Taking steps to prepare drivers for winter road conditions requires focusing on details of safety under cold weather conditions. The time to start preparing is in the weeks before the winter weather arrives.
Fleet managers can improve winter driving safety by developing a fleet winter driving plan that addresses safety issues for drivers and fleet vehicles. Driving Dynamics also offers courses on winter driving as part of its driving training and risk management programs.
The Importance of Preparing Drivers For Winter Road Conditions
It’s important to focus on ways to prepare drivers for winter road conditions. Winter driving presents more dangers to fleet drivers than any other time of the year. Snowfall can obscure visibility and accumulate in drifts that make some roadways difficult to navigate. Ice - including “black ice” that drivers cannot always see - can make even the largest vehicle lose traction. Extreme cold temperatures can lead to more mechanical issues.
Road ice led to more than 156,000 vehicle crashes in 2021 alone. Stopping on snowy surfaces can require as much as 10 times more clear road length. And it’s difficult to avoid - almost 70 percent of all roads in the United States have snowy conditions at some point during the winter. Other drivers are also an issue, as more than half say they never use snow tires.
Tips to Prepare Fleet Drivers for Winter Road Conditions
While behind the wheel, drivers can take steps that increase the chances of safely navigating through winter conditions.
Stay Aware of Surroundings
Even in the best of conditions, it’s important for drivers to remain aware of their surroundings. The situation around the vehicles informs their decisions behind the wheel, allowing drivers to take the most low-risk option when required to make a choice. In some conditions, such as heavy snowfall or icy roads, it’s best to simply find a safe place to pull off the road. Other drivers are especially important to watch in winter conditions. One reckless driver can lead to a skid on ice that makes the vehicle a danger to every vehicle around it.
High speeds often lead to crashes. It’s important to stay within safe speed limits in perfect weather. In winter conditions, it’s critical to reduce speeds, giving drivers time to react to suboptimal conditions.
Pre-Trip and Post-Trip Inspections
Drivers should continue pre-trip and post-trip inspections, taking special care on areas such as tires, batteries, oil filters and the levels for oils and all lubricants. Continuous cold weather impacts all of them over time.
Pre-Winter Vehicle Maintenance
Fleet managers can set the standard for preparing for winter road conditions by doing a special winter inspection of vehicles and equipment, ensuring all are operating at optimum levels. Inspections should include the items mentioned above for pre-trip and post-trip checks, as well as belts, hoses and brake pads.
Proactive maintenance should also include checking the in-cab heating systems. An emergency kit in the car should include a solar blanket, water, road flares, fire extinguisher, reflective triangles, and jumper cables.
Create a Company Culture of Safety
Fleet managers should make a point of focusing on safety as the winter months draw closer. While this a year-round issue, it becomes more critical as cold weather becomes more frequent. It’s a good time to review fleet safety plans and remind drivers that safety, good driving behavior and staying aware of their environment on the road is critical during the winter months.
Provide Driver Training
Fleet managers can also prepare for the winter months by putting their drivers through driver safety training programs that focuses on preparing them for the harsh conditions of winter.
These steps can prepare drivers for winter road conditions. They also can make drivers safer and improve fleet risk management, saving fleets the enormous costs associated with crashes and collisions.