The approaching winter is always a call for vehicle preparation. During the winter months, drivers are usually concerned with black ice, unexpected snowstorms, lack of visibility, and slower braking to contend with. But for fleets, simply putting chains on the tires and keeping a bag of cat litter in the trunk isn’t enough. Winter is one of the most dangerous times to be on the road, so it’s imperative your drivers are properly prepared. Here are several simple winter driving tips for fleet winter preparation.
How to Prepare Your Fleet for the Worst Winter Driving Conditions
There are numerous threats on the road in winter, but one of the most dangerous is the overconfidence of drivers. Many long-haul drivers are on the road for 60 hours a week, which means they’re very comfortable spending time on the road. Fleet drivers are trained to handle aggressive drivers around them, harsh weather conditions, and long drives. But this may lead to accidents, breakdowns, damages, or becoming stranded in poor weather. It’s important to remind drivers of the dangers on the road during winter, but there are other things you can do to prepare your drivers as well.
Review Data from the Previous Year
If you’re using a telematics system, you should have comprehensive data that shows you how your fleet fared the year previously. Looking at this data is a good way to identify where your fleet company had issues in previous years and what you can fix before the coming season.
Address Seasonal Depression
Mental health is often overlooked in the workplace, but there are millions of people that are impacted by seasonal depression each winter. Drivers on the road are also more likely to become distracted or unfocused if they are depressed. Since they are alone during drives, they may be more prone to seasonal depression. It’s a good time of year to talk to your drivers and ensure their mental and emotional needs are met.
Having the right fluids for your vehicle is absolutely necessary for proper performance throughout the winter. In the summer, you can use thicker oils because the heat thins them out to pass through the engine more readily. In the winter, opt for a thinner or “lower viscosity” motor oil so it can make it through the engine in the cooler temperatures—the same goes for diesel. In the winter regular diesel clumps and gels due to the paraffin wax.
Before winter hits, you should ensure that your vehicles are operating properly. This means that air filters are clean, oil is topped off and replaced if needed, the battery is functioning, and you’ve drained the water separator. The battery, in particular, is prone to breaking down in the winter. Fix any issues long before your vehicles see snow. Consider building a specialized winter maintenance checklist, with particular focus on:
- Battery power
- Ensuring tires have the right PSI and tread
- Brake pads aren’t worn
- Belts are in good condition
- Fluids are topped off
Hours of Service
Long winter hauls require focus and usually take longer due to harsh road conditions. During these months, consider changing a driver’s schedule to accommodate more time at home, longer gaps between shifts, and additional drive time in case of bad weather. Always ensure you comply with Hours of Service (HOS) rules, but consider being even more stringent on drive time in winter months.
Windshield wipers should be part of your typical inspection, but they can be easily overlooked. This is a mistake since the windshield is an important component in making it through poor weather conditions. Ensure your windshield and wipers are in good condition throughout winter and your drivers are using freeze-resistant windshield wiper fluid.
Check Electrical Systems
You particularly want to check for corrosion in your electrical system when preparing your fleet for winter. Your trailer’s electrical system is more susceptible to the elements, especially since there is a lot of salt coming off the road. Ensure all electrical components are in proper working order and all connections are solid.
Clean Your Vehicles
As mentioned, winter road conditions are unpredictable and hard, not to mention salt buildup can quickly take a toll on your fleet vehicles. Though many people overlook salt on the undercarriage of vehicles, it’s something managers should continue to monitor. Road salt can corrode electrical connections, brakes, rotors, and can cause rust to form on the undercarriage, joints and other surfaces.
Telematics systems make winterizing your fleet so much easier by optimizing every function in fleet management. This means your routes are optimized to avoid accidents and road closures. Your maintenance is on a regular schedule, meaning you’ll receive alerts and have a place to store inspection reports and DVIRs. The telematics system will also help you with dispatch and HOS compliance by alerting you when drivers are at risk of hour overages.
A telematics system is so much more than an alert system. These smart solutions also include vehicle diagnostics, driver behavior monitoring, and ELD storage for drivers. The right fleet management software is also your risk management solution. Since it tracks your drivers in real-time, you’re able to stay up to date on their progress. If there is a weather emergency that strands your driver in a remote area, you can get help to them—even in low visibility conditions. If your driver gets into an accident, you’ll receive automatic alerts to check on your driver and send the proper authorities. With behavior monitoring, you can also ensure that your drivers are adhering to road rules, especially during poor weather conditions.
To protect and prepare your drivers for unpredictable winter weather, invest in Azuga Fleet™. Our innovative fleet tracking software is here to help managers improve safety, boost productivity, and save your team money.