- Tips for employers
- Tips for commercial drivers
- Traction and skids
- Chaining up
Employers operating commercial vehicles need to have a health and safety program that includes measures to ensure the safety of their employees who drive for work in winter. Winter weather and icy road conditions can increase the chance of crashes and injuries. Learn more about winterizing your road safety policies and procedures to help protect commercial drivers.
Tips for employers
Winter is not business as usual. The number of crashes increases in BC when temperatures drop and snow, ice, rain, or fog hit. Trucks can spin out in as little as 1 cm of snow. When commercial vehicles crash or slide off the road, their size can make the consequences catastrophic.
As an employer or supervisor, you need to prepare and plan ahead for winter’s challenges. Waiting until the season arrives is too late.
It’s critical that every commercial operator meets or exceeds their legal responsibilities. In addition to reducing the likelihood of a crash that may result in a serious injury, it can help you:
- Identify unsafe equipment or conditions that may contribute to a crash
- Dispatch drivers and vehicles more efficiently
- Reduce time at roadside inspections if a vehicle is stopped
- Avoid regulatory penalties
You need to understand BC’s commercial vehicle tire and chain requirements and have drivers follow them.
Commercial drivers who travel outside the Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria areas in winter are required to carry chains or other acceptable traction devices. Throughout the province, drivers need to obey winter tire and chain signs from October 1 to April 30. For select highways not located through mountain passes and/or high snowfall areas, tire and chain requirements end March 31.
Commercial trucks weighing between 5,000 kg and 11,794 kg Licensed Gross Vehicle Weight (LGVW) must carry chains or acceptable traction devices, unless the vehicle is equipped with winter tires.
Commercial vehicles 11,794 kg LGVW and greater, such as tractor trailers, are required to carry steel chains on most major highways.
To prepare yourself for what’s ahead, sign up for our Winter Driving Safety for Employers and Supervisors online course.
You can help prepare employees by providing winter-related education and training. Have drivers review our winter driving tips (see next section) and Driving for the Conditions Tool Kit. Use our winter driving tailgate meeting guides to share information with staff.
Tips for commercial drivers
Whether you’re a new driver or an experienced one, winter driving can be dangerous. Avoid driving during extreme weather and road conditions if possible. Ask your employer for training and make sure you understand and follow your organization’s winter driving policy and procedures.
Check weather and road conditions on DriveBC.ca to help create a trip plan. Identify rest stops and chain-up areas along the way. Talk with your supervisor, dispatcher, and other drivers for information before heading out.
Review our section for winter drivers and these additional tips specifically for commercial driving:
- Check tires to make sure they’re in good condition.
- Check the condition of chains and make sure you know how to install them properly.
- Clean snow from the windows, lights, hood, and trailer.
- Make sure the load is properly secured and balanced.
- Clean your headlights and the inside of your windshield.
- Keep your diesel tanks full so you won’t run out if you’re delayed or get stuck.
- Make sure diesel is winter-grade or use an additive to prevent diesel from gelling when it gets cold.
- If using an anti-gel additive, put it in your tank before you fuel up.
- Use amber fog lights to soften the glare.
- Point a fog light slightly toward the right, so you can use the snowbank or ditch line as a steady reference.
- Drive more cautiously when bobtailing or driving with no load. You have less weight on the rear axle. This makes it harder to steer, stop and go. During hard braking, a truck will shift its weight to the front tires, making braking less effective.
- Turn off retarders (e.g., engine brakes) whenever the road is slippery. Retarders may cause your truck to lose traction. The goal is to have even braking on all axles.
- Turn off cruise control in adverse weather.
- Plan for an emergency. Scan your surroundings and think of what to do in different scenarios, such as wildlife crossing the road in front of you or your vehicle sliding as it enters a corner.
Pulling over on wintry roads can create a hazard for you and other drivers. Move well to the side of the road, into a pull-out or other wide spot. Activate your four-way flashers. Place warning lights or reflective cones behind your vehicle in 6-foot increments. If you need to work at the roadside, either on your vehicle or as part of your job, know how to set up and take down a cone zone.
Be sure to wear a reflective vest or jacket when outside your vehicle. Carry a flashlight if daylight is fading.
In icy conditions, wear shoes or boots with good traction. Maintain 3 points of contact with your hands and feet when entering or exiting the cab.
Traction and skids
Traction loss and skidding can occur anytime and anywhere during winter. The most common causes of traction loss are:
- Over-braking, which can lock up the wheels
- Over-steering, which can cause the back end of the vehicle to slide out
- Over-acceleration, which can cause the drive wheels to spin
- Driving too fast for the conditions
Here’s how you can keep traction and reduce the risk of skids:
Ensure your tires are properly inflated and have good tread depth. The legal minimum tread depth for passenger vehicles is 3.5 mm (5/32″). For winter driving, it’s better to have much more tread than that.
