Preparation is everything
Ensure that each driver has the right equipment in order to cope with the unexpected. The following items are absolutely essential:
- Ice scraper and a de-icer.
- A bag of sand/salt and a shovel.
- Jumper cables.
- A torch or flashlight.
- A hi-vis jacket.
- Warn clothes and a blanket/emergency blanket in case they are stranded.
- Extra high-energy food items and water.
- Ensure that the gas tank is always at least half full in case an alternative route becomes necessary.
The importance of thorough vehicle inspections
During the colder months, regular checks should be undertaken more often. These checks should include:
- Tires should be checked for correct inflation, wear and balance.
- Battery power should be tested and the charging system inspected.
- Check that windscreen wipers are operating at peak efficiency – and have been de-iced.
- Check all fluid levels.
- Ensure that all lights are working and check high beams.
- Ensure that exhaust is clear of ice and snow.
- Make sure that defrosters are operational.
Carrying around a clipboard to tick off items on a checklist in sub-zero temperatures can be deeply unpleasant. It may be a good idea to switch over to an electronic form. Numerous apps are available and they prevent the extra work that stems from damaged or damp paperwork, the ink that has run, or illegible handwriting, as well as saving on the costs and time that are a result of inputting paper-based info into a database.
Pay attention to the conditions.
Keep an eye on the latest weather reports – and be aware that conditions can change extremely rapidly. A good GPS system will keep you up to date on closed routes. Radio and reports from other drivers can be invaluable. They should be calling into base regularly. Telematics can help. It informs you where drivers are, what routes they have chosen – and offers safer and often quicker alternatives.
Pay attention and drive carefully.
Many accidents are caused by sudden, abrupt movements. In winter life problem becomes even worse. Provide your drivers with the following advice:
Reduce speed – accidents are caused by excessive speed, especially during bad weather. HGV drivers are especially at risk due to the fact that stopping a heavy vehicle takes more time and extra distance.
Allow for extra space between vehicles. That extra space gives you time to stop. Snow and ice require even larger gaps between vehicles. To be safe allow up to 10x the normal following distance. Snow and ice are dangerous but do not forget that fog, rain, and even sun dazzle can also increase the danger of accidents. Consistency is key, maintain a steady speed and avoid sudden braking.
The rules of the road
Changing lanes can be hazardous. in winter make sure that drivers allow for four or five blinks of a turn signal, then be observant and move slowly into the adjacent lane. Make sure that drivers are informed that they do not need to match the speed of the drivers around them.
Drivers need to be cautious. In especially challenging winter conditions a steady speed and hazard lights are essential. This makes other drivers aware that the HGV may be travelling at a slower speed than them – and avoids rear-end collisions. You will probably know this from your HGV training.
Be aware of the hazards
Winter driving can be challenging, especially for HGV drivers. However, there are some hazards that deserve extra focus:
- Black Ice: extremely dangerous. It is a thin layer of transparent ice that gives the impression that the road is simply wet. Drivers need to be aware of ice buildup on external mirrors, antennae, or at the edges of the windshield. A lack of spray kicked up by vehicles ahead is a sign that black ice is a real possibility.
- Fog: Heavy fog can severely affect visibility. Use lights and fog lights if fitted. Slow down. Drivers should be aware that they should feel comfortable with their speed. there should be no necessity to push the envelope.