Fleet News

Risk management: winter driving

Key points:

Winter driving tips

  • Plan and schedule journeys
  • Educate your drivers
  • Equip them with what they need
  • Maintain your vehicles

    For more information, visit www.brake.org.uk and www.companycardriver.co.uk/services/winter_driving.

    OCTOBER is here and according to the majority of supermarkets that means Christmas is coming.

    The geese are getting fat, Santa’s elves are working triple shifts and most of all it’s going to get pretty cold soon.

    For drivers, and consequently for fleets, the drop in temperature heralds trouble. Along comes snow, hail, ice and rain, as well as strong winds and dark nights.

    According to Department for Transport figures, fatalities among vehicle occupants rise dramatically in October and continue to rise to around 200 a month in December.

    Additionally, traffic may be slow moving because of the weather, meaning journeys take longer and drivers are more prone to tiredness.

    Road safety charity Brake is aiming to help with an information sheet aimed at fleet managers to inform them of the dangers of the year’s most dangerous months.

    It contains a number of steps that can be taken to reduce the risk to drivers.

    Journey planning

    WHEN the weather outside is frightful, it’s safest not to drive at all. But if the journey is essential, there are ways to up the safety factor.

    Drivers should, according to Brake, be instructed to check the local and national weather forecasts, whether on TV, radio or the internet, for warnings of hazardous conditions.

    If things look scary, they should be instructed to contact a manager to discuss whether to re-route or postpone a journey, as weather conditions can adversely affect different types of road. Icy weather can make twisting rural routes treacherous, while strong winds can be dangerous for high-sided vehicles left exposed on a bridge. Low-lying roads can flood in heavy rain.

    Drivers and fleet managers alike should consider the likelihood of a driver being stranded should the conditions prove too much, a particular danger in remote locations. If severe conditions such as a blizzard are forecast, don’t let your drivers set off in the first place and direct them to a hotel for the night rather than press on.

    Ensure that someone is aware of drivers’ routes, schedules and expected times of arrival.

    If a driver falls behind on his schedule, he should let a manager know, rather than be tempted to press on and drive too fast for the conditions. Many of the following tips may seem obvious but the number of drivers who don’t even consider the bare minimum of checks is high, so a timely reminder can be useful.

    Education

    THE start of winter is an ideal time to prompt drivers to consider how they can reduce risks on the roads. But while they’re pondering that, you can take steps too.

  • Risk assess drivers on a regular basis, through practical, theory and hazard awareness tests that include assessment of the risks of driving in bad weather.
  • Give them on-road training that includes bad weather and darkness scenarios.
  • Educate them in the classroom on the risks of bad weather driving.
  • Remind them through policies and advice in handbooks, leaflets and posters.
  • Talk to them through briefings when bad weather is forecast.
  • Recommend alternatives to driving, such as train or plane travel, or using video conferencing as an alternative to travel altogether.
  • Remind them of the basic bad weather driving principles – slow down, keep a safe distance from other vehicles and look out for vulnerable road users such as motorbikes and cyclists.

    Equipment

    A GOOD emergency kit should keep drivers safe and warm in case of a breakdown. Warm clothes should be provided by the driver, but the company can provide most of the items below.

  • High-visibility vest and warning triangle.
  • Travel blanket.
  • Bottled water and high-energy food such as chocolate.
  • Mobile phone.
  • Torch.
  • Glass cleaner and cloths.
  • De-icer and scraper.
  • First aid kit.
  • Map.
  • A spade if driving in snow.

    Maintenance

    VEHICLES should be serviced regularly, as recommended by the manufacturer, but drivers should also be trained to carry out regular checks themselves.

  • Slippery roads mean brakes and tyres need to be in tip-top condition, while rain and snow means wipers and washers are needed more frequently, as are lights as it gets darker earlier.

  • Drivers of cars and vans should carry out a series of checks at least once a week and before every long journey.

  • Lights and indicators should be clean and working properly, and tyres should be in good condition with at least 3mm of tread depth and inflated to the correct pressure.

  • Make sure the windscreen washer is topped up with a winter additive and add antifreeze to the radiator. Check windscreen wipers and ensure the vehicle has plenty of fuel.

  • Check that windows and mirrors are clear and test brakes to ensure they are working properly.

    Case study: TNT Logistics

    LAST autumn, logistics firm TNT produced in-house posters and booklets with advice on winter driving for its 3,000 drivers.

    Andy Jenkins, the firm’s operations training manager, said: ‘Posters were sent out to all TNT’s depots. The booklets were sent to drivers’ home addresses and included winter driving advice and information on what to do if caught in difficult conditions.

    ‘They also included advice on vehicle maintenance checks, essential items to be carried within the vehicle – like warm clothes and a torch – and driving techniques.’

    TNT also includes winter driving advice in drivers’ handbooks and at its annual internal conference for managers. Quarterly health and safety meetings are held at each site for drivers and managers.

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