Veteran trucker offers tips and tricks for winter driving

Updated Jan 24, 2023

By Idella Hansen, RoadPro Pro Driver Council Member

No matter what your experience is driving a tractor-trailer, there are always extra precautions to take when traveling down a snowy or icy road. The roads are unpredictable in the winter and can throw you for a loop if you aren’t cautious or prepared.

Whether you have been driving for one month, one year, or 54 years like RoadPro Pro Driver Council Member, Idella Hansen, there is always something to learn.

Read further to learn Idella’s tips for driving in the winter.

Slow Down

The roads are wet and icy in the winter, take your time and slow down. When the roads are bad it’s best to stay three truck lengths away from the person in front of you. Keep both your hands firmly on the steering wheel to be prepared for anything. Stay alert to the drivers around you in front of you, behind you, or passing on the side.

Keep a Heavier Load

Use the weight of the truck to slow down and use your brakes sparingly. If you are an owner-operator, you will hopefully get more of an opportunity to pick and choose heavier loads. It’s always a smart idea to run at least 500 lbs. more when there are bad weather conditions.

Control Your Slide

It’s not a good feeling when your trailer starts to slide on the road. If you start to skid, let off the throttle and steer away from the skid. Engage the clutch to allow the engine to help you regain traction. Staying calm and focused will help you regain control and safely get back on the right track.

Watch Out for Black Ice

Be mindful of black ice on the road and when driving in freezing temperatures. Black ice is transparent, so continually look for shiny or glossy surfaces throughout your drive. Watch out for spray coming from tires on vehicles in front of you. A lack of spray will usually mean there is a slick surface on the road ahead.

Be Prepared with Winter Wear

Keep your truck stocked up in the winter with things you may think you won’t need but will get you out of a tough situation. Stock up on salt or kitty litter for when you get stuck on slippery docks or on the road. Anti-freeze is a given. Pour radiator anti-freeze in your airlines. This will

warm up your engine and prevent it from freezing. You can buy airline treatment, but it is hard on gaskets and O-rings. The antifreeze has a little slip in it and will keep everything working well. Doing this about once a week will put you in the right place.


Idella has been in the trucking business for 53 years, with over 40 of it driving a big rig. She currently runs team, hauling high-security loads throughout 48 states and Canada. She was named 2017 TA/Petro Citizen Driver of the Year and there is a North Little Rock Arkansas Petro location named after her. She also serves as a trustee emeritus of Real Women in Trucking, a member of Operation Roger, Truckers Christmas Group, and a founding member and vice president of TEAR truckers emergency assistance responders.