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  • How to prepare your fleet for winter

    Despite the mild winter that we experienced last year, there are still thousands of accidents specifically attributed to winter weather, showcasing the direct need to prepare vehicles in advance of the cold weather setting in. As the colder weather draws in, taking steps to prepare for snow, heavy rain or ice can help to keep your drivers safe and your business running like clockwork.

    Often business drivers who use their vehicles every day of the year become complacent about the risks and challenges of winter. For larger fleets with heavy usage the weather requires even more preparation on the part of the fleet manager. Winter is no doubt the most difficult time of year to keep a fleet in steady operation.

    Preparing your fleet vehicles

    Preparing your fleet vehicles for winter is essential in order to avoid emergency repairs and to keep downtime to a minimum. It is important to keep your fleet vehicles well maintained with standard inspections and preventative measures. As a fleet manager you need to ensure that vehicles are inspected both before and after trips, checking tyres, wipers, belts, brake pads, batteries, altenators, and antifreeze, etc. Areas of the country prone to heavy storms and snow may require some additional attention.

    Constant examination is key. Check that tyres have a minimum tread of 3mm for use in bad weather and are correctly inflated to the required levels. A clear windscreen is important in poor conditions so use of a high strength screen wash is important. In snow be sure that drivers clear all snow from the roof of their vehicle and around windows before setting off. Drivers should be reminded to dry their feet upon entering a vehicle and before using the pedals to ensure there is no chance of slipping.

    All vehicles should be equipped with emergency packs to cater for the possibility of becoming stranded. Warm clothing, a blanket, foot ware and torch are essential to prepare for this eventuality. If a driver was to break down on a motor way in particular it is essential that they leave the vehicle so these items will prove critical. It is important to also provide adequate de-icers and scrapers to enable drivers to clear their view.

    As a fleet owner, you may want to consider the use of winter tyres or snow chains for your vehicles. Winter tyres have become more popular for fleets in the UK, but it is recommended to plan ahead and order early. Winter tyres are made from different compounds that don’t harden as much at lower temperatures and give wider tyre grooves, improving stopping distance.

    Often overlooked is care of the exterior of the vehicle which can be attacked by harsh weather and salt. The best way to protect your fleet vehicles is to deep wash and wax against the elements in preparation to prevent long-term body damage.

    Finally it is important to double check your fleet insurance to ensure you are fully covered against all eventualities and possible collisions. Bluedrop Services are a specialist fleet insurance broker who are currently offering a free insurance review service so you can check your current insurance terms and consider alternatives that are available with no obligation.

    When the bad weather hits

    Following the advanced preparation against the winter weather it is also important to educate and re-iterate safety measures to your fleet drivers on how to drive in such conditions.

    All drivers should be asked to adjust their driving to the conditions of the road. Increasing stopping distances and driving slower in adverse weather will reduce the risk of collision.

    It is wise to minimise distractions in poor weather. Concentration needs to be at maximum level during adverse conditions with all attention given to the road ahead.

    During conditions of ice and snow it may be necessary to pull away in second gear to avoid wheel spin in ice and snow. Equally drivers should ensure that they brake gently and slowly to avoid skids and spins. If a car or van does skid then the driver should release the brakes and de-clutch to regain control. Stopping distances are 10 times longer in ice and snow, so be sure your drivers can judge this properly and avoid any unecessary claims on your fleet insurance policy. If you get stuck in snow then you should straighten the wheels where possible and clear surrounding snow. Placing material such as carpet, or sacks under tyres will help gain some traction.

    Encourage your drivers to regularly listen to forecasts and be aware of changing conditions on planned journeys. Main roads will be tackled first by Councils in terms of gritting and clearing, so they should be advised to stick to ‘A roads’ where possible. The Highways Agency will give a clear an indication of the conditions of routes.

    As a final recommendation it may be good policy to recommend keeping fuel tanks half full as a good measure on all journeys in the winter months, planning ahead for potential road conditions and closures.

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