Trucking in winter can be extremely dangerous, and demands a specific set of skills to be able to safely reach your destination.
As we head into the midst of a gray and cold winter, it’s important to continue protecting fleet operations when driving in adverse weather conditions. Even when the holiday season is over, the short, cold days will continue.
To help you stay safe on the roads this winter, we have produced an infographic with 8 trucking safety tips:
1. Be prepared for every situation
It’s important to check that you have the right equipment before you start your journey, especially during the harsh winter months. Make sure you are ready for every possible situation and be sure to check that you have the following items to hand:
❄ De-icer/ice scraper
❄ A shovel and a bag of sand or salt
❄ Jump cables
❄ A flashlight
❄ A high-visibility jacket
❄ A warm blanket, and extra warm clothes
❄ Food and water
❄ At least half a tank of gas at all times
2. Inspect your truck
When it comes to vehicle inspections, you may need to slightly alter your regular checks during winter months.
Importantly, you should check your:
❄ Tires for wear, pressure and balance
❄ Battery power and charging system
❄ Wiper blades
❄ Fluid levels
❄ Exhaust pipe, to ensure it is clear of snow
❄ Defrosters, to ensure they are functional
Trying to write on paper can be a lot harder when your hand don’t respond properly so if you still using paper based check forms, consider swapping to an electronic forms app, this can remove the risks of unreadable handwriting, or wet and damaged paperwork as well as the need for someone to type it into a system.
3. Drive carefully
After the mild conditions in the summer and autumn months, dangers caused by winter weather are often overlooked, however, “17% of all vehicle crashes occur during the winter months”. With this in mind, you and your drivers should:
❄ Slow down
Most accidents occur because drivers are travelling too fast. This is especially dangerous for truck drivers, so when you first get behind the wheel, take the time to become accustomed to how the vehicle handles on the road – it’s harder to control or stop on a road that is covered in snow. Remember that the speed signs are intended for dry roads!
❄ Allow extra space
Increase your stopping distance to allow time to react to the vehicles in front of you. During snowy and icy conditions, allow ten times the normal stopping distance. Remember, trucks need more time to stop than cars do.
While there’s often a tendency to associate hazardous weather mainly with snow and ice, fog, rain and sun dazzle can all have a huge impact on driver safety too.
4. Drive smoothly
Sudden, sharp movements will cause you to lose control and hard acceleration and braking also decrease traction. Hold a consistent, steady speed and be easy on the brakes – if you hold your distance between you and the car in front, you will always have a comfortable braking distance in icy conditions.
5. Use your turn signals
Trucker’s have a rule of thumb when changing lane; for every road condition.
For winter trucking, use four or five blinks and then move over slowly into the next lane. Don’t feel the need to match the speed of the drivers around you, if you’re cautious of your truck on the winter roads, hold your speed and use your hazard lights – this tells other road users that you are going slower than they are.
6. Be mindful of hazards
Trucking in winter can be seen as a hazard in itself, but there are two particular hazards you should watch out for:
In close to freezing temperatures, look out for clues that black ice may be on the roads. Black ice is a dangerous road condition, and presents itself as a thin layer of transparent ice that often makes the road look slightly wet. Signs that you’re at risk from black ice include:
❄ A build-up of ice on your trucks mirror arms, antennae or the top corners of the windshield
❄ Spray from tires on the vehicles in front of you – if this spray stops, be aware of the possibility of black ice
Elevated structures, such as bridges, usually freeze first and are not always treated with salt/sand to melt the snow or ice. During the winter months, be sure to approach these areas carefully, to avoid spinning out or losing control.
7. Be careful when entering and leaving your truck
This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s common for truck drivers to fall and injure themselves by underestimating just how slippery their vehicle’s steps are.
It’s not a race, so be sure to take your time and wear boots with good grip to reduce your chance of injury. Also, when visibility is low, always remember your high-visibility vest!
8. Know when to stop
There’s a good time to stop driving, and there’s a bad time to stop driving. Winter conditions can be so harsh that driving no longer becomes possible, so it is important to recognise know when this is. If visibility is low and driving conditions severe, do not stop on the hard shoulder as this will dramatically increase your chances of being hit. Instead, drive carefully to a gas station or any 24-hour establishment and wait until visibility increases.
Driver Training & Awareness
To help reduce winter driving risks, you should already be implementing a range of preventative measures – such as regular driver training and frequent maintenance checks – but it’s also important to have a solid process for managing related KPI’s.
For example, it’s all very well specifying regular vehicle checks, but how do you ensure these are completed fully and on-time?
The first step is always to gain awareness of what’s going on in your operation. Start by asking measurable questions such as: “to what extent are drivers trained for harsh driving conditions?” and “are any drivers or vehicles more at-risk?” or “is a winter driving policy available – and who has read it?” and “how is daily vehicle roadworthiness ensured?”
Gaining answers to these questions isn’t as hard as you may think. For example, software such as telematics can be a goldmine of information, if you know how to use the data generated. You could integrate your telematics system with your fleet management software to run reports on behavior, and identify individuals that could benefit from enhanced training.
Fleet management software can also be configured to automatically send reminders and alerts for new starters, drivers who display risky behaviors, those who are due for refresher training, or even scheduled drug and alcohol testing.
At Chevin, we believe that there’s no substitute for safety. There’s not a lot we can do about bad weather, but it is possible to be more organised and help reduce the probability of accidents occurring in your fleet this winter.
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