Keep your fleet on the road this winter
Top tips for your fleet drivers this winter
Top tips for your fleet drivers this winter
As the Met Office issues yellow weather warnings in the UK, we take a look at some of the challenges facing fleet drivers when conditions are poor, and the steps all motorists can take to keep safe on the road and help to reduce winter motor claims.
Starting preparation early can help ensure your business doesn’t grind to a halt when the weather is bad.
Routine maintenance checks
Regular checks are key to managing any fleet. Consider using winter tyres for your fleet vehicles, which will allow them to drive over ice and snow with greater ease than general tyres.
Essential safety tips to keep your fleet moving
When bad weather hits, encourage drivers to consider whether their journey is essential, if not then it’s advisable to wait until the weather is better. As this isn’t always an option for your business, plan your drivers’ journeys, avoiding areas prone to flooding or heavy snowfall, and allow extra time for slower speeds and traffic congestion.
The Highway Code dictates drivers must be able to see clearly out of all windows before setting off on their journey.
Before setting off drivers should check windscreen wiper blades are fully functional, fill up with fuel, always carry a fully charged mobile phone and make sure tyres have the legal tyre tread depth. Use a good quality screenwash, ensure drivers have the number of your breakdown provider handy. A square of carpet that can be put under drive wheels can be a great asset to help your drivers to get moving in the snow.
Encourage drivers to pack essentials, such as a warm blanket, torch, food, drink, wellies, de-icer, ice-scraper, spade, hi-vis jacket and emergency warning triangle. Cold and wet conditions invariably lead to fog and impaired vision: drivers should drive slowly and not use fog lights unless visibility is seriously impaired. (Turn them off when visibility improves to avoid dazzling other drivers.)
Drivers should also watch out for glare from low sunlight and other headlights – ensure the windscreen is clean inside and out to reduce the dazzling effect.
Our top tips for your drivers
Driving in snow
The biggest challenge of winter driving is dealing with icy roads and snow. Always reduce speed, keep a large gap between you and the car in front, and avoid breaking and steering, especially around bends. Instead, go into a lower gear earlier on, allowing your speed to reduce smoothly before gently hitting the brake. If you find yourself skidding, don’t panic and don’t brake. Gently steer into the skid to straighten up and regain control. Most cars have anti-lock braking systems (ABS), but they work less efficiently on slippery surfaces - there is no substitute for cautious driving.
Condensation is a regular occurrence as there is greater difference in temperature and moisture levels inside and outside the car. If this builds up and reduces visibility, it can be dangerous. Avoid turning up the heater as this can lead to drowsiness, or using the air recirculation setting as this prevents outside air coming in. Instead, open windows slightly to create more of a balance.
Driving in heavy rain
Damp can cause problems with engines and electrical systems, and it’s easy to flood the engine when driving through water. When driving in heavy rain, remember that stopping distances will be at least double as tyres have less grip. Slow down, use dipped headlights, don’t use rear fog lights and, if you break down, keep the bonnet down to prevent the electrical system getting soaked. Driving too fast through standing water can cause the tyres to lose contact with the road, called aquaplaning - to regain grip, ease off the accelerator, don’t brake and allow your speed to reduce until you regain control of the steering.
Driving through a flood
Size up the water first, even if you have to get out of your vehicle. If you suspect it’s too deep, find another route. Modern door seals will keep water out, but this can make the car buoyant and it could float if the water gets too deep, leaving you stranded (the water will eventually find its way in).
If you decide to drive through, keep your vehicle in a low gear and engine revs up to maintain momentum, and stick to the middle of the road which will be shallower.
Once through, grip may be affected so gently apply brake pressure to create friction and heat, evaporating off any excess moisture. Never attempt to drive through fast flowing water, you could easily get swept away.
If you breakdown
Breakdowns increase significantly during wet weather as the damp causes problems with the engines and electrical systems. In torrential rain, keep the bonnet closed to avoid the electrics getting soaked.
If your engine cuts out after driving through deep water, don’t attempt to restart it. Instead, turn on the hazard lights, call for assistance and have the car professionally examined.
Flood-related engine damage is caused by water being sucked into the engine, causing it to lock up. A new engine will inevitably have to be fitted, and it is the owner who will have to pay for it, unless they can demonstrate to the insurer it was not their actions that caused the damage.
To help avoid breakdown, look after batteries and electrics, and follow these tips to help avoid a flat battery: turn off electrical loads, such as lights, wipers and heated rear window; use the starter in short 5-second bursts; if the engine doesn’t start quickly wait 30 seconds between attempts; if you don’t use your car often, give it a regular overnight charge.
Make sure you top up antifreeze (most modern cars use long-life antifreeze, just make sure you use the right type). A continuous squealing noise when you start up means the water pump is frozen, so stop the engine and let it thaw out (preferably in a heated garage) and if your car overheats a few miles from home, your radiator may be frozen, so stop to avoid doing more serious damage.
Preparing in advance, carrying out necessary maintenance, and making vehicle checks can help make your operations run more smoothly.