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Winter Driving: Make Safety a Priority

The best advice to stay safe when winter weather makes the roads dangerous is, of course, to simply stay off them. Stay home. Have some cocoa. Do your work online. 

But what if staying home off the roads isn’t an option? In the case of fleet drivers, that’s often the case. To those who drive for a living, winter often poses dangerous and even deadly conditions for commercial drivers, whether behind the wheel of a car, pickup, van, heavy duty straight truck or tractor/trailer rig. 

Fleet Managers are Key to Driving Safety
No matter how good drivers may be behind the wheel, no one is perfect, meaning that there’s always room for growth. This may explain why the National Transportation Safety Board consistently places the safety of professional and commercial drivers among its “most wanted” list when the year kicks off. 

Now, before the snow flies, is the perfect time to make certain your drivers understand the best ways to stay safe when driving on what could be treacherous roads. 

Put a Plan in Place
All fleet operators should consider a winter driving policy. Your plan should outline how vehicles are prepared for winter, which equipment should be carried in case of unexpected situations, and what procedure to follow in the event of an emergency, such as an accident, breakdown or getting caught up in bad weather.

Ensuring vehicles are fully serviced and maintained in the winter months is vital but the following regular checks can help keep cars road-ready during the colder and darker months:

·         Check that vehicle lights are functioning properly, and indicators, reflectors, number plates and windows are kept clean and free from dirt, ice or snow. Lights should also be properly adjusted and aligned to prevent dazzling other road users.

·         Make sure water levels are topped off and wipers are working properly; dirt from winter roads can cause significant visibility issues.

·         Check tire pressure weekly before using the vehicle, when the tires are cold. The minimum legal tire tread depth is 1.6 mm, but the Automobile Association (AA) recommends at least 3 mm for winter driving. Winter tires may be used for improved safety.

·         Ensure the battery is fully charged.

Reach Out to your Road Crews
The main thing to reiterate to drivers is that their full attention is needed to safely navigate the roads, particularly in wintry conditions.  Driving more cautiously, and with more concentration, will help drivers stay safe on the road and reduce the likelihood of an accident or incident.

Keep drivers informed of any changes as they occur, to make certain everyone is aware of the latest addition or modifications to policies. If it works well within your company, keep in touch through email bulletins, handouts and regular training sessions.

Gather Weather and Road Info
Information is your ally. Drivers should check the forecast as well as road conditions on their route to have some idea of what to expect.  It’s always best to know if a storm is coming so you can prepare in advance.

Remove Snow from Vehicles
If your company has a garage to store your fleet of vehicles in, snow removal isn’t a problem before the trip. But it may be after your drivers make a delivery and the snow is falling. They should be mindful of the fact that vehicles need to be cleared of all snow to increase visibility and prevent it from blinding other motorists should clumps fall off en route.

Avoid Distractions
Winter weather means it's easy to slip and slide if you’re not intently focused on the road. Avoid cell phones, radios, navigation systems and eating, and you’ll be in a far better position to maintain control of your vehicle and stay safe.

Increase Following Distance
Motorists of passenger vehicles are recommended to travel about two seconds behind the nearest car in front of them. Because fleet vehicles tend to be larger and typically carry cargo, drivers should increase their following distance to three or four seconds. They should also be sure to give plenty of room to snow plow trucks.

Operate at Lower Speeds
Professional drivers have learned to adapt to weather conditions, but a good rule of thumb is to encourage your drivers to stay at or slightly below the speed limit when the roads are icy. The load that your drivers are carrying increases the time it takes to come to a stop, so a slower speed will keep them in better control.

Drive in the Tracks of Others
In snow, it can be helpful to drive in the tire tracks of the vehicle ahead. The path has already been cleared, and while still slick, it may be a bit less slippery than fresh snowfall.

Never Jam Brakes
Abrupt, sudden braking is one of the worst things a driver can do when the roads are icy, especially when vans don’t have all-wheel drive capability. Jamming the brakes can cause them to lock, potentially leading to a spin out that can lead to an accident. When applying the brakes, firm pressure should be applied to come to a gradual stop.

Turn into Skids
Make sure everyone understands that, in cases of skidding, they should be sure to turn into a skid rather than turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction, as it tends to be instinctual among those who aren’t accustomed  to driving in snow. This will enable the vehicle to correct itself more quickly so that drivers are in command.

Carry Essential Equipment
Every truck should be stocked and re-stocked with equipment needed to keep visibility as clear as possible, and the driver safe in the event they do go off the road. 

·         Antifreeze and windshield wash

·         Warning triangle

·         Spare headlight bulbs

·         Blanket

·         First aid kit

·         Warm clothes and gloves

·         Torch

·         In-car mobile phone charger

·         Traction mats

You’ve Got a Partner in Safety
In many parts of the country, snow, ice, sleet, freezing temperatures and slick roads are simply a fact of the winter months. But just because your fleet operates in a cold climate doesn’t have to mean your drivers have to work in danger. All of us at Imperial Supplies are committed to the safety of your staff all year ‘round, including winter. We’re ready to meet your needs, with an inventory of more than 1.5 million fleet maintenance and shop supplies, Dedicated Account Advisors, access to advanced analytics regarding your spending and so much more. 

Contact us today to see how we can make managing your inventory a lot easier. When we say “Your Fleet Is Our Focus”, we mean it. 

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