As a UK based company, we are used to rapidly-changing weather and that unpredictability which can quickly turn roads in hazardous environments for drivers and vehicles alike. The change in environment significantly increases the risk of accidents due to increased stopping distances and reduced visibility impacting on drivers’ reaction times. This means that drivers need to be continuously aware of possible changes to the weather conditions and be prepared to react to more hostile weather and driving circumstances. However, drivers are not the only ones that have to be prepared as the winter weather starts to set in.
Fleet managers need to prepare for snowy and icy roads as well; taking steps to safeguard their drivers, as well as ensure that their fleet vehicles are protected from adverse weather conditions. This is especially important currently with the prospect of increase risk of snow and ice as the tail-end of Storm Caroline effects the UK’s weather.
With is in mind, we have detailed below our key advice, as well as a little Skyline know-how, for drivers and fleet management for improve fleet care and stay safe in the wintry conditions.
Be a Scout, Don’t Get Caught Out
While general advice is to avoid travelling in snowy or treacherous situations if it isn’t completely necessary at times this is not practical, therefore being prepared for changes in the weather or road conditions is paramount not only for a driver as they set out but also as a preventative measure by the fleet manager.
A key aspect of ensuring that the impact of adverse weather is minimised is to make sure that the vehicle or asset is well-maintained particularly in the run-up to the winter months. This can be done by using Skyline’s reminders module to confirm that the MOT of the vehicle is up-to-date and any issues that have been highlighted are solved before winter sets in, schedule regular maintenance checks on assets, or completing prestart-up walk-around checks. Additionally, older vehicle batteries are more likely to fail in the winter due to increased strain in the winter. Fleet managers can keep a track of the battery’s operating status by checking history of the battery for indications of starting failures by using Skyline’s main power low warning report.
Prestart-up/pre-journey checks are chief among the precautions that drivers or operators can take before starting the day’s work, especially important for vehicles such as cars and vans are:
- Checking that tyres are in good condition and that the wear on the tread hasn’t reduced the depth to below 3mm in wet or Wintry conditions. Additionally, it may be worth replacing standard tyres with Winter versions to improve traction on icy surfaces
- Make sure that there is adequate anti-freeze in the vehicle’s radiator and windscreen washer bottle
- Restock a winter kit in your vehicle, ensure that it has an ice-scraper, a bottle or can of de-icer, torch, cloths, a blanket and warm clothes, food and drink, first-aid kit, a spade, warning triangle, and high-visibility vest
- Make sure that your mobile phone is charged or that it can be plugged into the vehicle in case of emergencies, however do not use it while driving
- Clear all ice or snow from all windows before setting out, police are on the look out for drivers that think they are ‘Tank Commanders’ with a small clearing in the windscreen to see through
- Skyline’s Google Maps overlay allows for tracking of issues or incidents on the journey that could present hold-ups and allow bad weather to close in. So make sure that our app (iOS / Android) is loaded up on for clear travelling
The below video shares a great set of tips on safe driving in snowy conditions.
Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
Should the bad weather close in drivers ought be extra cautious and adapt their driving behaviour to suit the situations that they find themselves in. The key to ensuring that drivers perform correctly in bad weather conditions is education, for this fleet managers can utilise driver reporting from Skyline to analyse personnel’s general behaviour and ensure that drivers who have high incidents of harsh acceleration, braking or emergency braking are aware of the impact that the adverse weather will have on their driving.
5 Key Responses to Changing Conditions:
- Reduce your speed
It is imperative that speeds are reduced if the road surface becomes icy or snow-covered or visibility is poor as it will take longer to react to other vehicles and hazards. Additionally, when carrying out manoeuvres (including turning a corner) drive slowly and cautiously, it can be difficult to know what the road surface or circumstance maybe when joining a new road.
- Maintain distance
In adverse weather maintaining a safe distance between vehicles enables safe braking in an emergency, in wet conditions at least 4 seconds is the recommended braking distance, however this can be up to 10 times greater in icy weather. Heavier goods vehicles this can be much greater meaning that HGV drivers need to be aware of their situation and respond with enough time.
- Stay in Control
When caught in snow and ice use the highest gear possible to avoid wheel spin when moving off, however, remember to keep a check on the vehicle’s speed. Should the vehicle start to skid, do not brake! Ease off the accelerator and turn in the direction of the skid until the vehicle is under control again.
- Be aware of dazzle
Winter sun can disrupt visibility for unprepared drivers reflecting off wet and icy roads, ensure that a pair of sunglasses is kept in the vehicle all year round.
- Be aware for high winds
Ensure that extra care and attention is paid to strong winds when crossing exposed roadways such as bridges and open stretches of road. Should a vehicle become affected by the wind slow speed right down and drive carefully taking care to maintain a steady course.