more than one setting.

A good indication of ice-buildup on the roads is the stiffening and freezing of your front mirrors. If your outside front mirror is showing signs of freezing, then ice is beginning to form on the road surface too. A valuable strategy to use while driving on snow and ice-covered roads is to use the truck’s inter-axle differential lock. Activate the tractor trailer’s inter-axle differential lock only when the tires are at a stand-still and not spinning.

Winter tire tread

Winter tires are a valuable asset for driving tractor trailer in snow heavy conditions. The tread on the tires is the best indicator of what type of road and weather conditions they were designed to be driven on. Many trucks are equipped with tires meant for general driving purposes and their drivers utilize tire chains in adverse rain, snow, sleet, or ice weather conditions .There has been much debate on the effectiveness of tire chains compared to winter snow tires.

winter-tires-vs-regular-tires-semi-truckSee the preceding image. Which do you believe would have greater traction? The above picture shows winter tread tires on the left, and general weather tires on the right.

Tire chain pliers

Tire chain pliers are a tool that can be used in the event your tire chains break. Tire chain pliers will allow you to repair cross chains quickly and easily.


The two necessary fluids to carry in adequate supply during winter driving truck runs are anti-freeze coolant and windshield washer. Oil and brake-like are recommended but optional.

Portable Jump Starter

A portable jump starter is an important tool to have when your truck’s battery unexpectedly fails to start. A portable jump starter will ensure you have a reliable backup source to power your truck battery. Portable jump starters for semi trucks are suggested according to their amperes (amps). 24 volts is normally required to maximize chances of battery jump-start success.

Recovery Strap for Semi Trucks

A recovery strap is made of a special fabric intended to increase it stretching ability so that it can withstand the torque load from the towing vehicle. They are generally 3-5 inches in width and 15-40 feet in length.

Other supplies

  • Shovel
  • Clip-on headband flashlight
  • Handheld heavy-duty truck flashlight
  • Attachable snow plow
  • GPS
  • Cell phone
  • VHF Radio

The foremost tip for driving a semi-truck in adverse conditions, is to reduce speed. It is strongly recommended you carry the above noted tools and equipment if you will be driving a tractor trailer in snow.

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