One of the largest hurdles I encountered in learning to drive a rig was snow. I grew up in the South West (California, and Arizona) and while I have seen pictures of me in snow as a kid, I don’t remember it.
So, in the winter of 2003, I experienced my first snowfall, while driving a big rig, in Victorville, CA.
I’d pulled into the Pilot in Victorville late at night, it was cool out, and there was a little rain. I ran into the Outpost Cafe to grab dinner, then back out to the cab to get some sleep.
Rigs can have a couple of different ways of blocking out light for the driver. Nicer setups, like the Volvo I’d be driving later, had curtains that wrap around the inside of the cabin just behind the windshield, and stow behind the driver’s and passenger’s shoulders. The other style, what I was in this particular night having being in a Freightliner, splits the cab in two. The sleeper is curtained off from the driving section. This is OK-ish for teams, but feels claustrophobic when most of your time is spent in the cab of a truck.
Regardless, I had the cabin splitting kind and hoped up in the rig (belly full) and closed the curtains and went to sleep. The following morning I woke up and noticed that it was even cooler than the night before. Not sure what was going on, I poked my fingers through the split in the cabin curtain and peeked through.
Everything was white.
Well this is cool, I’ve never driven in the snow before. I’ll take it easy on the inputs and should be OK.
Not like the top of my hood was covered so far I couldn’t see out, just the ground and the tops of other rigs. It was all covered in fresh snow. This was an entirely foreign concept to me.
I hopped down out of the cab (after getting a jacket on), and made my first snowball. Which I promptly threw at nobody because I was a truck driver.
After going into the Pilot, getting coffee, and ready to go for the day I went back out, did my daily inspection and hopped in the seat. Got my logs ready and I was off!
I was able to pull out of the Pilot without any issues and started north-bound on I-15 towards Vegas. The snow fall wasn’t readily apparent at first I’d get a few drops that looked more like rain and just ran off the windshield. Then, I started seeing flakes that were sticking. Well this is cool, I’ve never driven in the snow before. I’ll take it easy on the inputs and should be OK. As I kept driving the snowfall started to come down harder. Eventually it was sticking enough that I turned on the wiper blades. Oh that’s getting it, great I can keep going. Pretty soon though, the wiper blades started to have issues, even being on high they were moving at about half-speed. Uhm, that’s not good.. I can get out and scrape off the snow.
Now, we’re a driver with a problem, and in need of creative methods to get rid of the problem. Another mile and the snow was no longer just bogging down the wipers, it had completely caused them to stop. Well I can get out and scrape the windshield, but how often am I going to have to do that? Other drivers aren’t having this problem, and it’s not like people in cold states are going to pull over every five minutes to scrape their windshield.. I just need a way to defr- shit.
The light bulb came on, and it dawned on me what the defroster in a car is actually supposed to be used for. It “Defrosts” the windshield, because it melts snow dummy. Remember until this point I’d lived in the South West with no need for a defroster beyond defogging my windshield.
Why it never dawned on me until that point I’ll never know. Thankfully, it did and I was able to defrost the windshield and keep moving.