11 December 2018

As the year draws to a close, it’s now more important than ever for drivers and fleets of any size to understand the dangers that come with taking to the roads in adverse weather conditions.

Unfortunately, journeys can’t always be put off, especially if a business has a team that needs to constantly be on the move. In this article, we explore some of the practical steps drivers can take to protect themselves, other road users and their vehicle during the colder, darker months.

Carry out basic checks

For businesses with larger fleets, the run-up to the colder months is a time to get each vehicle serviced and maintained as soon as possible. This means that every employee is taking to the road in a car or van that’s roadworthy and safe to drive, and this doesn’t just apply to in-house fleets. 

Some organisations still rely on “grey fleets”, vehicles that are privately owned by employees but used for business journeys. If a business has a large “grey fleet”, then they need to ensure that their team are aware of the basic safety checks needed to remain safe whilst driving. These include:

  • Fuel levels – do they have enough for their journey, and do they know where the nearest petrol station is?
  • Oil – is there enough oil in the tank to properly lubricate the engine parts?
  • Damage – do the wipers, lights etc have any signs of wear and tear or damage that could be compromised whilst driving?
  • Tyres – are they inflated to the right levels, do they have the legal amount of tread and are they free from damage?
  • The driver - are they in a fit state to drive? Have they had enough sleep to pay attention during difficult journeys?

Be aware of salt-spreading gritters

A necessary part of any UK winter, gritters are a regular occurrence on the roads once the temperatures start to plummet. When approaching, make sure to give them enough space, since the salt that’s being spread reduces the adhesion of tyres and the tarmac.

At the same, drivers should leave enough room to brake at junctions, since the engine drives the salt sprayer. When they pull off, the salt that’s accumulated in the dispenser will be projected backwards, damaging the paintwork of the vehicle.

Understand how to deal with aquaplaning

With over 150 days of rainfall every year, according to the Met Office, aquaplaning can be a common danger for drivers across the UK. Aquaplaning is when a layer of water is allowed to build up between the tyre and the surface of the road.

When this happens, the tyres lose their grip on the road and the driver can soon lose control over their vehicle, as they are unable to steer, brake or accelerate.

Should drivers find themselves in this situation, they should never hit the brakes. They should gently ease off the accelerator, hold the steering wheel straight and focus on maintaining control. Once the tyres start to gain more traction, drivers can start to gradually brake and reposition themselves on the road, if the vehicle has veered off course.

Maintain safe braking distances

The Highway Code states that stopping distances double in wet weather, and are 10 times longer when the temperature plummets and the roads are covered in snow and ice.

Regardless of whether a driver commutes in a rural or urban setting, they need to ensure that the distance between themselves and the vehicle ahead is as large as possible, so that if there is an emergency, they have enough room to stop without putting themselves or others in danger.

Consider remote working

If the weather does take a turn for the worst, then it’s important that drivers and fleet managers make a decision on whether the journey needs to be taken at all.

If there is a risk to the driver, the vehicle or other road users, then the answer is almost always going to be no, but clear communication between both parties should be a focus.

If the driver isn’t confident in their abilities, then the fleet manager and their business should under no circumstances put pressure on them to take to the road.

 

In summary, if all drivers within a fleet are made aware of safety procedures and consider whether journeys are absolutely necessary, then incidents could be kept to a minimum.

The responsibility for vehicle maintenance and safety checks should be shared between the driver and the fleet manager, but if in doubt, ask your fleet management or vehicle lease provider to undertake a full vehicle inspection.

To find out more about our fleet management and leasing, employee benefits solutions and driver services, call a member of our team on 0844 854 5100 or email CSalmon@sgfleet.com.