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SUV drivers should understand the limitations of their vehicles this winter

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SUV and Crossover drivers should be reminded of the limitations of their vehicles this winter, suggests Arval.

The leasing firm is urging fleet managers to highlight to SUV and crossover drivers that their vehicles may be two-wheel-drive and have limited capability on snow and ice.

Crossovers, such as the Nissan Qashqai are becoming increasingly attractive to fleets and their drivers, but Arval says that some drivers mistakenly believe their vehicles, which look like off-roaders, are four-wheel-drive.

While four-wheel-drive versions are available on most SUVs, the most popular fleet models with lower CO2 emissions often feature a front-wheel-drive setup.

“Some fleets – such as utility companies and the emergency services - operate proper 4x4s, often with specially trained drivers, for winter travel. They usually have guidelines around use and are managed in a very responsible fashion.

“However, while SUVs are great vehicles, there are many now operating on fleets that have no real advantage over a family hatchback in difficult weather, other than their ride height, yet drivers could be tempted to tackle conditions that they would never consider in a normal car.

"The fact is that SUVs of this kind can get stuck in poor weather as easily as any other vehicle, potentially creating a hazardous situation for the driver who needs to be rescued. There is very much a gap between the driver’s perception of their vehicle and the reality,” said Shaun Sadlier, head of consulting.

He advised that fleets should be including guidance for driving in adverse weather conditions within their company car policy and sharing winter driving information with their drivers. For many, this should include guidance not to head out in snowy or icy conditions irrespective of the kind of company vehicle they operate.

“Driving in poor conditions is a very definite skill, and not something to be attempted without the right vehicle and the right training.

“While advertising might often show SUVs and 4x4s ploughing through all kinds of conditions, it is all too easy to discover the limits of the capabilities of driver and machine on a snowy trunk road on a winter evening.

“Our advice to fleets would be to ensure that drivers have a clear understanding of the kind of weather in which they are expected to drive, to know about the limitations of their particular vehicle and stay well within them, and to seek advice if they have any doubts,” added Sadiler.

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