Preparing your fleet drivers for winter driving

With the Met Office predicting ‘colder than average conditions’ during this winter and the threat of associated wintry hazards, such as frost and fog hitting the UK, it is a timely reminder to prepare your fleet business for the driving conditions ahead.

Not only can winter weather cause severe disruption to the normal running of a business, it also increases your duties as an employer to take sufficient care of your employees. You and they need to focus on health and safety and everyone should be aware of the appropriate procedures in place to minimise the risk of adverse weather.

What winter weather risks do you need to prepare for?

The darker, shorter days, coupled with an increased chance of ice and snow increases risk for all road users. Winter sees an increase in weather incidents such as:

  • Heavy rain with surface water causing aquaplaning, and general flooding
  • Fog creating poor visibility
  • Ice and snow
  • High winds which are particularly hazardous to high side vehicles.
  • Low sun- clear and sunny winter days often result in strong glare, which can be blinding.

Tips on preparing for winter weather conditions.

Get ahead and look at ways you can start preparing now. Think about areas such as :-

Routine maintenance checks– these are even more vital during the winter months (although they should be carried out regularly throughout the year as well).

Check the basics more frequently; –

Tyres– are they in good condition, (3mm tread recommended for icy, wet and slippery conditions) and do they contain enough air? Some businesses might think about switching to winter tyres and carrying snow chains.

Check windscreen wipers, batteries and brake pads.

Top up the antifreeze for your windscreen and radiator.

Interior and exterior maintenance– It’s important to not just keep the moving parts of the vehicle maintained but look at the exterior too. Use a high-pressure washer to remove any dirt, dust and residue, and grease unpainted metal parts.

Fuel treatment– Diesel fuel can gel in temperatures below zero0 C which can clog up fuel filters. Adding a winter diesel fuel additive, such as a cold-flow improver (CFI), can prevent this.

Best practice– remind your drivers to drive according to the weather conditions. Train your drivers about the best ways to drive in different conditions. They need to slow down even if this will lengthen journey times, use higher gears, and keep an appropriate distance from vehicles in front. Stopping distances can increase by as much as ten times in snow or icy conditions1

Are they aware that driving on ice is often felt rather than seen? Advise them to look out for lighter, unresponsive steering and no sound noise from the tyres as the tell-tale signs.

Use dipped headlights as visibility is much lower, including during daylight hours if necessary. Avoid harsh braking, accelerating, or steering and keep the revs low, which could otherwise lead to skidding.

Route planning– Drivers should use the safest routes and check for blocked roads via traffic reports. Try and stick to bigger roads that will be more likely to be gritted. Also avoid driving through floods as this could prove costly in terms of recovery and repairs. Make sure you are aware of their schedule. Having telematics installed will enable you to locate your driver in a matter of seconds if they do break down.

In addition, they should routinely undertake; –

Visibility checks– Ensure windscreens, mirrors and lights are clean and working well and that they maintain a clear, smear free windscreen. Not only should the vehicle be thoroughly defrosted, but any snow needs to be removed before moving off, as this can fall off later and endanger other road users.

Plan ahead – Advise them to check the weather forecast before they go, keeping updated of potential harsh weather. The Environment Agency and the Met Office have some very useful tools to keep on top of weather forecasts.

Provide drivers with winter emergency packs

Make sure drivers have the essentials including things like a torch, blanket, high visibility jacket, tow ropes, de-icer, scrapers shovel and some food and water plus any required medication, etc and emergency contact information.

Check your fleet insurance – make sure fleet insurance details are correct and sufficient cover is in place. Accidents increase by 20% amongst drivers [2] during the winter months, so make sure your fleet is protected properly.

Give us a call to review your Fleet Cover and we can also advise you on how to manage your risks strategy. Call us on 0344 7765302

1 Brake Reports on Safe Driving 2015-2017 and https://www.lightfoot.co.uk/news/2017/11/29/braking-distances-ice/

2 https://www.insurethebox.com/drivers-20-more-likely-to-be-in-a-car-accident-during-the-winter-months/

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