When winter approaches with all its coldness and bleakness, it becomes important for fleet operators to take appropriate protective measures for their operations. It will be some time for the days to get warmer, even after the holiday season ends depending on where you are. To stay safe on the roads this winter, consider using a telematics solution powered by a fleet vehicle tracker and check out the guidelines explained below.
Winter Driving Safety Tips for Fleet Vehicles
1. Prepare for Every Situation:
You should start by inspecting your equipment. Make sure you have what you need before starting the journey. Prepare for every possible situation by creating a kit containing the following items.
- Ice Scraper and De-icer – Needless to say, you need these to remove snow and ice from the front and rear windscreens before you set off.
- Shovel and a Bag of Salt or Sand – This may come in handy in case you get stuck somewhere.
- Jump Cables – You may need this if your truck or someone else’s will not start.
- Flashlight - You can use it if you find yourself stuck on a deserted part of a road at night. The flashlight will also work as a signaling device on foggy or stormy days.
- High-visibility Jacket - As the name suggests, it increases visibility. In case you are stuck somewhere on the road, put it on for your own safety and let rescuers or roadside assistance providers know where you are.
- Blankets and Clothes - It always pays to carry extra clothes and blankets, particularly during the winter. You can use those if you get stranded somewhere for fighting off hypothermia.
- Food and Water - You will need that if you find yourself stuck somewhere awaiting recovery or held up by traffic.
- Keep Half a Tank of Gas as Backup - A trip may take longer than expected, or you may need an alternative path.
You may have to alter your regular inspection schedules during the winter in order to make sure that your fleet vehicles are in top shape. Prioritize the following areas of your vehicles.
- Tires - Look for wear and tear. Also, check tire pressure and balance.
- Battery - Check the power source and charging system.
- Wipers - The blades should be free from ice and snow to work.
- Fluid levels - Keep the fluid levels optimal.
- Exhaust - The exhaust pipe should not have snow stuck inside.
- Defrosters - Make sure they are functioning properly.
Conducting paper-based walk-around inspections will be much more difficult in the cold. Instead, use connected vehicle solutions with mobile applications. They eliminate the risks of getting the paperwork wet. You will not have to worry about illegible handwriting or administrative support to input the data into a database.
3. Weather Updates
Stay updated with weather info before starting the journey. Also, remain aware of changing conditions and closed routes through radio or GPS. Telematics platforms can be profoundly helpful in these situations, as they can discover the precise locations of your drivers and the roads they take. Telematics solutions equipped with routing capabilities also let you find alternative, safer routes.
4. Be Careful while Driving
Sharp, sudden movements may cause you to lose control. Similarly, rough braking or hard acceleration will reduce tire traction. Vyncs can help you control many aspects of driving, including acceleration and deceleration. Keep the vehicle steady by maintaining a consistent speed. Remember to hit the brakes slowly. Keep a safe distance between you and the automobile in front so that you have enough braking distance in icy conditions. Researchers have evidence that over 17% of all vehicle accidents happen during the winter. Naturally, drivers must do the following.
- Take it Slow - Accidents occur when drivers travel too fast. Speeding is especially dangerous for truck drivers as these vehicles take more time to come to a halt than a car. Drivers should take the time needed to get accustomed to how a vehicle handles. In doing so, it will become relatively easier to drive it on snow-covered roads.
- Keep Extra Space - Increase the stopping distance to allow the others ahead of your time to react when driving in bad weather or poor road conditions. During such situations, one must increase the normal stopping distance by at least ten times. Don’t forget that a truck needs more time to come to a standstill than a smaller car.
Folks tend to associate hazardous weather primarily with ice and snow, but elements like fog, rain, and sun glare can impact driver safety significantly too.
5. Use the Turn Signals
Fleet drivers follow one rule when changing lanes, regardless of the road condition. When they drive, they blink the turn signals four to five times before moving to the next lane. They adhere to this rule religiously. If your drivers don’t follow it yet, make sure that they do. Matching the speed with the other motorists is not necessary. The driver should control the vehicle by maintaining the speed and using the hazard lights. This act informs other commuters on the road that the fleet driver is going slower than them.
