Nothing can prepare a driver for every winter driving situation, but here are some tips so you have less negative surprises during the winter:
Scrape ice off of wiper blades
Do not drive into snow covered areas parking lots without seeing tire tracks. Drive in the tracks that others have created. Sometimes ditches are not marked and not following this procedure can land you in the ditch or big pothole causing a wrecker bill to pull you out. (Speaking from experience)
Do not go overboard greasing the fifth wheel in the winter. If the wind hits you on a slick road, you will want the trailer to have a harder time swinging around.
Connecting and disconnecting from trailer: If there is snow/ice on the ground under the trailer and your tires are spinning while trying to hook or unhook, then try locking in the drive axles so that you have all drive tires turning when you accelerate. (Putting salt or Kitty Litter on the ground helps also)
Knock snow and ice off your truck as much as possible so it does not come off while driving. It can become a hazard to other drivers if it falls off while driving. (I use a hammer sometimes to loosen up snow/ice on truck and trailer.
On ramps, off ramps, bridges, and underpass often freeze before roadways
A credit card does good a strapping ice off of hood mirror.
Be sure your air pressure is over 100 before trying to move truck, otherwise your brakes may not be released.
Look in mirrors about every 5 seconds or more to keep constant awareness of what is around you: Look for traffic, blown tire, emergency vehicles, trailer lights, and look two lane over in case you need to change lane. (check 3 times minimum before changing lanes and keep checking mirrors while changing lanes).
You may need to lock in both drive axles to be able to hook to a trailer without spinning tires
Change lanes slowly checking to see if other less traveled lane is slick
Clean tail lights and trailer reflector tape more often, sometimes several times per day. During the winter tail light and reflector tape get very dirty very quick.
Use Salt or Kitty litter to get tire traction
Attach cardboard to grill to get more heat into cab of truck when temperature drops enough to affect heater. The amount of cardboard needed depends on temperature.
If it is unsafe to drive, notify dispatch that you are shutting down and park truck in a safe legal parking area
Ask yourself: Are they treating the road with sand or salt. If they have not yet treated the roads, they will freeze up at higher temperatures. Before 32 degrees on non-traveled roads can be slick. 28 degrees and below roads can becomes slick even if treated if there is not enough traffic flow. Temperatures gauges are sometimes off up to 4 degrees so caution needs to be taking around 36 degrees and start looking for signs of ice on the road. Higher temperatures still do not insure non-icy roads. The road may be icy from earlier and the higher temperature has not had a chance to melt all the ice.
Use Salt or Kitty litter to get tire traction
Are roads icy? It is difficult to say but there are many signs to look for to determine if the road may be icy. Here is a list of some things I look at:: Ice freezing on your windshield, Snow on road could mean that Ice may be under the snow, Ice in a parking lot means there may be ice on the roadway, Not seeing spray coming from my vehicle tires or other tires could indicate icy roadway, Sudden temperature changes could indicate icy roads. Sometimes the temperature can change due to elevation. One side of the mountain may be a different temperature than the other side due to elevation, Low traffic flow could mean icy roads. Seeing no snow plows out could indicate icy roads, Seeing accidents or hearing of accidents down the road mean the roads may be icy, Seeing another vehicle slowdown could indicate that they hit a slick icy spot, The weather man may say the roads may be icy, Sometimes I pull down on the brake bar at slow speeds on a side road or entrance ramp to see if I slide. If I slide, I would rather know the road is slick while on the ramp or side road rather than waiting until I get out in traffic. Sometimes there will be other options to park the truck at that point other than going on further, If the state pre-treats the road with a clear solution rather than salt or sand could indicate slick roads. I find that situation to be my worst situation. Sometimes they treat it incorrectly and it freezes on the roadway. Rain is a good indication of icy slick roadway.
Though it could be considered dangerous, I have reached my hand out of the window and slapped my wiper blade while driving to get the ice off of it because the ice was so thick that my wiper was now functioning properly.
Passenger Hood Mirror will freeze with ice. When this happens, a driver will need to drive like we did years ago before we had hood mirrors. Since you cannot see thru that mirror, you will need to always be aware of what is going in and out of that space called a blind spot. It is called a blind spot because you cannot see what is in that area. If you know nothing has gone into that blind spot, you can drive into that area without actually being able to see what is there. It is better to change lanes slowly at this point in case you were not aware as you thought you were.
If roadway suddenly get icy sometimes the shoulder of the road will have more traction if it has packed snow rather than ice. Other times the shoulder will be more slick because it is not traveled much.
Use Weather app on smart phone to look at weather conditions, I use both the Accuweather app and The Weather Channel app. Look at google maps on smartphone to see road conditions, accidents, and slowdowns. Talk to other motorists that came from that direction. Check temperature and predicted temperature,
If you cannot see your passenger hood mirror due to salt or dirt, then buy longer wiper blades.
Keep fuel level above ½ mark in case you get stranded
Drain water from fuel
Drain water from Air Tanks (Tractor and trailer)
Turn on heated side mirrors if your truck has them
Remove snow from vehicle so it does not blow on you or others while driving, even from the top, open hood to get all snow off of hood
Take ice off of windshield wipers before driving
RainX on windshield helps to keep ice off of the windshield, but there is a drawback. If you have a need to turn on your dome light at night, you will have a difficult time seeing thru the windshield due to seeing the RainX film on windshield.,
Make sure windshield wipers work and are not broken
Idle below 20 degree
Trip Planning: Big roads are plowed first
If you must drive on packed snow then flow with slower traffic on packed snow keeping proper following distance
Bridges and Underpasses: Bridges and underpasses usually freeze before roadway freeze. Avoid braking or accelerating on bridges, maintain speed. Avoid changing lanes or making any sudden changes in direction. Slow down considerably on curved bridges. Try not to be the first drier on the bridge. Ideally if you are following at the proper distance and there is ice on the bridge and the driver in front of you slips on the icy bridge, you can stop your truck before you get to the icy bridge.
Ramps: Slow down before entering exit ramps. Ramps usually freeze before roadway.
Turn off engine brake.
Increase following distance.
Use Rubbing alcohol to pour into air lines to help unfreeze air lines. A little rubbing alcohol in windshield wiper fluid helps to keep it from freezing.
Defrost on heat with A/C
Starting fluid to help start truck if fuel is slightly jelled. (use very sparingly)
Radiator Coolant (Correct temperature rating)
Fuel additive & Diesel #1
Carry Salt, Kitty Litter, and Rubbing Alcohol, Gloves
Make sure brakes are released (check tire tracks, rolling resistance, visual check)
Pour hot water on wiper fluid tip to get wiper fluid flowing
Slow down especially before curves
Check weather map
How to De-fog windshield quickly: Turn On Air Conditioning, Set knob to Defroster, set knob to blow outside air ,and set blower on high. After it is defrosted, keep running Air Conditioning to keep it from fogging up again. Adjust temperature & direction knobs for comfort.
Use higher RPM by downshifting to keep truck under your control.
How to clean mirrors in the winter: Sometimes there is enough moisture in the air to simply use a dry paper towel, but if not, try dipping the corner of the paper towel in water. The idea is to have just enough water to clean, but not so much that it transfers to the mirror and freezes.
Before driving, pull forward about 6 feet, set brakes, check drive tires and trailer tires for tire tracks in the snow. If you do not see tire tracks from a tire, then you have a break that is locked up.