We’re fortunate in the UK that our winters are relatively mild. We don’t regularly have to suffer blizzards, snowdrifts or temperatures that drop below -10°C, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare for the cold weather when it comes around. While we may not suffer the extremes of winter, it still can take its toll on your fleet and efficiency, making it wise to prepare for the cold and refresh your driver’s memories when it comes to winter driving.
Icy conditions are common up and down the British Isles throughout winter, requiring drivers to be aware of the conditions around them; unsurprisingly, accidents increase by 20% on average once winter rolls in.
Ensuring your vehicles are in working order will undoubtedly be part of your fleet management service anyway. Still, it’s extra crucial that your fleet is up to the job as autumn departs and the weather becomes harsher. We’ve put together some winter driving tips to help keep your vehicles running as smoothly as possible.
Delays from either accidents or maintenance complications can ultimately end up causing knock-on complications further down the line and costing money and time. We’ve prepared some advice on winter driving to help you plan accordingly for the future of your fleet.
Winter Road Safety
As mentioned, winter conditions are conducive to accidents for several reasons; extra caution should be taken when driving in wintry conditions. While rain seems to be part and parcel of living in the UK, it’s much more apparent in winter and is capable of doubling stopping times, which means drivers ought to slow down and increase the distance between themselves and the drivers in front. Icy conditions are even worse, creating stopping times that are ten times the distance of dry conditions, stressing the need for even slower approaches and greater distances.
Being able to judge the distances and stopping times required is something that catches out even the most experienced of drivers, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution. With all-round reduced traction on wet roads, it’s generally best to try and avoid aggressive braking or turning and focus instead on smoother transitions and manoeuvres.
Another factor that can harm road safety in winter is the shorter days; with dark evenings and mornings, motorists need to be extra vigilant to spot any potential hazards on the road, whether that be other cars, pedestrians or ice and snow. To help increase visibility, all windows and lights should be clean and fully operational to be as effective as they can be.
One of the best ways to prevent complications in winter is to make sure your vehicle is functioning as best it can. This means regular maintenance and checking the essentials are all in working order before you embark on a journey.
While it might not be practical to check every nut and bolt in the car, some parts wear out quicker than others and can be prioritised in terms of evaluation. Similarly, you must be able to get to where you’re going safely, so having a checklist of what to look out for can also be helpful.
As in most things, preparation is your friend when it comes to keeping your fleet working as it ought to. Some things to consider are:
An emergency kit – Good to have all year round, but even more so in the accident-prone winter months, a good emergency kit should be helpful while waiting for roadside rescue or even potentially save a driver from having to call out roadside assistance. In winter, it’s also worth adding a few handy things to your emergency kit to account for the drop in temperature and darker days. We’d recommend including at least the following, but this isn’t an exhaustive list.
- High-vis jacket
- Torch with spare batteries
- Extra screen wash
- Ice scraper & de-icer
- A blanket or a thick coat
- Charged battery bank
Winter tyres – There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding winter tyres, especially in regards to how they work in conditions other than snow and ice. While we don’t always receive thick mounds of snow in the UK, winter tyres can considerably improve your traction no matter how thick the snow is. Their multiple grooves allow for extra grip on ice, snow and wet conditions; coupled with the distinct tyre treads with additional channels, they’re adept at dispelling water away from the tyre. All these function to lower the risk of water planning, affecting your braking and control when on the road.
It’s not just the shape of winter tyres that makes them so effective in cold weather; the rubber they’re made from is also more resistant to rigidity in low temperatures. Regular tyres can lose flexibility in temperatures below 5 degrees, reducing their effectiveness and grip on the road. The benefits of switching to winter tyres are tenfold despite the upfront cost and are capable of doing wonders for your winter road safety.
Checking the essential components – By regularly checking all the critical components in your fleet, you should hopefully be able to catch any unwanted complications before you hit the road. The checks don’t have to take long but should be thorough enough to let you know you won’t get stuck at the side of a road after travelling 20 miles.
We recommend utilising RAC’s recommended checklist that they’ve put into the handy acronym FORCES for some easy fleet maintenance services that even your drivers can undertake.
Fuel: First and foremost, fuel is something your drivers should keep an eye on while driving all year round, but especially in winter when the stop/start nature of congested traffic can result in vehicles using more fuel than they typically would. If you need help tracking and managing the fuel consumption of your fleets, you can find more information on how our fuel cards can help you here.
Oil: Oil is a core component of any engine; keeping it topped up is essential to ensure the internal parts are fully lubricated and aren’t damaging one another.
Rubber: Both on your tyres and windscreen wipers, the rubber components need to be checked frequently. The tyres of your fleet should be at the correct tyre pressure, and the grooves should be at least 3mm of tread depth to ensure they’re able to grip the road properly. Likewise, the rubber of windscreen wipers needs to be in good condition to ensure your windows are clean enough to see through.
Coolant: Even in winter, your vehicle’s engine can overheat; having an appropriate level of coolant is essential and should be topped up to the levels recommended by the manufacturer.
Electrics: Checking your electrical components are working, including your lights and any potentially troublesome fuses, means that you, and those around you on the road, can stay safe.
Screenwash: Helping drivers to see clearly, screenwash is essential at a time of year when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Necessary for removing the salt, silt and dirt that is splashed onto windscreens in wet weather, you should ensure a vehicle’s screenwash is not just topped up, but also mixed with antifreeze that’ll allow it to work even in the cold.
The key to winter road safety is preparation. While these initial checks may feel like they take up unnecessary time, they can save you from severe delays further down the road. Predicting your fleet’s needs can often save you from considerable complications; with our fuel cards, you can increase your fuel efficiency and spot any problematic performances before they become a more significant problem.
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.