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Travels of a Trucker Travelling on Compact Snow

November 20, 2011

Driving this AM

I was driving along this morning thinking about what I would write about and the subject of my topic today was directly under my wheels. Compacted Snow. Now while it may seem a little scary since compacted snow can become Glare Ice, it really wasn’t that hard to give thought as to what I would write about and how I would present it.

Compact Snow

The majority of North Americans live in areas where snow is a way of life for at least 4 months of the year. With bone chilling temperatures, consistent snow days and lots of terrible road conditions, it is a wonder why we have not adapted to it and consistently hear about collisions day after day. Compact snow happens to be the most consistent, visible and faithful of our snow falling accumulation which occurs when heavy snowfall lands faster than the roads are cleared and the roads traveled are compacted by vehicles. The effect of this is that the snow turns to a compact sheet of snow covering the road. It can at times be slippery or when properly maintained can be a good as driving on pavement.

Driving on Compact Snow although it may sound worrisome, bothersome or scary is in fact a natural truck driving way of life. In fact, it is like skiing or rollerblading. You learn it once, you never forget the basics, but each year, you have to renew your faith in the road as much a skier or a rollerblader has to renew their ability to get started and stopped. It may take half an hour of driving before you feel comfortable or it may take a few minutes. Everyone is different in their learning abilities and styles. Some will feel comfortable with it, some will not. I for one have to tiptoe on it until I feel confident enough. I have been driving now 10 years and every winter is different and every road condition is different so I start with baby steps by going slower until I build up my confidence level and adjust to what I feel comfortable doing. I never judge my performance to any other driver’s and if I have to I will pull over and let other drivers’ pass me by until I feel comfortable. Once I feel comfortable I will begin to gradually increase my speed.

The Drive

I had a trip going up to Grand Forks leaving Thursday night. Weather conditions terrible. Snow falling everywhere and snowflakes as big as golf balls were landing on my windshield reducing visibility. My lights were covered by almost an inch of wet snow also reducing visibility. All in all conditions were not good for travel that night. I slept in Hope, BC after taking over 2 hours to travel 100 Kilometers or roughly 60 Miles. I awoke the next morning and it was still snowing. It was as a matter of fact snowing much of the province on a large scale. It didn’t matter where I drove, snow was in the forecast for all of the upcoming day and well into the evening. I was travelling along Highway 3 and although the roads were hardly visible because of the snowfall accumulation and the existing compact snow, travel was good up all the mountain passes that I had to traverse that day. (Mine Hill, Allison Pass, Sunday Summit, Anarchist Summit).  Why was my drive good even though there was snow on the road? Because the road had been heavily sanded. After a while, the snowplows can do nothing more. Salt doesn’t work. Plowing doesn’t work. The only thing they can do is to keep laying down sand.

The one thing that can be counted on through all this is that the compact snow with enough sand on it is as good as any dry pavement road barring any foolish acts. Of course there is always those who tempt fate, by speeding in corners, not slowing down when conditions are treacherous, or simply not paying attention. Then there are those like me who go slower than the posted speed limits on those corners which say 70, 60, 50, 40, 30 and 20 Kilometers an hour. They have put those signs up there so that even in the best road conditions, those are the suggested maximum speeds. Now add compact snow, glare ice and sand along that road. The recipe for not following those suggested speeds could be disastrous. Of course, I could show a picture of an extreme example of a switchback from Anarchist summit that has a 20 Kilometer per hour switchback on it coming down from the summit. The problem was that it would have been unsafe to do so and there was intense fog combined with a severe curve. All in all these types of conditions exist that as the driver of a big truck need to be respected and aware of.

Driving on Glare Ice/Compact Snow is absolutely safe. As long as one does not step on their brakes hard. Keep careful attention to the road, and avoid speeding. Generally the road is safe to drive on at highway speeds and just being observant for those few spots that may have been missed with the sand by also paying attention to your trailer not only when stepping on your brakes, but consistently watching it for signs of Jack Knifing in corners.

I hope you enjoy reading my articles. If you like what you read please follow along. If you are interested in getting into trucking please give my friends at Driver Solutions a call at their website below or on their Facebook page link below and they will contact you back at your convenience. Thanks for reading. please sign up by email to follow me on my Travels.


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One Comment
  1. james jackson permalink

    yes, i do enjoy reading this artical on driving on snow roads, i havent driven since 1996, tho i experience such driving thru northwest usa, & canada,,,southeast people, unless theyre truckers has any idea of such hazards, be safe trucker, & keep writing, i’m sure others enjoy ur writings…..

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