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Chaining up: 4 pro tips for truckers

Ultimate goals are safety, efficiency

(Photo: Flickr/Oregon Department of Transportation CC BY 2.0)

Steep mountain roads and winter weather conditions can make truck driving and installing chains a challenge. But putting chains on a truck’s tires can make the difference between getting stuck on the side of the road and making a pickup or delivery on time. These are some tips, based on driver blogs, that can help drivers chain up as safely and quickly as possible.

Law school

Certain states require commercial truck drivers to carry chains during certain times of the year, even if the weather is clear. This is because conditions can change quickly in some areas, especially with elevation. Chains are more commonly used in the western and northern U.S. than other regions.

Related: 5 states with toughest chain laws for truckers

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Since snow is more likely to occur in mountainous terrain, that’s where most laws require that chains be used. However, laws vary by state and Canadian province regarding types of chains permitted, how many tires must be chained, etc. Truckers should become familiar with these chain laws to stay safe and avoid fines.

Clothes make the man/woman

Putting chains on is a cold and dirty process. Waterproof coveralls and mud boots are the ideal ensemble for chaining up. They make the process a little easier on drivers and they won’t have to change clothes after they finish. According to The American Driver website, “It’ll be the best expense you’ll ever make for winter driving conditions.”

Samba Safety suggests that the following are some other useful items:

  • Nimble, water-resistant gloves.
  • A reflective safety vest.
  • Reflective road triangles or other safety markers.
  • Extra links, connectors, bands (like bungee cords) and assorted other parts in case something breaks.
  • A rubber mat to kneel on if not wearing coveralls.

My way or the highway?

There’s no specific process or only one right way for installing chains. Drivers should find what works for them. However, many of them, including Smart Trucking’s Catherine MacMillan, have found it best to lay the chains out alongside each tire, checking for damage or kinks. Damaged chains will put drivers in violation of many chain laws and improper installation will cause damage.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Then drape the chains over each tire, tucking the front-of-the-truck side under the tire. Pulling the truck forward 2 feet should give drivers enough slack to complete the chain-up on all the tires without moving the truck again. Drivers often use bungee cords on each tire, placing them at the 12 to 6 o’clock, 2 to 8 o’clock, and 4 to 10 o’clock positions.

Train and practice, practice, practice

No matter which process they choose, carriers should encourage their drivers to practice chaining up in a warm, dry space. Training videos and clinics can also help. Having the knowledge and confidence to install chains will help drivers save time when chaining up in harsh weather, as well as minimize injuries and equipment damage.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.