It is easy to forget how dangerous it can be to drive in winter. Here are some tips to make sure you or your drivers always arrive safely.
Winter will be accompanied by snow and ice, and there wouldn’t be adequate time to remind your Truck drivers how to drive safely in winter weather. To help you stay safe on the roads this winter, we have created an infographic listing 10 tips for driving heavy goods vehicles in winter.
Be prepared for any eventuality
It is important to verify that you have the necessary equipment before starting your day, especially during the harshest winter months. Make sure you are ready for any possible situation and that the following equipment is present in your vehicle:
- De-icer and / or a scraper – windows and windshield must be cleared of snow and frost before leaving
- A shovel and a bag of salt or sand – small roads tend not to be cleared and it’s pretty easy to get stuck
- Starter cables – in case your vehicle (or someone else’s) doesn’t want to start
- A flashlight
- A yellow vest
- A warm blanket and some extra clothes – in case you get stuck
- Water and food
And finally, make sure you always have half a full tank of gas in your tank – the days may be longer than expected and you may need to take another route.
Inspect your truck
With regard to vehicle inspections, you may need to slightly modify your regular checks during the winter months. You should check:
- Tyres – wear, pressure and balancing
- Battery – Load and power system
- Windshield wipers – operation, de-icing and snow removal
- Fluid levels – optimal
- Lights – optimal operation
- Exhaust – ensure the absence of snow
- The defrosting system – make sure it works
If you use a verification system that is carried out using a paper form, you should consider opting for the use of an electronic form available from an application. This can allow you to make sure that your drivers check their truck before departure and avoid the difficulties of proofreading on paper that is sometimes wet or damaged and that the verification information is entered by another person.
Keep an eye on the weather
Before hitting the road, read the weather forecast and stay alert to changes in conditions and closed roads, via GPS, radio or regular calls to your business. It is in these moments that telematics can be useful, it allows you to know where your drivers are, the route he intends to take and the opportunities for safer routes.
Maintain a sufficient safety distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you in the event of braking. Knowing that there are on average 30% more accidents recorded in winter , drivers should:
Most accidents happen because of a speed which is not adapted to the climatic conditions. Carriers must be really careful on this point because it takes them much longer to stop their vehicle in the event of an obstacle or an incident on the road. When you get behind the wheel of an unknown vehicle, take the time to familiarize yourself with its behavior and be aware of the fact that it is much more difficult to control your vehicle or to stop on a snowy road! Remember that the speed limit signs are intended for dry roads and good weather conditions!
Increase the distances between your vehicle and the one ahead of you, this will ensure your safety in the event of emergency braking on wet, snowy or icy roads. Keep in mind that your stopping distance can be ten times greater when you meet these conditions! And remember, in normal times, the stopping distance of a truck is much greater than that of a car.
Bad weather tends to be associated mainly with snow, sleet and fog, yet rain and glare can also play a role in driver safety.
Have a flexible ride
Certain behaviours such as strong acceleration, sudden braking or abrupt movements can cause you to lose control. So, keep a constant speed and use the brakes gradually but prefer the engine brake. Also make sure you have sufficient distance between yourself and other users.
Use your lights
Truck drivers have a basic rule when changing lanes, they must look 4 to 5 times in their mirrors before making their change of direction. Don’t feel like you have to drive at the same speed as the people around you. If you know the capabilities of your vehicle and you see that you are driving at a low speed compared to other motorists, keep your speed but use your hazard lights to allow other users to secure their slowdown or overtaking.
Be aware of the danger
Driving a heavyweight can be a real challenge, so there are a few things to watch out for:
Associated with negative temperatures, looking for signs of its presence may be wise. It is easy to identify when the road seems wet with negative temperatures. Other signs may indicate the presence of ice:
- Ice build-up on the mirror arms, antennas or upper corners of your truck’s windshield
- The vehicle tire projections in front of you; if they disappear, ice may be present on this stretch of road.
If you feel your vehicle skidding on ice, first take your foot off the accelerator and do not use the brakes. Then keep your steering wheel straight. If the back of your vehicle slips to the right or left, disengage (if you can) but above all do not brake and reverse steering.
Fog reduces your visibility, use your lights and slow down. Even if the vehicles behind you stick to you, never feel compelled to adapt your speed to theirs. Use your windshield wipers and operate your demister system to keep visibility on the road.
If you have trouble seeing the road in front of you due to heavy rain it is advisable to slow down. Keep a good distance between you and the vehicles in front and beware of aquaplaning when the tires lose grip due to water on the road. If your vehicle starts aquaplaning, keep the steering wheel straight, gently release the accelerator and avoid applying heavy brakes until you regain control.
Elevated structures, like bridges, are subject to freezing and are not necessarily salted or plowed. During the winter months engage with these carefully to avoid loss of control.
Be careful when getting in and out of your truck
It seems obvious, but it is common to see drivers fall from their vehicle and get injured as they underestimate the fact that their walking is slippery. Make sure you always have 3 points of contact when entering or leaving the cabin to avoid falling. You can also wear winter boots or shoes with a good sole to reduce the risk of slipping. When visibility is poor, also keep in mind that you must wear a high-visibility vest to keep you safe.
Know when to stop
There are good and bad times to stop! When winter conditions get too difficult to drive, find a safe parking spot to stop. If possible, do not stop on the emergency lane, as this will greatly increase your risk of collision. Instead, drive carefully to the next gas station and wait until conditions are good for driving again.
Establish a winter policy
If you are a fleet manager or human resources manager, having a winter driving policy and procedures would be a good idea. Preventive measures such as regular driver training and additional vehicle checks in winter are to be included. It is important, however, to remember that the implementation of such controls is only useful if you have the means to ensure that they are respected and carried out in good time.
Such a policy needs to be read, understood and accepted in the context of staff training. It is useful to remember these rules by different means (written and oral) before the start of winter.
Tools such as fleet management software can be used to set up your procedures, create reports, alerts on the performance of your fleet such as for example the evaluation of the behavior of your drivers, the inspection frequencies of vehicles and the rate of execution of the driving policy.
The software can be configured to automatically send reminders and alerts when drivers fail to comply with the imposed policy.
Even if you cannot control the bad weather, it is possible to organize to reduce the risk of accident during the winter.