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Train Your Drivers for Wintry Weather

Train Your Drivers for Wintry Weather


The unit was tasked to refuel two Army tactical vehicles and provide a Soldier with driver training. To accomplish the mission, the Soldiers would travel on local roadways. They were given orders to clear the snow from their vehicles and conduct preventive maintenance checks and services (PMCS). They were also briefed on the proper speeds for the winter road conditions.

The roads were clear, but a light snow started to fall as the operation began. Eventually, the roads became covered with snow. As the driver crested a hill, the licensing instructor advised the Soldier to slow down. The inexperienced driver pressed the brake pedal and the vehicle lost traction. The rear of the vehicle slid sideways into the oncoming traffic lane, struck the back of a civilian vehicle and then collided with a second civilian vehicle. The civilian driver of the second vehicle was killed in the collision. Because the Soldiers were wearing seat belts, they suffered only minor injuries; however, the tactical vehicle was destroyed.

How could this mishap have been prevented? Before vehicle operations, leaders must know the weather and road conditions for the route and always use risk management in mission planning. Other tips include:

  • Licensing and training. Ensure all drivers are trained and licensed and their licenses (OF 346) and operator’s qualification record (DA 348) are properly annotated. Soldiers must have winter driver training before operating a piece of equipment in winter weather conditions.
  • PMCS. Train Soldiers on conducting proper PMCS on equipment they will operate. Ensure tire chains are packed on the vehicle and Soldiers know how to install them. After an accident, it is far too late to think about what you could have done to prevent it.
  • Braking. Braking procedures are different for vehicles equipped with anti-lock brake systems. Check your -10 to see which type of brakes are on your vehicle. Also, ensure Soldiers understand how the system operates. For ABS, do not pump the pedal. Rather, keep constant pressure on the pedal. You may experience a slight vibration, which is normal. Continue to hold the pedal down. Letting up on the pedal will deactivate the ABS and prevent it from working properly when you might need it most. For non-ABS, keep your heel on the floor between the brake pedal and the accelerator. Use your toes to press the brake pedal until the vehicle’s tires lock. Then ease off the brake pedal until you reach the point where the tires aren’t locked.
  • Skidding. When your vehicle is involved in a skid, ease your foot off the accelerator or brake pedal, avoid slamming on the brake, downshift if you have a manual transmission, look and steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go and do not oversteer. Make necessary steering adjustments smoothly and gradually. If you overcorrect at first, be prepared for a skid in the opposite direction. Again, remember to look and steer where you want the vehicle to go. Continue to steer until your vehicle recovers from the skid. Once the vehicle is under control, adjust your speed to the road conditions.

Road conditions are also an important factor when driving in winter weather. One of the most dangerous conditions is black ice, which occurs when ice forms on an asphalt surface. The conditions are right for black ice if you have to scrape frost or ice from your vehicle’s windshield. If you find yourself on a patch of black ice, don’t panic. Take your foot off the gas pedal and steer gently in the direction you want the vehicle to go. Don’t slam on the brakes, which will only make the situation worse, and don’t make quick turning maneuvers.

Certain areas of roadways — such as bridges, overpasses and underpasses — can also present challenges. Adjust your speed for bridges and overpasses, which freeze before other road surfaces because of the airflow both over and under the structure. Learn how to recognize the hazard. A good rule is to slow down when approaching bridges and places where the road is in the shade, especially late in the afternoon and after dark, when temperatures are lower.

The most important measure drivers can take is to drive defensively. Pay attention to the actions of other drivers; anticipate what they could do wrong and plan what actions you might need to take to avoid involvement. The most common mistakes drivers make in bad weather are driving too fast for conditions and underestimating stopping distances. The best advice for driving in winter is to slow down and concentrate on safe, cautious driving.

Ensure you and your Soldiers are properly trained and licensed in winter driving prior to conducting convoys or daily trips in the season’s adverse weather conditions. Assess the risks during your route planning and be prepared to react to road conditions in accordance with the training you received. The U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center’s Driver’s Training Toolbox has a series of winter driving presentations which can assist you in conducting training. Check it out at https://safety.army.mil/ON-DUTY/Drivers-Training-Toolbox.

  • 5 November 2023
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 598
  • Comments: 0