Black Ice is Not Nice: how to share the road this winter season

November 25th, 2014

During the winter season (which can extend forever in Canada) it’s important for professional drivers of commercial vehicles to be prepared for extreme changing road conditions.

From black ice and white outs to extra fluffy or hard packed snow, the best tip we can offer is to follow the old boy scout mantra: Be Prepared!

Here are a few things to remember when you’re getting ready for a trip:

• Check the weather forecast for the areas you will be travelling.
• Inspect tire tread depth, as cold weather can lead to faster loss of air pressure.
• Ensure tire chains are in good condition and most importantly, that you know how to install them.
• Carry extra warm clothing, water proof boots, drinking water and non-perishable foods such as granola bars or licorice (or both!)
• Make sure to have extra windshield washer fluid on hand.
• See and be seen. Ensure mirrors, headlights, and all tail lights and clearance lights are free of snow and ice and are in good working condition.
• Consider an investment in winter wiper blades.
• Clear snow and ice off the top of your tractor and trailer, as excess can result in an unwanted insecure load ticket and the potential for an out of service violation. And so you’re aware, the Inspection Station isn’t responsible for providing a means to clear excess snow!

When it comes to driving in adverse weather such as snowy and/or icy conditions, a decrease in speed and an increase in following distance can prove to be invaluable. The most dangerous situations are those when traction is lost, preventing the vehicle from responding, to acceleration, deceleration, sudden braking, stopping or steering—such as what might happen when sliding on a patch of black ice, maneuvering in deeper snow or trying to slow in packed snow; resulting in a skid or having the trailer jackknife. A professional driver of a commercial vehicle should never use the engine brake in wet, snowy or icy conditions. Stopping distance on Ice at 0 degrees is twice the distance it is at 20 degrees!

How to drive safely around commercial vehicles (especially 18 wheelers):

For the rest of us not operating a commercial vehicle, it’s important to understand how to share the road in any weather, but especially adverse weather.

• Keep in mind that trucks are like sails, they can be blown around by heavy winds. Be cautious while passing.
• Trucks have blind spots everywhere. See picture for “no-zones” (from Drive Safely)
• If you must pass, make it quick. The safest way to pass an 18 wheeler is on the left side.
• Do not cut in front! It can take a truck the length of three football fields to come to a complete stop from 100 km/hr
• And although an SUV or AWD car can provide better traction to get you going, every vehicle brakes the same, which on ice means badly, or not at all.

Good common sense, preparation, forethought and being prepared for whatever the weather might dish out during your travels, can go a long way to mitigate or eliminate a potentially disastrous situation.

Be prepared, be safe! Happy winter driving!

Blog Author: Lorri Christensen | Rogers Stieg Transportation Insurance Ltd.
References: Old Republic Insurance Company of Canada ( Smart DriverFederal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ( Drive Safe (

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