The tire ply, rating, and load all impact the manufacturer’s recommended inflation value. Visit a qualified commercial tire service centre to ensure your tires are inflated to the proper PSI.
Always have a load spread evenly from left to right. Make sure the load is secured and correctly distributed over the axles.
Conditions change. So should your speed. For example, when rain follows a nice sunny day, you need to slow down because oil rises to the top and makes the road slippery.
Generally, it’s best to avoid parking on any steep hill. Instead, select a location that’s flat. If you must park on a hill, follow these tips:
Facing uphill: Turn your front tires to the left, towards the centre of the road. This applies when there is a curb and when there isn’t one. It helps prevent the vehicle from rolling into traffic.
Facing downhill: Turn your front tires towards the curb or right shoulder. This helps prevent the vehicle from rolling into traffic.
What to do in a skid
If you lose traction and start to skid or slide, the best way to recover control depends on the type of skid you’re in:
If drive axle tires are not locking up:
- Gently reduce pressure on brakes.
- If you are on ice, push in the clutch to let the wheels turn freely.
- Look and steer in the direction you want to go.
- Counter-steer as the vehicle recovers to avoid skidding in the opposite direction.
If drive axle tires are locking up:
- Engine brake is on: Turn off the Jake brake or reduce the number of heads applied until you recover traction.
- Only wheel brakes are on: Decrease or release pressure on the brake pedal.
- Jake and wheel brakes are on: Turn off the Jake brake or reduce the number of heads applied. If still skidding, decrease or release pressure on the brake pedal. If you must, release both the Jake and wheel brakes. Gently applying the trailer brakes can also help.
Gently turn the steering wheel back towards centre. As the tires straighten, you should feel the steering tires recover traction.
If both axle tires are skidding, reduce or briefly release pressure on the brake pedal.
You can find all of these tips in our Get a Grip When Driving in Winter Conditions guide (PDF 2MB).
Commercial trucks weighing between 5,000 kg and 11,794 kg GVW must carry chains or acceptable traction devices, unless the vehicle is equipped with winter rated tires with the 3-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol or the M+S symbol.
Commercial vehicles 11,794 kg GVW and greater, such as tractor trailers, are required to carry steel chains on most major highways.
You need to use chains, or other traction devices, when lights are flashing on designated chain-up routes or overhead message signs specify a chain-up is in effect. DriveBC lists commercial chain requirements too.
Failure to follow the regulations may result in you being turned back or fined under the BC Motor Vehicle Act. The vehicle may also be turned back from the route.
- Commercial vehicles over 11,794 kg must carry steel tire chains from October 1 to April 30 on most major highways.
- Make sure your chains are the right size for your tires.
- Follow the manufacturer’s written instructions.
- Discuss current road conditions and upcoming weather events with your dispatcher.
- Employers have a legal duty to provide instruction and training to keep you safe on the job. Learn how to safely install chains before you need them.
- To improve traction and vehicle control.
- For your safety and the safety of other road users.
- To reduce the risk of property damage.
- To keep you moving, and help prevent downtime.
- To avoid costly road closures.
- It’s the law: non-compliance can lead to a fine and penalty points.
- When you feel tire chains may be necessary for traction and safety – don’t wait until it’s too late!
- When lights are flashing on designated chain up routes.
- When overhead message signs specify chain up is in effect.
- When Government of BC websites and phone lines specify that chain up is in effect:
- Not safe? Don’t go! If conditions are treacherous, you may be better off stopping and waiting for conditions to improve.
It’s smart to practice installing chains in good weather, rather than trying to install chains during a blizzard. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ask your supervisor for training.
- Stop in a designated chain up area if you can get there safely. If you can’t, find an accessible rest stop or pull-out. Avoid chaining up at the side of the road.
- Leave space between yourself and the truck in front — allow for movement.
- Secure your truck — apply the parking brake and turn off the engine.
- Activate hazard lights — make sure they’re working and clear of mud and snow.
- Use suitable non-slip wheel chocks to help secure the truck and trailer.
- Follow company health and safety policies and practices.
- Use three-points of contact (two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand) and climb down from the cab slowly.
- Wear warm, waterproof, slip-resistant footwear and a compliant high-visibility garment.
- Have multiple sets of gloves, waterproof clothing and a small kneeling tarp.
- Use a headlamp at night or in low-light conditions.
- Get close to the tires to minimize overextending your reach.
- Stay balanced – keep feet at shoulder width when crouching.
- Adapt driving techniques to road and weather conditions.
- Don’t exceed speeds of 50 km/h.
- Avoid running chains on bare pavement, hitting curbs and spinning wheels.
- Listen and watch for loose chains – stop in a safe place to check chains, and adjust as necessary.
- Inspect chains after use – repair or replace when necessary.