6. The Biggest Dangers
Driving heavy-duty vehicles in winter can be hazardous. Below you will find a list of the most dangerous natural and artificial elements to watch out for.
- Black Ice - When the temperature drops below zero, keep your eyes peeled for clues of black ice on the roads. It is a life-threatening condition and manifests in the form of a thin layer of transparent ice that makes the road surface look slightly wet. If you notice ice build-up on the antennae, mirror arms, and the top corners of the windshield, you can be sure about the presence of black ice on the road.
- Fog - When drivers encounter thick, heavy fog that limits visibility, ask them to use the dippers to slow down, even if they are comfortable with the speed. Tell them to use the demisters and wipers to keep the windscreen clean.
- Bridges - Bridges and other elevated structures freeze first. Usually, they don’t get treated with sand or salt to melt the ice and snow, either. Fleet drivers should approach these areas carefully to avoid losing control by spinning out.
7. Set up Winter Tires
Safe winter driving does not start only with a fleet vehicle tracker but also with a set of winter tires. Visit NHTSA if you wish to review safety ratings first. Road conditions tend to change within moments during the winter months, and having these tires is the first step to being safe and prepared. Make sure that you replace existing winter tires once the tread depth reaches 4/32". Brand new tires have a tread depth of 12/32". Practicing proper tire etiquette is also crucial. Using winter tires during the warmer months will wear them down rapidly.
8. Use Tire Chains
Tire chains have been around for some time as they are an old and proven method for improving traction on icy roads. These chains have a simple working principle - the roughness factor increases friction dramatically and delivers traction to the vehicle. Just remember that every state in the USA has different tire chain laws in place. Specific highways may even utilize more precise norms, but such instances are few and far between. These laws prevent drivers from damaging the road because the chain can dig into the surface once the protective layer of ice and snow is gone. This situation ruins the tires too.
9. Inspect the Batteries
Batteries have to work harder than usual in the winter to get the engine running. Low temperatures increase engine oil viscosity, which reduces movement speed. As a result, the amount of power needed by the battery to jump-start important processes increases. If you don’t pay attention to it, you may end up with a vehicle that does not start. Cold temperatures also affect the chemical reaction taking place inside the battery when you turn on the ignition. Fortunately, there are ways to counter this problem.
- Power it down - Indeed, at times, the driver is the only one to blame for winter battery drainage. Remind your drivers to turn off the cabin lights and headlights properly at the end of a day’s work.
- Loose cables or corrosion - The battery terminals can get corroded with time, which, in turn, would affect the connection between the cell and cable. Check the terminals for signs of rust or cracks and pull the cables to see if they are tight.
10. The Cooling System
Checking the cooling systems of fleet vehicles when it is snowing outside may seem strange. However, these systems keep the engines operating optimally within the appropriate temperature range throughout the year. If you choose the wrong coolant, it may freeze and cause maintenance issues. Therefore, pick a temperature-appropriate product.
Keeping Vehicles and Drivers Safe
Well, there you have it - an inclusive list of winter driving safety tips for fleet vehicles and drivers. If you follow these guidelines, you can continue your business unhindered in the winter without worrying about mishaps.
Connected car technologies can also come to the rescue of fleet drivers and vehicles when winter commuting becomes almost impossible. For instance, telematics devices can tell you where your drivers and vehicles are during a severe winter storm. If they get caught up, you can relay the information to customers waiting for their deliveries.
Connected vehicle devices collect valuable data about driver behavior, including speeding, aggressive braking, sharp cornering, etc. This information can tell you which drivers follow safety protocols and help you intervene and prevent risky behavior before anything untoward happens.
Vyncs is the market-leading connected vehicle solution available at no monthly fee, no contract, a thirty-day money-back guarantee, and free-of-charge services for a year! Whether you need real-time GPS location & tracking, driver safety, vehicle health inspection, fuel management, heavy-duty vehicle support, fleet management support, or tax benefits, we can deliver.