Keeping your business on the road is always challenging and particularly so during winter when severe weather could strike at any time. It’s important to check the weather forecasts for the areas you’ll be operating in so that you can plan and reschedule when necessary.
Keeping up to date with weather conditions can also help you forewarn your customers of the possibility of any disruption to the schedule of your operations.
Customers still want their deliveries on time. Passengers still expect to get to their destination whatever the weather.
Everyone needs to make allowances for severe weather and your safety is more important than anything.
Be Informed – And Plan For Bad Weather
Check the forecast routinely for the entire area of your operation, return journeys and several days ahead. This will allow you and your fleet manager to plan around any bad weather. The Met Office produces specific weather forecasts for the Highways England network and you can get special alerts for high-sided and other vulnerable vehicles.
Carry all the equipment you need and don’t be tempted to rush pre-journey, daily walk around or first user checks of your vehicle. A thorough check is even more important when you are about to set off through difficult conditions.
Warm Clothing, Winter Footwear and a Good Torch
You’ll need these for doing the external check of your vehicle in the cold and dark, without being tempted to jump back into a warm cab before the job is done. Be sure to wear gloves and a hat – most body heat escapes through the head. It’s a good idea to have two pairs of gloves – so there’s always one pair drying in the cab.
Straps, pins and catches will be cold to the touch and harder to adjust in freezing weather. If you need to pull hard on straps, for example, avoid injury by warming up your muscles first! The same goes for loading passenger luggage into the hold.
Warn Your Customers and Passengers
By telling people in advance that your journey may be affected by bad weather, it can help reduce time pressures – and allow you to complete the journey in safety. Advance warning of severe weather also gives your customers notice of any preparations they need to make to accept a delivery. They may need to clear the delivery bay of snow for example, or grit the access ramp.
See And Be Seen
Before you set off make sure all windows, lights, plates and reflective markings are clean and clear of ice. Wipers and de-misters should be a part of your standard check.
Take Care Getting In And Out Of The Cab
Clear steps, footholds and handrails of ice, so you don’t slip. Remember the three points of contact rule when climbing up to a cab. Also, when getting down, check your footing first – and be especially careful not to jump down onto what could be a slippery surface.
For coach drivers, make sure the steps are clear for passengers and warn them to be careful when boarding in snow and icy conditions.
Check The Loading
When the driving conditions are difficult you want to be reassured that your load is stable and the weight evenly distributed.
Remember that as the load changes between pick-ups and deliveries, the handling of your vehicle changes. With a heavier load, you have better traction. With a lighter load or empty truck you are more likely to get blown off course by strong winds. Empty curtain-sided trailers are less likely to get blown over if you open the sides when driving in windy conditions.
Drive Carefully – According To The Conditions
Always respect the weather. No deadline is more important than your safety.
Don’t take risks with your cargo and especially not with you or your passengers’ safety.
You may be driving one of the biggest vehicles on the road, with lots of sophisticated equipment, but that does not make you invincible.
Don’t ask your truck or coach to do more than it can. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, park up, call in and wait until conditions improve.
Driving Through Snow And Ice
Highways England looks after England’s motorways and major A roads, and local authorities look after all the other roads. Both work as hard as they can to keep their networks clear during severe weather.
The gritter’s will often be out at night – and that’s when the temperatures are coldest and driving conditions most difficult.
Stick To The Main Roads Where You Can And Avoid Exposed Routes.
You should drive with care and respect the road conditions wherever you drive, but not every road can be treated. You need to take even more care driving on minor roads.
Even if the time and location of snowfall is perfectly forecast, it will still take time to clear the snow after it has fallen. Remember though, snow ploughs can’t get through if the road or motorway is full of stationary traffic, so give Highways England and local authority teams the space they need to do their job and help you on your journey!
Steep hills and exposed roads are also likely to present more challenging driving conditions in snow and ice, so if you could avoid these it might make your journey easier.
Even on the easier inclines, regaining traction can be difficult if you are forced to stop. Compensate for poor traction by slowing down and making all movements gently – never drive faster than conditions allow and don’t use cruise control in snow and ice. Remember you will have less traction when travelling empty.
Leave more room between you and the vehicle in front. Double or even triple your following distance to at least a ten second gap and never tailgate. Greater anticipation and awareness of other road users is the key.
Take even more care looking out for others that may not be able to stop and be extra cautious at road junctions where road markings may not be visible.