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Best Practice: Keeping your fleet moving in winter

In winter, fleet and transport managers within the ‘Essential Services’ sector face increasing pressure. Not only to ensure the safety of their drivers but that of their vehicle fleet.

Operating in adverse weather conditions brings its own unique challenges, including an increased risk of collisions due to snow and ice and vehicles being stranded having to be recovered.

In addition, operatives who take vehicles home may need to deal with un-gritted or blocked roads where they live, and so may be unable to meet the operational demands of your organisation.

It is essential therefore, that your fleet and drivers are sufficiently prepared to take on the challenge of the winter months ahead and that your operational capability isn’t going to be limited by adverse weather conditions.

1..Keep it clean
Advanced Safety Systems (ADAS) capabilities, such as automatic emergency braking, lane and highway assistance, and driver monitoring, help make our roads safer and save lives, but these systems rely on cameras and sensors which must be kept clean.
As the temperature drops and roads are gritted, vehicles will pick up a residue of snow, ice and salt that can block the sensors which could cause them to fail. It is therefore advisable to encourage drivers to keep their vehicles clean at all times. Keeping a vehicle clean can also form part of your preventive maintenance routine and with so many other benefits it shouldn’t be confined to the winter months.
If your vehicles are regular cleaned it will also help you to identify any bodywork issues arising from low impact damage and other wear and tear issues.
A clean vehicle will also help to maintain a professional corporate image.

2…Location, Location, Location
If you have a telematics system installed within your fleet you can access the data mostly in real-time and this will ensure you are keeping track of the location of your vehicles. When a break-down happens this accurate data can also be used to send your own road-side assistance, or that of a provider, to an exact location, saving time and money and ensuring drivers are not left out in the cold for long.

3..Get historical with data
If you review historical data or records from your fleet management software for the same period but in the previous year, you can summarise any issues and implement changes for this coming year. For example was there an increased demand for vehicle maintenance, was there a greater spend on fuel?
Knowledge is power and being able to anticipate problems and prepare for them will make for a more efficient fleet operation.

4..Collisions, Collisions, Collisions
During winter months obviously the amount of collisions increase, not only due to adverse weather but to darker evenings and longer commute times.
As a fleet or transport manager you can’t control the weather, or the traffic your vehicles encounter, but you can implement driver safety training, monitor driver behaviour and ensure that your drivers are sent out on the road prepared and therefore, meeting or exceeding your duty of care requirements.

5..To fit them or fit them not – winter tyres
Winter tyres are used by many fleet operators, but more especially those operating in colder or more remote areas of the UK. Some fleet and transport managers may not know exactly when to use them and if they are really necessary. The truth is, winter tyres are not only designed for snow and ice, they offer more grip than summer tyres in all weather conditions – even in the dry – but only when the ambient temperature is lower than 7°C.
The big consideration is obviously cost, how often adverse weather affects your operational area and your storage capacity. One set of tyres obviously has to be stored whilst the other is in use and with a large fleet, that is a lot of tyres!
If you are concerned about the upfront cost of winter tyres a genuine alternative to winter tyres for use in snow are snow socks which are easily fitted over the existing tyre and can be stored away within any vehicle when not in use.
Snow socks are not a direct substitute for winter tyres but they may offer peace of mind for your drivers to have as a precautionary winter accessory.

6..Forewarned is forearmed
Having prior knowledge of possible dangers or problems out on the roads is vital for drivers heading out. It is important to find a way to communicate to your drivers as a whole if you are made aware of a potential hazardous roads in your operational area, this could be via shared messaging Apps.
Encourage drivers to check the weather as the day progresses and to keep an eye out for a severve weather warnings issued.




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