How to Survive Driving a Rental Truck in the Snow

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Driving a car through snow and ice ain’t no one’s idea of a picnic. You have to watch your speed. You have to constantly glance in your mirrors. You’ve got to stash the phone away and keep a careful eye out for all the death-defying maniacs out there. (You people in the northeast understand.)

Now, if driving your regular car into the teeth of winter’s fury makes you feel like you’ll never see another spring, imagine how it’s going to feel piloting that rental truck. The weight of your entire material world leaning and swaying behind you as you roll down those same icy roads and onto the unforgiving highway.

Maybe you’re absolutely obligated to move now. Maybe you just think it’s time. Either way, across much of the country the elements can be snarling. Before you load up and put that rental truck in gear, make sure you have all the supplies (and do what you need to do) to make it safely to your new home.

Stuff You Should Have

Here’s a list of essential items. It may seem long, but I’ve needed every single one of these at some point in my long moving career.

  • Good boots
  • Warm clothes—and bring extra everything.
  • Sunglasses (Hats do nothing for you when the sun is reflecting off the snow all over the ground.)
  • Food, water and a first aid kit
  • Flashlight, batteries and blankets
  • Ice scraper
  • Toolkit with basic tools
  • Matches in a plastic bag
  • Wiper fluid, windshield de-icer and a jug of anti-freeze

Additional Emergency Equipment

  • Shovel
  • Bag of sand
  • Set of jumper cables
  • Tow straps

And while getting all this stuff together may seem like a hassle, keep in mind: these things aren’t necessarily just for you. Having them may just mean you save another driver’s day.

Protip: If you are stuck in a snowdrift and need traction to get out, sand is what you want. Rock salt is meant to melt snow, not provide traction. So unless you’re willing to hang around and wait for that rock salt to do its chemical reaction thing, make sure you get some sand.

Maintenance You Should Get

Truck rental places don’t always have their stuff in order, so before you drive off the rental truck lot, make sure all these things are done:

  • Check the anti-freeze and wiper fluid (don’t trust that it’s been done for you). If they’re low, get it taken care of
  • Make sure your truck is properly stocked with spare tire, a jack and a tire iron (You’d be surprised.)
  • Flares and those reflective triangles are critical in the event you break down on the road at night. Your rental truck company may not supply them (Flares, by the way, can also be used to start a fire in an extreme situation, while reflectors become even more important if and when your flares go out.)

Also, are you in a snowy and mountainous region? Tire chains are recommended or, sometimes, required. Check this resource for a state-by-state rundown.

Stuff You Should Remember

  • Drive extra slow. Your loaded rental truck is not going to stop on a dime 
  • Leave extra room ahead of you—Other drivers will try to stop on a dime
  • Be extra aware of icy spots, snow build-up, and drivers who are paying attention to none of it
  • Keep your lights and your mirrors clear of ice, frost and fog (Trust me.)
  • Keep your gas tank no emptier than half full – low fuel levels can lead to water condensation in the fuel line
  • Keep your power usage to a minimum. Cold weather decreases a battery’s output, and when it’s freezing out you’re going to want all the power you can get
  • Keep up to date with future weather conditions and forecasts. Clear weather now doesn’t mean blue skies forever

Final Must-Do’s

  • Make sure you have a mobile phone charger that adapts to whatever type of outlet you have in your truck. When you’re really stuck, that phone might be your last resort. Consider keeping an extra phone, fully-charged, on hand for twice the security
  • Any kind of map is critical. Whether it’s a road atlas or a GPS, be able to determine where you are and where you are going. Know your route as best you can before you even get into that seat

And finally … have a clear head. Be relaxed, be awake and stay alert. Your smarts and your reflexes are your first and best defenses in the face of winter’s fury.

Beating Back Old Man Winter: Safety Tips

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Old Man Winter's Truck

And Staying Safe in the Process

Last month at a moving company warehouse in New Jersey, employees found themselves scrambling to find the cutoff valve to a gas line that had been struck by a forklift. While it is true not all of us have forklifts – or warehouses – the looming winter gives us good reason to go over a few safety points.

FEMA lays out a comprehensive checklist for keeping ourselves, our spaces and our vehicles safe in the extreme cold of winter (no wise cracks from those of you in the south please). Here are a few salient highlights:

  • Along with insulating pipes, FEMA suggests allowing faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing. Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Carry sand with you, to improve vehicle traction. Even if you are only loading/unloading consider having some on hand. It also helps you keep your footing on icy steps and front walks.
  • Maintain a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing. Fuel additives may help as well.
  • Check the oil in your vehicles for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone knows how to use them. Fires pose an increased risk in cold weather as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • A good amount of FEMA’s advice might be common sense but it never hurts to refresh the memory and double-check to make sure we all (in the north) are ready for Old Man Winter.

You guys down south, you can just keep your jokes to yourselves…

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Photo Credit to B K

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