While not as hazardous as driving in winter, driving in autumn isn’t always a walk in the park. As the weather starts to take a turn for the worse, adapting to the new conditions after summer can come as a bit of a shock. Here to take the chill out of the newly boisterous winds, this guide can help you and your fleet get back on the road as the days grow shorter and the leaves start to fall.
For fleet managers, maintenance doesn’t have to be a time consuming or laborious task; with a clear plan in place, you can keep on top of any issues before they cause any serious damage.
Maintenance for fleets in autumn
Ensuring your vehicles are in top-notch condition can help prevent a whole host of complications on the road. A handful of basic checks can take a couple of minutes every day, but in the long run, could save you time and money.
While some of the checks can be left in the hands of individual drivers, it also helps to have a set plan in place to make sure in-depth assessments happen regularly.
Why maintenance is essential and how to be proactive
When it comes to the safety of both the vehicle and the driver, maintenance is the best way to keep everyone safe. It goes without saying that a poorly maintained vehicle is at greater risk of breaking down and more likely to cause accidents than one in full working condition.
Aside from general road safety, the financial benefits of keeping your fleet well maintained in autumn are many. With less risk of breaking down, roadside assistance is less likely to occur. Not only do you save money for emergency rescues, but any unplanned absences can also affect your supply chain, which in turn can mean you have to adjust schedules and personnel to avoid letting down your clients and customers.
Even making sure your vehicles are running as smoothly as possible can save you money; for example, using tyres inflated to the correct pressure can improve a vehicle’s miles to the gallon, reducing the need to refuel as frequently.
It’s best not to leave these checks to the last minute but have a proper plan in place to make sure no vehicle in the fleet slips through the cracks. By introducing a fleet vehicle preventative maintenance plan, and ensuring all vehicles are routinely serviced (either every three months or three-thousand miles, whichever comes first), you can work around availability and timetable in accordance with what you have.
What to look for as a fleet owner
If you’re unsure what to look for as a fleet owner and find yourself wanting something between a complete nuts and bolts run through and a quick check of the brakes, then it always helps to remember the AA’s acronym, FLOWER:
Fuel: Does the vehicle have enough fuel to travel? Keeping vehicles topped whilst keeping the costs down can be a fine balancing act when running a fleet. Right Fuel Card’s provide a range of fuel cards to help your fleet remain cost-efficient, but drivers should do all they can not overlook an empty tank when setting off on a journey. Running dry happens more often than you’d expect!
Lights: As integral in the daytime as at night, you need to know your lights are working before covering any serious distance. Brakes, indicators and headlights are all essential components – not only so drivers can see, but to ensure the vehicle can be seen during adverse weather – so you can’t have them covered in dirt either (don’t forget – fuel cards can be used for the car wash too!).
Oil: A worryingly common problem, running low on oil can cause some serious damage to your vehicle’s engine. The RAC reports that one in three vehicles on the road does not have enough oil. It only takes a moment to check but can save you both money and hours of complications by staying on top of it.
Water: In autumn, as the weather takes a turn for the worse and spray on the roads is more likely, you don’t want anything to obscure your vision while driving. It’s essential you keep your screen wash reservoir topped up all year round but more so in the latter months of the year.
Electrics: It’s good to check the rest of your electrics alongside your lights. As the weather turns colder, it’s always beneficial to make sure your battery is working as it should be, check to see if the connections are properly attached and are clean. Similarly, it makes sense to keep a pair of jump leads on hand should you find yourself with a dead battery. The most common cause of flats is leaving your lights on, so when checking your vehicle’s lights, make sure to turn them off afterwards!
Rubber: Checking your tyres are in good condition before you set off is something you certainly shouldn’t skip. Ensuring the pressure in your tyres is correct and the tread is at the very minimum 1.6mm deep is the absolute minimum. However, it’s considered best practice to replace your tyres by the time the tread drops to 3mm depth as by this point your stopping power has already been drastically reduced so run a higher risk of being involved in an accident. It’s also essential to look out for any unusual deformities in the tyre, such as cuts, splits or unexpected bulges. Remember, driving with bald or deformed tyres risks a £2,500 fine and three penalty points per tyre.
How to drive safely in autumn
Now you know how to keep your fleet in top condition for the season ahead, it’s good to go over some general pointers for driving safely in the uncertain conditions that can arise in autumn.
With the best of summer behind us, autumn can feel like a run-up to winter, but it can present a few tricky problems of its own for drivers.
As the days become shorter and more drivers are on the road during sunset and sunrise, the low sun and glare can become troublesome. In fact, with reduced visibility, clean windscreens are as crucial as ever.
Using your sun visor and keeping sunglasses nearby can help prevent the sun from getting in your eyes when driving in autumn. If you require glasses to drive then it’s worth investing in some prescription sunglasses.
After the rainy summers in the UK, autumn doesn’t want to buck the trend and continues the downpours. Driving in the rain and on wet roads requires extra caution, with braking distances doubled on slick roads. Slowing down, using windscreen wipers and lights can all help you stay safe while driving in the rain.
Some people may enjoy falling leaves in autumn, but when wet they can become a hazard for drivers, making roads slippery and unpredictable. Similarly, blustery winds can cause branches and twigs to end up in the road, often unexpectedly.
Driving in Autumn can present a new set of issues compared to the summer, with appropriate checks risks can be reduced which will help keep costs down.
David JamesDavid has worked in the fuel card industry since 2008. His financial insights have been featured in various publications, such as The Sun, the Daily Express and The Yorkshire Times where he provides money-saving tips for motorists. David is passionate about charity work and regularly raises money through running events, including the London Marathon and the Leeds Abbey Dash.